If They Can’t Understand It, They Can’t Control It

If you know it’s good work, you have to be able to stomach other people questioning it.

Rick Rubin says he never knows if a song will be a hit or not. As a guy who’s had his share of big songs and albums, you’d think he’d at least have a hunch once in a while, but he swears he doesn’t. His attitude of focusing on the work in the present and never getting caught up in the past or future outcomes applies to what we do too.

Rubin says if it’s truly good work, it’ll resonate with someone else. Now, if we’re wrong and it flops, we have to accept that too. But, if we’re right and it catches on, that’s why we are putting it into the world in the first place.

When Rubin encounters someone who questions his work or thinks he’s wrong, he’s got a line to help keep him focused on his own standards. He tells himself, “If they can’t understand it, they can’t control it.”

Have high standards. Do good work. Repeat the process. If they can’t understand, they can’t control it. But, if we really understand it, then our standards, our work, and the practice of making it for the people we serve is all we can control.

Listen to Rick Rubin’s interview with Brian Koppelman on The Moment podcast for this idea and more.

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