The New York Times had a Q-and-A with Kanye West a couple days ago. For most of it, he’s his normal Kanye-lovin’ self — “I am the nucleus” and that sort of thing. But in the middle, he said something really profound.
He was answering a question about his record “808s and Heartbreak,” where he sang most of the lyrics instead of rapping. Kanye is not a great singer, and along the way to admitting that he said this:
I love the fact that I’m bad at [things], you know what I’m saying? I’m forever the 35-year-old 5-year-old. I’m forever the 5-year-old of something.
That quote gets at two things that are crucial to creative work — or really, life in general:
1) You have to be bad at something before you get good at it.
You don’t get to be 35 until you’ve made all the mistakes you make when you’re 5. When I get asked about the secret to writing a great story, I always say: You have to write a lot of crappy stories first. Creative failure is the only way to grow.
2) Always keep trying new things.
Life should be wide as well as deep. Yes, you should have taken piano lessons when you were 8, and you’ll never be as good now. But being a bad piano player is better than not being a piano player. And (see point #1) being a bad piano player is the only way you’ll ever get to be a good piano player.
“I’m forever the 5-year-old of something” — that’s not a bad description of a good life.