When I started dabbling within the world of “web design” it was 1997, I had just moved to an entirely new part of the country, and there was a surplus of time. Being the new kid without much middle school acceptance as of yet, those first few months made for an lonely east coast. My best friends over that first spring and summer were my electric guitar, the local alt rock station, and my tangerine iMac computer.
At some point I ended up meeting my first accountable online friend (which I realize is a softball for a wide variety of potential jokes; homeruns, no doubt), a savvy and similarly young entrepreneur who ran a highly successful guitar tab website. I had contacted him about some website questions, blindly curious about how it all worked. The web was still fairly new at that point, and my eyes were wide open to the medium.
With basic guitar chops in hand and an interest in both design and business, he became a mentor of sorts. We would chat about guitars, tablature, the basics of HTML, and at the time, an online game called Starcraft.
There would be many late nights and early mornings in the world of Starcraft, but that’s another story entirely…
Almost two decades later, I look back on those times fondly. It symbolized a spirited time in life when I just went for it and didn’t really care if I failed. I had a job as a lifeguard at the local pool that summer, but the rest of my free time was completely immersed in learning how to “design” and “code” a website. I holed up in my basement bedroom understanding how guitar tabs were read, written, and shared with a greater online community.
From those moments forward, I started something. It was something small, but it was mine, and I wasn’t trying to look cool, write the best content, or do what I thought I needed to do in order to appease others.
I spent hours learning how to play my guitar more fluently. Hours in the “dev cave” trying and failing at the most basic HTML knowledge. Hours tabbing my own songs, and building a platform where others could learn from what I had learned (and was still learning).
The website I designed and built eventually sold advertising to guitar manufacturers and other online music communities for almost a decade. As a side project, it was a huge success in revenue and guitar equipment, more than any summer job would ever be able to provide. But more importantly, those experiences helped me start building a critical set of tools I never imagined I’d have.
It opened up the doors to a freelance career before I even knew the concept of doing work for others was called freelancing. It started to define additional passions in my life, and eventually, my career.
When I take pause and flip through that mental photo album, I associate it all to the beginning of my entrepreneurial ventures. One simple passion combined with a key friend, a guitar website, and a lot of elbow grease became the start of my story; the roots of something still evolving.
These days, I commonly hear that people don’t want to know how the sausage is made. They might ask, but ultimately don’t really care to know.
As a society we all too often only want to see the results that come of hard work. We want to see pretty pictures, play with completely polished iterations, hear the most pristine vocalists.
We want to drive on the new asphalt but can’t stand a 3 minute delay in traffic during construction. What about an appreciative wave of thanks to the people holding those “Slow” and “Stop” signs? Forget it. Anything less than completely finished is just, blegh.
Being a creator and maker for almost 20 years now I’ve realized nothing comes easy. Very, very rarely is there such thing as an overnight success.
Life and the things that matter inside of it are a chipper workout. Success takes time; it’s painful; there will be sacrifices; it’s often not pretty pictures or smooth asphalt.
But when you align yourself to personal passions and beliefs, to the products and services you produce, and to similarly minded people, you will find greatness. If you focus less on what you think you should do, and more on what you know feels right for where you are right now, you’re already ahead of the curve.
When it comes to the people who don’t want to hear how it was all made—the same unhappy people that will forever treat you poorly, everywhere you go and within everything you do—remember to throw on the wide lens every once and a while.
If you do that, you’ll realize they weren’t meant to be an important part of the story anyway. You see, they’ll end up just being another part of the sausage making process.
This post originally appeared on the Authentic Form & Function journal.