A.B.C.


In this iconic scene from Glengary Glenn Ross, Alec Baldwin harangues a bunch of real estate agents about their inability to close the deals to which they’ve been assigned, and for their general incompetence. He attacks their masculinity and questions their desire to succeed.

“A.B.C.,” he says. “Always be closing. Always be closing.

“Put that coffee down. Coffee’s for closers only,” he says.

He is aggressive, brutal, demanding, psychotic, power-hungry, and money-obsessed. But he’s also giving them a powerful call to action. Every time I watch this speech, I feel an energy buzzing inside me. I feel like I just received a much-needed slap in the face, but it’s a good pain. He delivers a dose of jarring realism and toughness that I think is inspiring.

But he’s talking about real estate, and not everybody is a real estate salesman. How does this translate to other fields? I propose a redefinition of A.B.C., but with a similar tough-love attitude. It’s a tactical shift more than anything. It is this:

Always be creating.

It works for two reasons:

1) Constant creation forces you to keep moving ahead.

It forces you to explore new ideas and to dig deeper into yourself and the things that interest you. When you’re a creator, you don’t just react to other people’s ideas and questions; you’re the one pitching the ideas and asking the questions. Creating new ideas keeps your mind alive. It ensures that you’re always hungry for new information.

Create, create, create. If you feel pulled to a different direction, embrace it. Pivot and recalibrate. Iterate, iterate, iterate. But for God’s sake, don’t ever stop creating. Absorbing information without producing anything is useless. It is pedantic and it is failure. Creating things is what we humans were made to do.

Tucker Max says that creation is basically the driving force behind all social and economic change. Don’t try to fix the Big Mac, he says. Just make a better burger:

You change the world not by trying to alter what already exists, but by building new things that are better than what currently exists. … Power does not cede anything without a fight, and if you try to fight an existing system to change into something else, that is nearly impossible in all but the smallest battlefields. The better avenue is always to create something new the replace what is old and broken.

2) Creating gives you something you can be proud of.

You can read all the books in the local library and learn a huge amount of information, but if you never create anything, how can you prove it? There is truly no excuse to always be creating soemthing you can be proud of. It does not have to be big. It just has to exist. A work of art, some writing, a one-man company, whatever. You need to have something that you can point to and say “I made this” whenever somebody asks. Think of it as a way to demostrate performance. It’s like a resume, only much, much better. Don’t be caught unprepared. Don’t embarrass yourself by being the kind of person who thinks he needs permission to create something.

Recently, I was studying for an exam for entry into the actuarial field. Things were going well, but I stopped after a couple of weeks in favor of continuing to learn to code. (Coding occupies a similar place in my mind because it’s also technical, so I thought it was more-or-less interchangeable.) Why the switch? Because coding is more visible. It’s a tool for creation, rather than simply a tool for understanding. I could pass that exam with flying colors and it would be a tremendous acheivement, but then what happens if I don’t get a job or an internship right away? The achievement so esoteric that it’s difficult to explain why it was an achievement in the first place. My only options would be to continue down the path and take another exam or consider my time dedicated to the first exam a sunk cost and move on. But with coding there is potential for constant learning and constant creation along the way. And because of the transferability of web and code skills across multiple applications and fields, it’s much easer to pivot without while keeping sunk costs low.

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Lots of people talk about the importance of boldness in your life. People say you need to develop an “action bias.” Do this, but be sure to make every action directed toward a creation.

Apply this to everything you do.

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