When Conan O’Brien took over hosting the Late Show on NBC, people thought he’d fail.
In an interview with Charlie Rose around that time, he said something to the effect of, “I’ve realized that I have to do my show. If I failed and I failed while doing someone else’s vision for what my show should be, then I’d feel I really messed up.”
And there is so much general wisdom and value in this.
So many times, with creative projects, I have witness creators bend their initial vision for a project — whether it’s a film, book, web app or other product — to suit the opinions of other clients or stakeholders with the end result being muddied and weaker as a result.
I don’t think creators should stop listening but they should stop bending to every piece of advice to try and make everyone happy. One has to have a strong vision of a project and be able to discern whether the feedback is in accord or discord with it.
So much creative tragedy occurs when people start with a clear vision and then start to change just to suit the less-inspired concerns of outsiders.
We’d have so many more original voices in film and literature and comedy and business if more people were less fearful of just “keeping their stakeholders happy” at all costs. Because the real expense of doing this is absolute failure — executing on someone else’s vision and still failing.
Conan knew this, weathered the storm and came out on top as a totally original performer — just as David Letterman was before him.
All the greats know this and are able to stay steadfast and disregard the noise that wants to persuade them to compromise and proceed with caution.
Meditate on the critical importance of being steadfast and clear in vision.