Just Start Building

“The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

I’m a thinker. In just the last week I thought of a handful of new ideas, spent hours doing research on each of them, and even started coding on one. This is what makes me happy. This is my comfort zone. Ideas are pure, safe, and one might even say romantic. It’s tempting to become intoxicated with the possibilities of what an idea could become. However I’ve found that this tends to be a trap. The good feeling a new idea brings you is merely a hallucination, masking the dark reality that your idea is rotting in the confines of your own mind. To paraphrase George RR Martin - an idea needs feedback as a flower needs water, if it is to keep growing.

Without letting your ideas out in the wild, without sharing them and being exposed to both praise and criticism they will slowly decay. When I was younger I was too afraid of sharing my ideas, and kept almost all of them to myself. As a result, my mind is is now a graveyard of ideas that never made it out. Luckily I’ve gotten better at this to the point where I share almost every hairbrained idea that I come up with. Occasionally, I even fully realize my ideas - which dwarfs the satisfaction I used to get from building castles in the sky in my mind.

Merly sharing with the occasional execution, however, is not enough. I’ve seen a few examples of people going out and executing on numerous micro and mini ideas. Jennifer Dewalt decided to build 180 websites in 180 days in order to learn how to code. A year later, she wrote that the biggest benefit of the project (besides presumably gaining coding skills and a job) was that she was able to overcome the fear of being judged. Pieter Levels, inspired by this is building 12 startups in 12 months, and released a product called NomadList that really excited me.

At my job I have the privillage of working with a few consultants from Neo, who are some of the worlds leading experts in the lean startup movement. In just the last month I’ve learned so much about the importance of experiments, quick iteration, and how to gain insights in order to find a true product market fit. Each week we come up with a hypothesis, build an app, and release it into the wild to get both qualitative and quantitative feedback. At the end of the week, we sometimes even throw away the entire design or code base, and never get attached to any particular idea. Instead, we only care about learning about what users actually do, and what will actually make them happy - a much more sensible thing to be dedicated to.

What Jennifer and Pieter’s projects along with Neo’s methodology all have in common is that many ideas are thought of, built, and released in a short amount of time. This process forces a much more limited scope and decreases emotional attachment, and from what I’ve expierenced thus far, ultimately yields higher quality results.

This is exactly what I need to do with my own ideas. Sharing is great, but becoming disciplined enough to actual build MVPs and launch them is much, much better. This is my new goal. Now I have to “Just Do It”.