Build Notes: Ten Years

Big dreams, creative teams, and all that jazz.

When I was in grad school, the film industry executive Meryl Poster came to give a talk about the entertainment business. She had just produced the very successful film Chicago, based on the Broadway musical.

During the Q&A, I asked her - how long had it taken to go from the original idea to make Chicago as a film, to the day it premiered?

Ten years.

Not long after, I asked a playwright whose works have been staged all over the world - how long from idea to premiere? What’s the cycle time?

Nine years.

More recently, I was involved in a strategic plan process at my kids’ school. The plan called for building a new athletic center. From the start of the planning cycle to the grand opening of the new building was… almost ten years. (And the building is awesome! Well worth the wait.)

Creating something great, a legacy for yourself and your community, can be the work of a decade, or even a lifetime. Big projects happen on a time scale, and with a complexity, that frustrate our desire to check boxes off a to-do list. You can’t shortcut the process just because you’re impatient for the end to arrive. As the classic sales wisdom goes: “You can’t make the corn grow faster just because you’re hungry.”

It can feel dizzying to try and plan on this kind of time scale - which is why I think planning doesn’t actually work that well for big creative projects. You have to let the thing adapt, as you learn more about what you’re trying to do, and as your own vision grows and changes. It helps to be organized, but the most important thing is to stay true at every step to the spirit of what you’re seeking to accomplish.

Last week I wrote about the 1989ers and the historic milestone coming to America in 2030. We are now ten years away from that moment.

What seeds of hope are you planting for 2030 right now?

Timeless Work: La Sagrada Familia

When it comes to long-term projects, my unfinished novels have nothing on La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. Construction began in 1882 and is still in progress today, with its completion now expected in the late 2020s.

This overview from Lonely Planet would normally seem a little dated, since it’s from 2013. But on the time scale of this project, it’s as fresh as today’s newspaper. (Video is 2 minutes.)

Seeking Stillness

My friend Kent Burkhardsmeier has just published his first book - it’s called Stillness: Whispers From Nature. Kent is a photographer and poet who has been exhibiting his work around the US and UK over the past several years. We worked together for a time in the tech world, and then he “turned pro” as a photographer. I’ve had a couple chances since then to work on creative projects with him as an editor and writer. I’m just so proud of him and his work. Go have a look!

Projects: KJB Images

University of Colorado alumni profile of Kent
(Reading time: under 5 minutes)

And Finally…

We’re now in the last official week of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Take a moment to say farewell for now to the “lightning bugs” that fill our evening skies in this part of the world. This video was created by artist Diana Lehr - in Pennsylvania! Hat tip to The Kid Should See This, a wonderful site collecting fun and informative kid-friendly videos. (Video is 30 seconds.)

Stay bright this week, dear friends.

- Michael

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