Jason Fried

October 23, 2023

An influence or a trap?

Watch this:

Roger Smith is a watchmaker, in the most traditional sense. He apprenticed under George Daniels, one of the best there ever was. And for the first few years, he made everything himself — just him, no one else. Even if you aren’t into watches, I bet you’ll be into Roger W. Smith after you watch the video.

Roger’s workshop is on the Isle of Man — far away from the heart of the industry in Switzerland. In fact, he’s the only watchmaker on the Isle of Man, and one of very few in the UK.

He thinks being far away is a good thing. I love how he puts it:

“The influences just aren’t around, and I can just get on with my days work and just make what I want to make.” -Roger W. Smith

I love that notion — it’s one I’ve tried to hold dear myself. Don’t be influenced too much. Be aware of what’s great, but don’t get other people’s work too deep in your head or you’ll be doing their work, not yours. That kind of influence isn't really an influence, it's a trap.

It’s so easy to get sucked into other people’s work. Following industry news, attending every conference you can, picking brains. But I’ve often found it better to retreat into your own mind and bring something original. The more you see how other people do what they do, the harder it becomes to do things differently.

So pay attention a little, but not too much — leave more room for your own ideas than for theirs.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.