The Cult of Done

Next up on our list of manifestos (Manifestoes? Manifesti?), we have one from the Cult of Done which I actually rather like. The core message of this one is that you need to get shit done, which is certainly a noble goal, but again we find something of a problem here. See if you can guess what it is.

Here's the manifesto:

The Cult of Done Manifesto

Notice all the stuff about getting it done, getting it done, getting it done.

Where's the part about doing it well?

There's all this stuff in here about doing shit, but nothing about getting good at it. It's about more stuff, not better stuff. It actively encourages not even trying to get it right.

I have kind of a problem with that. That's the real issue with most of these things I see; they're incomplete. They don't cover the whole notion of not just that you can do it, or that you should do it, but that you should try to do it well.

I was talking to the girlfriend about this, and she pointed out that you can't apply this to (for example) baking. Baking is a science; there are set steps that have to be followed perfectly; wet and dry ingredients that have to be mixed appropriately. If not, you don't get the right product. You will get something... a gooey cake, for example, or a total fuck-up, but it won't be what you wanted.

The Cult of Done promotes the idea that what matters is finishing the cake. It doesn't matter if it's what you wanted, or if it's any good, or even if it's poisonous. What matters is that you're done.

After all, doing something makes you right. Whatever it is. And I see this mindset all over the industry - just do something, anything, throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.

Not the greatest way to accomplish much, but that leads to the real crux of the problem here - and in many other similar projects.

They rely on specific assumptions which are never stated.

The Cult of Done, for example, is mostly a coalition of artists and craftsmen. When they say "get it done," they're talking about building a prototype or painting a picture. Something which, when you are done, is a single thing you will either sell or throw away. But it won't sell for much. And as we all know, the key to making any real profit from something like that is to produce more work faster.

Which we see in the information product world as people promote putting up more buy buttons faster. Develop templates and formats and systems that allow you to turn "I should make a product about X" into an actual product about X within a couple hours. The FIDIL system Colin Theriot and I talk about is one of those, too, but it's less interested in "make more stuff" than it is about getting the stuff made instead of trying to get it perfect.

So it's not that the Cult of Done is wrong, per se, but that they leave out something kind of important: you have to want to do a good job. You have to care about doing a good job. You have to be absolutely unwilling not to do a good job. The FIDIL method assumes the same thing - that you are good at what you do, and just standing up and doing it will be good enough without needing you to fuss or agonise over it.

They both assume your problem is the foot-dragging and procrastination that leads you to leave good things undone because you are sure you could do a better one.

But this isn't always the problem. Some people have trouble doing things because they don't know what to do. And telling those people "just do anything at all" isn't really helping, because it doesn't get them any closer to knowing what to do. It also doesn't teach them in any way, shape, or form that being good at it is even worth their attention or consideration. It just assumes they know that already.

Tomorrow, we'll look at something that does a better job of this, because it narrows the field properly and makes it very clear to whom it is speaking.