To look good, we often trade in effectiveness for showiness. Take the martial artist who trains for years, but struggles to hold their own in the ring. In most cases they are form collectors. They have learnt a series of fancy kicks and twirls, but nothing has been learnt at depth. They know twenty types of kicks instead of two. And so each kick is ten times less refined. They spend all of their energy focusing on not fumbling.
Professional fighters on the other hand seem to apply the same moves over and over. They focus on mastering microsystems because they recognise that the fundamentals of these systems are the same fundamentals working at scale in much larger and more complex systems.
Take Mike Tyson. His skill and strength is so refined it becomes almost invisible to the inattentive eye. He has condensed large circles into very small ones by mastering the basics. He learnt to punch at great length and then applied the same principle of relaxing his arm to smaller and smaller distances. What results is a knockout blow with a 10-centimeter path.
The same runs true when approaching any task. Take filmmaking. When we learn what it takes to produce a brilliant shot, we set ourselves up to learn what it takes to produce a brilliant film. We recognise how essential good location and art direction are for good cinematography. We recognise how essential good talent and framing are for good storytelling. We recognise how essential good sound and lighting are for retaining viewer engagement.
By focusing solely on the micro details of one shot, we begin to see the rules of good filmmaking come to life. Only then can we set ourselves up with a chance of producing a standout film whereby we can apply (and break) the same rules on macro scale.
Form collecting is a natural but dangerous addiction. As creatives, we must suppress our desire for fanciness in favour of effectiveness. Form collectors may look great in the locker room, but they’re ripped to shreds in the actual ring.