I tend to see these two things as mutually exclusive.
Last month, an artist had someone duct tape a banana onto a wall. He made a quick hit of money and took over the internet. What was his name? There’s a zero percent chance you know, even just a few weeks later.
On the other hand, there are people out there investing in immortality. You don’t know who they are right now, but once you discover them, you’ll never forget.
The question is, how can you tell the difference? Is this a now thing or a forever thing?
I have two rules of thumb for this:
- Can many people do it? Anyone can create a moment. Anyone can get lucky. Anyone can duct tape some fruit to a wall, paint colored dots, or put on a white helmet and DJ generic dance music. It might be clever, it might seem really significant at the moment, but it ain’t the Mona Lisa. Only one person could paint the Mona Lisa.
- How long has it been going on? Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan shaped my view of the world as much as any other book. In it, he talked about the theory that something is likely to continue for about as long as it has already been going on. America has been going on for ~250 years and should still be around in another 250 years. Picasso has had influence for 100 years and probably has at least 100 years to go. The NYT bestseller last week has probably another week before it’s forgotten. The banana didn’t even make it that long.
If you want to make something enduring, the short term trends are not your friend. Creating something that no one else can do tends to take a lifetime and will, by definition, transcend the trends. Plus, the steps along the way are most definitely not sensational or noteworthy. No one is going to take over the internet with, “artists spends all weekend studying color theory” or, “coder finally learned MVC architecture.” So that’s why we often have to make a choice in our work; now, or forever?