Consistency. That is the buzz word. But to help fix in your mind a clear picture of what consistency really is, I will start with an abridged version of a story told by Arno Rafael Minkkinen, and shared on entrepreneur.com
He was born in Helsinki, Finland. And in the centre of the city, there was a large bus station with about 24 platforms all laid out to form a square. At the head of each platform was a sign posting the numbers of the buses that leave from that particular platform.
The bus numbers might read as follows: 21, 71, 58, 33, and 19. Each bus took the same route out of the city for at least a kilometre, stopping at bus stop intervals along the way.
This is where it gets interesting.
Let’s assume that each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer. This would mean that the third bus stop would represent three years of photographic activity. Three years of focusing on an aspect of photography. Call it bus #21.
He takes those three years of work to a museum, and the curator asks if he’s familiar with similar works of another photographer, whose bus, 71, was on the same line.
Or he takes them to a gallery and is reminded to check out another photographer, bus 58, and so on. Shocked, he realises that what he had been doing for three years, others have already done.
So he gets off the bus, and heads straight back to the bus station looking for another platform. He decides this time to focus on an entirely different aspect of photography than what he was doing before. He spends another three years at it and produces a series of works that get the same comments as before.
Haven’t you seen similar works of so and so photographer?
So once again, he gets off the bus, races back and finds a new platform. This, he continues to do for the rest of his life, always showing new work, always being compared to others.
But what do you think? Is this the best way to live one’s life? Let’s see if Minkkinen agrees with you.
If you are still wondering how to answer. It’s simple. STAY ON THE BUS! Because if you do, in time, you will begin to see a difference. Here’s why.
The buses that move out of Helsinki stay on the same line, but only for a while, then they begin to separate, each number heading off to its own unique destination.
It is this separation that makes all the difference. And once you start to see the difference between your work and the work you used to admire — the one that inspired you to choose that platform in the first place — just know that it’s time to look for your breakthrough.
Suddenly your work starts to get noticed. Now you are working more on your own, making more of the difference between your work and what influenced it. Your vision takes off, and before long, what separates your work from those of others doing the same thing becomes very glaring! This was possible simply because you chose to stay on the bus. The key lesson here is that you do not simply do more work, but also that you do more re-work. Did you get that?
Re-working means that you are constantly working on your ideas, even the old ones. This helps you to see aspects that need to be changed, what needs to be improved, and what needs to be introduced. Instead of just jumping from one idea to another, hoping to find something new that nobody has done before, this consistent and deliberate revision of your work will help you improve your technique until you produce something unique, inspiring, and great.
It’s only by staying on board that mastery reveals itself. It is only by doing this that the average ideas get rooted out of the way and true genius reveals itself. This will only happen if you commit yourself to the hard work of revisiting, rethinking, and revising your ideas.
In order to do this however, you must make the toughest decision of all. Which bus will you ride? What story do you want to tell with your life? What craft do you want to spend your years revising and improving?
This is yours alone to decide, but once you do, STAY ON THE BUS!
This post was adapted from an article written by James Clear of entrepreneur.com