Shipping. It’s important. For everyone. What does it mean? That depends on the context. For me shipping is all about following through with something. Accomplishing something. Progress. As a web developer I always hear about shipping in the context of publishing work and that’s important but today I want to talk about shipping in the context of making progress in any and all areas of your life.
I lost my mojo
Three years ago I started on an adventure. It was the resuming of my life. For the five or so years previous to this new adventure I had made several very wrong turns that put me in a very deep dark place (I’m talking about drug addiction, dropping out of college, and everything that goes along with that). I had essentially put my life on pause in a sense and to be honest it’s actually pretty hard for me to remember much of the events of those five years. But luckily I was able to resume my life and I started an adventure in entrepreneurship. Really, it wasn’t so much about entrepreneurship as it was about being in control and realizing that you don’t have to play by other people’s rules if you don’t want to. So I began my adventure and have been very successful up until this point. A couple weeks ago I talked about my theory of mental seasons and how between each big success I always have a battle with depression which I call the season of Stagnation. Well I’m there now. I lost my mojo. Now, my thoughts turn to how to get it back and the first thing that comes to my mind is to start shipping.
There’s a momentum that comes with success
Suceess builds on itself. One success puts some wind in your sails which gives you credibility and the momentum to move on to the next success. There are two ways you can easily sabbotage your momentum of success.
The first is by setting the goal posts too far. Some people, myself included, are so focused on the end result that they fail to see how far along the path to it they are and sometimes believe they’re nowhere near the path. Small wins add up to a big success but if you’re not looking out for your wins you’re likely to never reach your big success. Years ago I wanted to be a professional musician. I gave up on that dream though I could have done it. The reason I gave up was because I saw so many others who were far better at their instruments than I was and I thought I could never become as good as them and just quit. What I didn’t realize was that in all the years I had been playing (guitar is still my main instrument but I’m also proficient with drums, keys, and most anything you hand me) I had made great progress and there were people who looked up to my ability in the same way I looked up to those who were better than me! Had I just plowed through, practiced, and studied hard I could have been a professional musician. The same thing almost happened to me when I embarked on my jounrney to become a web developer. Luckily I stuck with it. I still hate much of my work but in between my harsh criticism of myself I see the progress and the greatness of my work. The key here is to notice the incremental progression. In fact, breaking up a large goal into smaller goals, as cliche as this advice is, works. So do it.
The second way to easily sabbotage success is to be a perfectionist. If you’re a perfectionist then you’ll always be waiting. For the right time, the right conditions, the right everything. You’ll be waiting for your work to become perfect. You’ll be trapped in this strange mindset that makes you believe that because you aren’t what you want to be or haven’t done what you want to do, that somehow that fact is evidence that you cannot and so you don’t even try. Perfectionism makes you skip steps. It removes the possibility of iterative progress which is key to success. I have built websites that were actually pretty nice but because they weren’t as perfect as I’d imagined I actually threw them out and started over. The end result of my starting over wasn’t any better. But when I began to iterate I noticed that when I came to a point where I saw that I didn’t like my work I would stop and take a break. I’d let it go. Then I’d come back to it later and build on what I had done, modify it, and eventually made it better. I went from wanting everything to be right quickly and on the first try to looking forward to iterations because I know perfection does not exist but each iteration is an improvement and a step in the direction that perfection would be if it did indeed exist.
Ship the things. All the things. Get success and win.
So knowing all this I’ve decided that the way I’ll get my mojo back is by shipping. I’m going to ship a lot and fast. I have a bunch of projects that used to be hosted on some of my sites and I never got around to putting them back online. The first thing I’m going to do is ship those projects. They’re going online this week. But shipping code isn’t the only thing I’m going to ship. I’m going to ship my diet. I’m going to eat one healthy thing each day and then add more as I get comfortable. I’m going to eat breakfast in the morning too. I’m also going to exercise. I’m going to ship some pretty shitty shit but at least I shipped. Once something is out there I can’t take it back and that’s what I’m counting on. I’ll be exposed and this blog post is the thing that exposes me. I’m going to be awful at exercising. My code will be pretty half baked (at least in my eyes), and I hate eating healthy so I’ll probably do some mental gymnastics to convince myself that having an orange juice with breakfast counts as a healthy thing. I’ll probably skip exercising too but I’ll do it eventually.
Holding myself accountable
How will I hold myself accountable for all this? My first thought would be to write an app. But that will fail because I’ll fall into the perfectionist trap and never ship it. So for now I’m going to post my progress on this blog for all the world to see. Each week I’ll recap what I’ve done and not done and each week there will be expectations. Starting now. The following is the list for week 1 of what I’m calling “The Plan to Get My Mojo Back” broken into a list of categories which I’ll describe.
This category pertains to the things I know I need to be happy and productive. At a minimum, these are the things that work to prevent burnout for me.
Write one blog post a week (the weekly Mojo Recap doesn’t count)
Publish one “Who Put a Potato in the Oven” comic per week
Work on Write.app 3 days a week
Polish side projects at least once a week
These are the things I need to do to keep my body in good shape. You need a healthy body and mind to be a happy productive person after all
Exercise three times a week for 30 minutes (running and sit-ups to start)
Eat breakfast daily
Eat one healthy item of food per day (preferably a whole meal)
These are things that aren’t necessarily weekly check-ins. Some are one time only, some recurring. They’re all about making an investment in myself that will help me achieve my much larger longer term goals.
Buy 5 new outfits (ones that make me feel really good)
Call the collection agency that’s been after me for years (I can finally pay them)
Pay my bills
Why am I doing all this? Well, its not just to do good things for their own sake. And its certainly not just to get my mojo back. There are a few big long-term goals I’m trying to accomplish and the smaller goals I’ve set out for myself above will directly impact my ability to reach them. Those long term goals I’m working for are:
Move into an apartment in the city
Start doing more with my business (resurrect it, basically)
Find a nice girlfriend (if time permits)
Live comfortably and independantly
I Ship, Therefore I am
The fact that I did these things and something came from them is important. To me, it proves I exist. I exist because I did something and it impacted at least one other person. The loftier the goal, the more impact it will have. We can’t all be Michael Jordans or Steve Jobses but I can tell you that someone who’s really living and performing at their best has far more impact on this world than the underachievers who take solace in the misplaced belief that everyone matters and is important somehow because “oh, you’re a special snowflake and you matter to a few people just because you’re born and bump into random people as you live your meaningless life”. I hate that attitude. Its an excuse to feel good about yourself even if you don’t deserve to.
Go be something. Go be someone. Do something that matters. Ship something. I ship. Therefore I am.