After several months of hiding, the inability to write about my projects, and the eternal willingness to launch yet another startup, I’m back.
I was too focused on my inner emotional experience, anxiety, and shame that I couldn’t make myself sit, think and write down all the things that happened and what I feel and think.
Finally, I did it. What you are reading now is the result of 2-week reflection on a problem and trial to find a way out.
How it started
If you don’t know me here is the short information: I’m a software developer by trade, with a degree and total experience of about 18 years. I worked in different companies (big like Microsoft and small ones having just 3 devs) as a full-stack dev, senior dev, and front-end dev, and even as a “Senior Software and Design Specialist” (I had to check my Linkedin profile because I’m not able to remember this title) :))).
The fact is: wherever I’ve been working I didn’t stop dreaming to launch my own project and make it a business. This idea grasped me firmly since ~2005. I created my first web project in 2007 (I created another, desktop app, in 2005), it was a simple SaaS for creating website documentation. I showed it on some forum, and people met it lukewarmly. They told me that the website didn’t look great, it was slow, and they didn’t understand the point of the service. I gave up almost immediately after that.
What did I actually expect? That they would tell me “ah, ah, it’s so nice, here is my money, just take them”? Not, actually. And if they would react in this way I’d give up too.
Because – I understand it now – my whole goal was to build, just to build. I built the product so I gained my goal.
If I would be actually interested in building the company and business, at least I’d do the following:
- I’d fix all the bugs
- improve the design
- improve the performance
- create the documentation
- create the marketing strategy and materials
- work on engaging new users
- email companies that could be interested in it, and so on.
In other words, I’d do my best to make it – at least – a good product and business.
But instead, I worked only on the pieces that looked interesting to me. For example, the process of software development is usually the most interesting part so I usually do it first. Also, at some point, the customer development is pretty interesting so I did it even though it was really challenging.
How it went
Since then, I was working on multiple projects.
I finish some of them, I even went further like I created not only a product but also did some customer research and marketing. I even earned some money! But the final was the same: I lost my interest completely and could not make myself keep working on it. Every time when it happened I felt approximately the same feeling: I felt like everything I did before was not important and good anymore so I had to start something else from scratch to stay on a right track.
That feeling was the same every next single time. I learned to track and recognize it but this knowledge never helped. Every time I felt it I had a feeling that I was absolutely right with what I was doing. It was like something camouflaged so well that I had never been able to see clearly what was going on.
- I do only interesting things
- I don’t do or complete what I decided to do or complete earlier
- Often, I can’t focus on one task and switch to another as soon as feeling bored
- I can ignore my goals and devalue my own achievements
- I work on too big projects that take too much time/effort
- as a consequence, I’m not able to produce high-quality code in a reasonable timespan and my code is shitty and buggish which frustrated and demotivated me
- I chose the wrong target audience that I didn’t want to communicate with
- I chose a problem I actually didn’t want to solve
- I chose a project where I had to do many things that I don’t like due to my nature (projects based on content, communications, or when a subject area is completely out of my interest)
I see here 2 main problems:
- Doing something new is my dope
- I don’t carry out the previously undertaken obligations
I noticed when I get used to a project it usually is becoming boring and I started feeling so bad that just can’t make myself move on. At this point, I need a new dope. And it’s now a real addiction.
2 types of failure
“9 of 10 startups failed”.
I hear it over and over again. Reason?
- They created a product nobody wants
- out of funds
- team, tech, and other problems.
Because I think the most common problem is the founder themselves. They just don’t apply enough effort or apply them in the wrong direction. And “why” is another question that exposes the real reason. They stupidly get bored. Yes, they may not find their product-market fit, and not find enough customers but it’s just because they lose their belief in their own product and get bored with it. That’s it.
I saw it over and over again. The #buildinpublic movements show it very clearly. You see a new idea, a startup, a founder who sounds very enthusiastic, they show their work, marketing effort, etc… and then suddenly… silence. They’re just gone.
So, there are actually just 2 types of failure:
- real failure (for example, when founders did all they could but their project required money that they just run out, or any other real reason)
- a problem of founders themselves (I believe this is the reason in 99% of cases but because people don’t like to talk in this context, they usually presented it as the absence of PMF, or the wrong product, and so on).
What I am going to do
I recently started a practice that I call “the discipline first, the motivation second” 🙂
It means that I decided to do something I do it no matter how much (or how little) I want to do it.
To make it easier, I:
- have the explanation of why I’m doing it, handy
- do it in small portions, usually, several time spans, 20 minutes each
- trying to rotate the more boring things with the less boring ones.
Honestly, it requires a lot of effort and sometimes I feel awfully bored and want to stop doing but… I feel so great after I’m done with it.
So, my general strategy is:
- Decide what I’m going to build
- Create a simple plan for building and selling the product (focus on the main 3 features and make them perfect)
- Determine what I need to know
- Start following the plan
- Write on my Twitter and here what’s going on, at least once a week
- Do not undertake big obligations.
Now, here are the details:
1 – Decide what I’m going to build
- What is the product about
- why I want to create this product (the inner motivation)
- which problem it solves
- who is my target audience
- why do they need the product
- how I’m going to compete with the existing solutions
- decide on the 3 most important features and implement them at the highest quality.
About the TA
The target audiences I like to work with:
- Technical people (software developers, tech founders)
- Startup founders
I will work only on ideas with the TA I like, and functionality I like, not based on the content and not required a lot of coding.
About the features
To figure out which features should be implemented, I can conduct simple market research by looking at the reviews of existing solutions and range the features by frequency.
- select a product that doesn’t exist yet
- select a product based on popular/sexy ideas or technologies like AI, bots, and image recognition (well it can be a part of a product but should not be its base)
2 – A simple plan
This is several lists including:
- What should I do to build a product
- what should I do to find the first followers
- what should I do to find paid customers?
Also, decide and write down:
- What is the goal that I will achieve with this product
- what is the financial goal
- what is the self-developmental goal?
3 – Determine what I need to know
While working on the plan I will see what I’m going to do but I may not know everything to execute right away.
- which new skills to learn (if any)
- which books to read (if any)
- which people I’d like to connect with
- where to find time for all of them.
4 – Start following the plan
- Decide how much I will implement every day, and start doing it
- decide what to do if I got very bored (take a break, walk my dog, play table tennis, watch a movie, etc.)
- decide how I’m going to report to myself what I did, and how much (maybe use some habit tracker)
- decide how I’m going to praise myself if I do it (buy a book? a cake? order food in a restaurant?)
5 – Write on Twitter and/or here periodically
To be able to see the progress I need to record it somehow:
- which tasks were done
- how much time I spent on the tasks
- the total progress.
6 – Do not undertake big obligations
Do not undertake the obligations like “creating a photoshop in one month” or “writing a book of 512 pages”.
Do small things with small steps:
- Features should be important but small
- content marketing should be written in small chunks (like a one-page blog post with condensed, important information)
- don’t create long email newsletters
- don’t write books
- don’t create free stuff like catalogs or long lists.
Now, the most important part:
as soon as I answer all unknown questions and create a plan, I print out everything on paper, have it handy, and read it every day.
PS I created this plan for myself but you can borrow it if you like. I’d be happy to hear from you if it helps to overcome your “next shiny object syndrome” and “I can’t launch” syndrome. I’m not allowing comments here because of bots but you comment to me on Twitter https://twitter.com/SeaCatWiz or DM me.