What do you do to motivate the person who has trouble staying motivated? Or to the self-starter who can’t quite get started?
How about the person with the great idea but no self discipline to get the idea off the ground?
Seth Godin quotes the famous Steve Jobs dictum: “Real artists ship.” It means you can have all the great ideas you want, but if you don’t release them out into the world, they’re worth nothing. Godin says:
A check in your wallet does you very little good. It represents opportunity, sure, but not action.
Most of us are carrying around a check, an opportunity to make an impact, to do the work we’re capapble of, to ship the art that would make a difference.
Just last week Merlin Mann talked about New Year’s Resolutions, and what a waste they are:
My bet is that most people who are seeing the kind of change and growth and improvement that sticks tend to avoid these sorts of dramatic, geometric attempts to leap blindly toward the mountain of perfection.
…Calendars are just paper and staples. They can’t make you care.
For me, that’s tough to hear (for you too, Dear Reader, I’ll bet). I’ve long been a Project Guy – someone who sets challenges for themselves, just to see how it goes. To experiment. To learn and grow.
I’d never seen America West of the Mississippi River. So I got in my car and went there. I’d never not eaten potatoes for 90 days. So I took on a potato fast for Lent, just because. I’d never not imbibed alcohol for a whole month. So last January I did it. I’d never grown a garden before, so last year I gave it a try and it turned out great. Not perfect, mind you, but I “shipped,” to use Steve Jobs’s phrase.
It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. My problem is, it has to be perfect the first time.
Self starting and self discipline – these are my weaknesses. It’s easy for me to think of a neat idea, and at least get started on it. But seeing it through has always been tough. And lately, it’s been a drag just to even start.
Take this idea I have. It’s a clear solution to an obvious problem here in Jackson, and the more people I talk to the more I realize it’s an idea worth pursuing. Like, this could be my Big Thing.
The idea is there, fleshed out on scraps of paper and in the brain of me and Kelli, my co-partner. But I’ll be damned if I can get the thing going. From brain to paper to real life – the shipping is always the hardest part.
Now, this idea isn’t going to make itself. Someone else could come along and ship it before I do, and then I’ll be one of those people who kicks themselves over not having the guts to deliver.
I want to deliver. It’s my responsibility to deliver. Even if it’s not perfect, even if there are kinks in the beginning. The point is to make something, not think about making something.
So the wheels are in motion, and the homework has begun. I’ve set a deadline for myself, and I’d like to run the idea by a few more people to get their feedback. But man. This thing has to launch. It’ll kill me if it doesn’t.
Even failing is a better option than not shipping at all, right? I mean, it could be that my idea floats and then pops like a punctured balloon. The grim reality of Jackson could render the whole venture useless.
Thing is, Seth Godin and Merlin Mann and Ben Franklin tell me that failing is always an option, because we need to fail at least once in a while to learn some things. If, however, you don’t have the guts to ship anything, you’ll never fail because your stupid pea brain shifts from “Drive” to “Safety Mechanism” and you become some depressed mutant reptile who mutters “Shoulda Coulda” to teenagers at the coffee shop. No one wants that.
I type this after having worked out at the gym, meditated on self-evaluation, and completed a project for my freelance business. Surely I have the wherewithal to do something as simple as ship an idea I’ve been kicking around since October. I mean, really.
This story gets told a lot, but after my first job interview, on the eve of graduating college, I came up to my journalism professor and trusted mentor. After explaining my reservations about the job, Dr. Renner looked at me, and said, “Dave, I had a brother who noticed the same thing in me from time to time. And he told me, ‘Dennis, you can him and haw and wring your hands and sweat the small stuff, but sometimes you just have to buck up and DO IT.’”
At the “DO IT,” Dr. Renner really yelled at me.
While I haven’t always been the best at applying that little lesson, shouted at me from Dr. Renner’s office at the newspaper, I’ll never forget it. Because he saw what my problem was. Dr. Renner had the same problem, and someone once upon a time told him exactly what he needed to hear to get him moving.
Just do it, Dave. Just do it.