Twenty years after his death, Tupac Shakur is still making music. Can someone explain how that’s possible? Seriously. He’s produced fifteen albums ― ten of them posthumously.
In a period of five years from 1992-1996 he created a dozen albums, eight feature films, countless commercials, music videos and even two books of poetry. And this was before the Internet.
From the one interview:
“I’m coming at ’em 100% real. I ain’t compromising nothing. Anybody that talk about me got problems. You know what I’m saying? I’m coming at ’em straight up. Like a street person would. That’s how I’m coming at the whole world. And I’m being real about it. And I’ll grow with my music.”
I think it goes without saying: PROLIFIC.
And yet…for all of his efforts, Tupac only had 13 Billboard Hot 100 hits―and he only climbed his way to the top of the list ONCE with California Love.
If Tupac only had one number 1 hit, how the hell do you expect to create something of preeminent, lasting value? How do you maximize your chances of producing a masterpiece or, even just a profitable business that sustains the test of time?
Simple. You come up with A LOT of ideas.
According to Adam Grant in his NYT best-seller “Originals,” creative geniuses and massively successful entrepreneurs are not qualitatively better in their fields than their peers ― they simply produce more work. A lot more. Which gives them greater variation and thus the higher chance of producing a massive success.
Shakespeare: Produced 37 plays and 154 sonnets in two decades. There are plenty of duds scattered along the way. Ever hear of Pericles, or Timon of Athens? Nope, me neither. Thanks Wikipedia.
Einstein: Transformed physics (and basically our understanding of everything) with General and Special Relativity but nearly all of his other 240 publications had minimal impact on science.
Stephen King: Has written over 55 novels, hundreds of short stories and half-a-dozen nonfiction books. There was a time when they weren’t always automatic best-sellers.
Thomas Edison: Between ages 30 and 35 he pioneered the lightbulb, the phonograph, and the carbon telephone. During that period he also filed for over 100 other patents that no one has ever heard of (including a SUPER creepy talking doll). 1093 patents total and yet the number of truly remarkable achievements can be counted on one hand.
Noticing a pattern here? In every field, even the most exceptional, “gifted geniuses” produced a ton of work that was forgotten, average, or below par.
“The Tupac Formula”: Produce more work
It’s simple. The more ideas you come up with, the more work you produce, the more successes you’ll have.
Tupac proves this “formula” perfectly. Between the years 1992 and 1996 he produced somewhere between 700-900 songs!! Just like his more academic predecessors, he was bound to come up with a few bangers! He hit the charts 13 times. Not bad.
(Remember, he died at age 25. What were you doing at 25!?)
It’s no surprised that he was just hitting his stride before he was killed.
According to Grant, across all fields the most prolific creators have the highest originality and generate their most superlative output during the periods in which they produce their largest volume.
Quality vs Quantity
Popular belief and academia would have you think that if you want to do better work, you have to do less of it. Obviously, there’s a trade-off between quantity and quality.
Not so fast.
This turns out to be false, according to Grant. When it comes to idea generation, quantity tends to be the most predictable path towards success.
Why is this important?
Because as an entrepreneur you have to act FAST. You can’t get caught up on one idea, invest all of your energy and resources into it, and expect to hit it big. It doesn’t work that way.
Many creators never reach their potential because they only come up with a few ideas and then obsess about refining them.
As a creator, you can’t possibly KNOW what’s going to work―no matter how original or revolutionary you think your idea is. All creators protect and even idolize their ideas. That means many creators favor projects and ideas that don’t turn out to be popular.
Channel your inner Tupac. Produce a LOT, and then gather feedback.
That’s what inspired me to write over 100 blog posts within one year. I had some massively popular posts in there, but most were forgettable! Hell, I’m even embarrassed by a lot of them. But that’s the point. You gotta keep it going and let the public be your litmus test.
The best way to get better at judging your ideas is to gather feedback. See which ideas resonate with your target audience and then iterate quickly. Unfettered conviction in your ideas is straight up dangerous.
(Could you imagine if Tupac spent a year on each record? We probably would have never gotten Me Against the World or All Eyez on Me ― some of the best albums ever made.)
Entrepreneurs create opportunities for themselves by creating solutions. Keep channeling your inner Tupac.