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ChatGPT and Pancakes

I was listening to a podcast recently and the speaker talked about pancakes.

Specifically, he talked about the difference between the first pancake and the third pancake.

If you've never made pancakes before, just picture the process in your mind.

Putting together the wet ingredients, dry ingredients, sifting, measuring, stirring ...

Heating up the pan to the right temperature ...

Measuring the first scoop and letting it hit the pan ...

Flipping the first pancake over to either realize it's white as snow or dark as the pan itself and not that perfect golden brown you're after ...

Adjusting the heat, perhaps adjust the scoop size a few times, and finally ...

By about pancake three, you've found it.

The magic spot.

The perfect golden brown pancake.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about effort, The Distance From Zero to One (2 min read).

The point of that post in a sentence is: First drafts are hard.

The point of this post in a sentence is: We should choose which first drafts we want to create.

Let me explain in a few more sentences.

For some time now, I've been wanting to write about my thoughts on ChatGPT.

My entire professional career thus far has been in marketing and communications, so I think by default I'm supposed to have thoughts on ChatGPT.

I'll start with a confession: At the time of writing this post, I haven't used ChatGPT even once.

I only know how it works because of conversations that I've had with colleagues and friends who are much further along in the adoption cycle.

From what I know, ChatGPT has the ability to produce a first draft incredibly fast.

The quality of that draft will depend on what you've fed it and what you've asked it.

For the sake of this post, I don't care about the quality of the draft, I care more about the speed of its creation.

Let's go back to pancakes for a second and ask ourselves a simple question with one follow-up.

If ChatGPT were helping us to cook pancakes, how long might it take to get to that magic spot of the perfect golden pancake?

Likely, we'll get there sooner than we would on our own—without ChatGPT's assistance—right?

Assuming you've said yes in your head, then the follow-up question is, what do we lose by closing that gap in time?

I'm not interested in what we gain. We gain time, that's obvious and incredibly valuable.

I'd like to make an argument that what we lose is equally valuable.

We lose the muscle of effort.

Getting to the third pancake, takes effort.

Specifically, it takes the kind of effort that is particularly hard—the effort of the first draft.

In the post that I referenced earlier, I talked about three things that this kind of effort calls forth in us:

Courage, discipline, and most importantly, love.

Now you might make a simple counter to this argument and say that using ChatGPT doesn't really take away this effort, we just gain time so that we can apply this effort in a different place.

This brings me to my concluding thoughts on ChatGPT.

Creating a first draft is hard and first drafts exist in many different domains of our lives.

The greatest gift that ChatGPT might give us, is the time we need to focus on creating the first drafts we care about the most.

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