Kanye West is indisputably one of the most talented rapper/producers in the hip-hop community, which is all the more impressive considering the amount of spite and controversy he's generated over the past decade and a half. He's always proven so-called haters wrong though with classic albums and quotable lyrics. His latest album, though, has sunk like a stone, first because of a botched launch and second because he changed his mind about releasing it after it was released. I was one of the few people who immediately bought the digital album, then woke up the next morning to Kanye ranting on Twitter about how the album wasn't ready yet. Amazing, and not in a good way!
To add insult to injury, Kanye actually did update the album for listeners streaming it. Now people who are paying him less through streaming the album are getting a more authentic experience than those of us who actually gave him money to own the experience.
What happened to Kanye? Simple: He gave himself too much freedom.
Too much comfort breeds weak deliverables. I am an advocate of extended breaks, deep reflection and even strategic napping, but at a certain point you have to make a finite conflict to create your best work. Otherwise, we'd all be sitting here revising proposals, reconsidering products or, ahem, reediting albums weeks after their so-called release.
Here are the big overabundance opportunities to avoid:
Too much time: Think back to your last successful project, and now imagine that project without a deadline. How would it have changed? Would you still be working on it right now? Deadlines help us sharpen our focus, set realistic goals and temper idealistic visions. In fact, the best deadlines help us create a perfect compromise between our reality and our vision. For Kanye, he's still trying to match his ideal vision... weeks after the audience stopped caring.
Too many resources: Shark Tank's Daymond John just published a new book called The Power of Broke. As he explained to Inc., having little resources forces you to not only be economical, but to be creative, too. Despite his tweet about debt, Kanye still has more resources than 99% of music artists. For better or for worse, he can afford to stay in the studio and keep refining lyrics to a past-due album.
Too many options: In his fascinating book Mastery, Robert Greene says the Wright brothers thrived because they didn't have as many tools or parts. Their efficient, groundbreaking designs came from them not being able to purchase expensive parts or outsource products like their well-funded competitors. In my own case, I learned how to program apps simply because hiring a developer was too expensive - and I ended up with a skill set that helped immensely later with my now-acquired app, Cuddlr. Imagine how much stronger Kanye's "final" product would be if he didn't have as many options to feed his indecision?
It's not even unique to Kanye, as we all can fall trap to complacency through abundance. How could less make you better?