Over my years as a stand-up comedian, then as a writer of TV/Radio comedy and now as a social media and content professional, I’ve managed a few recurring phrases.
“They’re not funny!”
That’s what I’d howl, while watching someone crop up on a panel show who I considered to be comedically inferior to myself when I was a stand-up comedian.
“That’s not as good as things I’ve written!”
That was my response to any TV or Radio comedy I didn’t approve of.
“But this campaign is rubbish!”
That’s what I’d find myself babbling while looking at anything I felt I could outdo in the world of social media and content.
I’ve wasted a lot of years on that mentality.
Moaning, instead of learning.
Recently though, I’ve realised just how much knowledge there is to be gained from bad end products (if we’re to filter out the 90% of times I was just moaning, leaving the 10% of times I probably had a point).
The simple truth is that if someone or something is doing better than their resources (be they financial or talent based) should seem to allow… then they must be doing something right.
They’re making more effort than you.
They’re building better relationships than you.
They’re being cleverer with how they package and present things than you.
Because I was a purist (which, as with ‘perfectionist’, is how people being arsey like to describe themselves to avoid acknowledging that they’re being arsey), I always felt that I just had to produce the best piece of creative work, sit back and wait for it and me to attract all that it deserved.
Over the years, I’ve worked on or around projects that I felt weren’t creatively up to scratch.
The thing is, to even get to the point of existing, they had to do certain things:
They had to fill an existing demand or create a new demand to fill. They weren’t created on spec’ to fill a demand that didn’t exist outside of my head.
They had to achieve buy-in from those commissioning it. Buy-in that comes from having or being able to build a relationship. Which doesn’t have to involve, as I used to believe, “being an arse-licker”.
They had to have amplification e.g. via a TV channel or via paid support on a channel such as social media. Paid social media promotion not being, as I used to think, “cheating”.
So if a terrible sitcom comes onto my screen, or a terrible YouTube video appears on my Facebook feed, or a comedian I’d leap into a river to avoid listening to crops up on Mock The Week — they’ve done something well.
The end product?
Getting it to the stage where I could notice it?
Before I realised that I just used to ignore anything I didn’t consider to be up to scratch.
I’d see low quality but heavily-promoted sitcoms on TV and just roll my eyes.
I’d see low quality but SEO-optimised articles generating a ton of traffic and think that the people who created it couldn’t teach me anything.
I’d see low quality performers earn crazy money and think theirs was an example to be shunned.
The thing is, all of the moments I’m describing were just that.
Flashes in the pan.
Because the end product was bad.
What they did to reach that moment though?
So if I’m confident that I’m working on a quality product…
…or that I’m producing a quality product…
…or even that I am a quality product…
…and I promote that with methods I’ve seen create such an impact for bad products?
For the end product?
Learn from the best.
For everything up to that point?
Learn from the worst.
This article originally appeared on Medium.
Photo by Inga Gaudie