Aim Small

When it comes to getting things done, some people are happy accomplishing the nearest immediate to-do while others are only happy if they can reach the stars.  And that’s fair.  To get anything done, you need to find the right manner of personal motivation that works for you.

But, ultimately, you have to do something.  Or, to paraphrase Zeno, you’ll never do it all if you don’t first do one thing… and then another… and another…

You might hear perfectly logical platitudes like “the perfect is the enemy of the good” every day and still believe that you’re the exception to the rule, because what you’re working on will only be good if it’s perfect.

Likewise, no matter how many times Seth Godin urges you to “just ship,” you feel like you’re just not ready yet.


Your problem isn’t that you’re not “there” yet.

Your problem is that your idea of “there” doesn’t really exist.

Focus Requires Skill; Breadth Requires Luck

Let’s say you have an idea for a smartphone app that solves a very specific problem.

Maybe your app compares the prices of all listed for-sale residential properties in a given zip code.  That app would be potentially useful for realtors, home buyers and moving companies, right?

But wouldn’t that same architecture be useful for commercial properties, too?

Or hotel rates?

Or parking garages?

Or estimated utility rates?

Now you have a choice: you can create a simple app that’s targeted to a specific audience, or you can code a basic architecture that’s adaptable to a variety of conditions and markets.

What you can’t do is both.

Because if you do, you’ll be trying to win two wars at once.  You’ll be trying to meet customer expectations for the simple app while simultaneously coding a system that meets everyone’s expectations.  And you’ll be splitting your resources — time, energy, equipment, motivation — in half.

The Bad Kind of Good

Let’s say you have cancer.  That’s a problem.

Then, let’s say you beat cancer.  That’s a good thing.

And if beating cancer motivates you to fight cancer on behalf of other people, well, now you have both a mission and a specific motivation.  With laser-like focus, you could become a fundraising dynamo for the cancer-fighting cause.

But why just cancer?

Isn’t heart disease just as much of a problem as cancer is?

What about Alzheimer’s disease?  What about cystic fibrosis?  What about muscular dystrophy?

Guess what:

You can’t do it all.

Trying to solve every disease on the planet would mean, at best, that you’d inch forward toward your overall goal.  And, at worst, it means you’d fail to achieve anything because you’d never have made enough meaningful progress in any one single direction.  And that would be a real waste of your time and talent.

You can change the world.  You just can’t do it all at once.

So just do something.  And if that works, do more.

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  • Franklin Chen

    Amen. And everyone out there reading Justin’s words should go out and do it, not just read his words!

    Last year in a chance encounter at PodCamp Pittsburgh, I was mumbling about wanting to start a blog for years but still thinking about how to get it all set up just right, and he said, go do it already, and I went home, and days later, did it. My blog is hardly perfect, but I got it going, it’s still around after three months, and I can choose to take the next step if I want to. If I hadn’t started at at all, I wouldn’t even have the choice of asking myself “what next?”

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