I'm about four weeks into working on my next thing. In the first three weeks I was very productive and heads down, mostly coding and writing. This past week though I've been more stagnant, doing a lot of thinking and second-guessing. This precipitated largely because I've had a lot of meetings in the last week.
Talking to people about what you are working on is important as so many in startupland evangelize these days. I'm not going to cover all the benefits, because so many already have. However, one of the side effects is that it gets you into problem-solving mode.
Now maybe that's not a side effect, maybe thats the whole point, but when you're early on your idea is going to have a lot of "problems". Your business model is unclear, the customer you are serving isn't well-defined, the product feature set isn't thought through, the launch strategy is rough, the retention play is non-existent. These are all important things to solve, but when you hear all these things at once, the tendency is to try and work through all of them, ASAP. I've noticed a bit of anxiety in myself as I suddenly felt frenzied to figure this all out.
Last night I took a deep breath and realized that in trying to answer all these things so quickly, my idea was becoming a bit derivative. You see we all praise speed in startups, but speed can often lead you to safe, pattern-matching thinking – especially when you have so many things to work through. I realized that while its important to know the problems you face, real breakthrough requires you to ignore most of them and focus on just whatever you think is most critical. Weird ideas need space to branch out and evolve. I'm partial to the Jonny Ives quote on this point:
while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts, so easily missed, so easily compromised, so easily just squished.
Two other posts helped me in get my thinking straight here:
- Sam Altman on why its better to think of your early work as a project instead of as a company
- Jerry Neumann on being okay with saying no to what you are supposed to do
So today, I'm memorializing my new found insight (and confidence) in this post and getting back to coding, letting my curiosity lead the way.
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