Almost everything we do is secondary. Not secondary in importance, you understand. Secondary as in it’s been done before, said before, heard before, tried before.

We spend 99% of our entire school and college lives learning stuff that has already been figured out. We’re getting it second hand and not doing the primary work, the genuinely ground-breaking stuff. Remember that odd time when you stuck your neck out in school or college and wrote what you felt was something new, a product of your independent thought? I bet it was marked wrong, right? You’re treading where thousands of people have gone before, so your new thing is not thought to be right – thought being the operative word.

So much of what we do is secondary. Our working lives are about replicating processes, re-working, recycling, renewing what’s been done before. So little of it is actually new, never done before.

There is a very small number of people doing the primary stuff. Making the law, setting the precedent, inventing a financial mechanism, product, sport, piece of technology, process, creating something new and valuable. The rest of us are studying it, reading it, criticising it, adopting it, using it, benefitting from it, and sometimes improving it.

In the world of doing primary stuff there is failure, mistakes, false dawns, incorrect conclusions, disappointment and a huge amount of wasted time. But also, by an order of magnitude greater, there is fame, fortune, progress, history, satisfaction, gratitude and humility.

What primary stuff are you doing, or trying to do?

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