Scary Does Not Equal Bad

Many things in this world are scary and bad. Getting in a car accident, laid off, or cancer are all bad and scary things. But I have a hard time thinking of other realistic threats.

The other scary things are either neutral or good. Asking someone to be your friend is scary but good. Getting a big project to work on is scary but good. Letting your kid take a risk and be independent is scary but good.

Scary is not equal to bad. Most times you should move towards the scary rather than away from it.

What Came Before

If it weren’t for Google, we wouldn’t be able to run the business we do. But Google doesn’t help us in the way you may think, like hosting our email or making our website easy for clients to find. No, Google helps because it allows us to do a task that used to take hours or day in minutes. Of course Stack Overflow gets credit for this too, but it was the fact that Google made a really good search engine that helped give us the confidence to say that we can solve any technology problem that a small business has.

I’m not a huge fan of Google in general, but I’ve got to give thanks.

Warning Signs

Pain is a warning sign that I’m doing something wrong. Something detrimental to my health. Lately it has been too much work sitting in front of a computer. Not enough moving, stationary for hours. I’ve pain in my back that feels like it’s in my chest. Pain in my wrists, shoulders, hips.

My solution is not to go to a doctor. It is to get through this and then get rest and get movement. I need to use my body the way it was designed to be used.

Targeting Weakness

I was watching Olympic volleyball today and during a timeout we got to overhear the coaches telling their players the strategy. The point that stuck out – even the announcers commented on it – was targeting the players in positions 5 and 6 on the serve. They hoped to take advantage of weakness.

This is a sound, logical strategy. Winning is important and targeting weakness increases your odds of winning. But I don’t like it and I try not to do it.

I don’t want to win by beating the worst players on the other team. I want to test myself against the best of them. That’s a true victory to me.

Pushing Through

I’m nearing the end of a few projects right now and once again I’m reminded about how hard it is to finish something. It takes strong determination to make it all the way to 100% and not call it good enough. Fatigue sets in and every little task seems like a mountain to climb. Imagining being done and how nice that will be doesn’t help, it only makes it harder to endure the difficulty. My only advice is to find a way to focus on the parts of the work that you enjoy and let go of the rest.

All Kinds

Like everything else in this world there are all kinds of business plans. You may want to think that everyone knows that good customer service and doing things the right way is good for business. But not everyone does. People build businesses around the worst parts of human behavior, taking advantage of our faulty wiring. Some make their profits by lying to their customers and only giving them what they’ve promised after forcing them to jump through ridiculous hoops.

I don’t like it but it’s out there. All I can do to counteract it is to build the best business I can following what I know to be right.

Finding A Niche

We started out our business with the broad idea of helping other small businesses and non-profits with their technology needs. People would ask us exactly what that meant and we didn’t really have an answer – it meant everything. If you had something you needed that even barely intersected with technology then we’d handle it. I think this was the right strategy early on for a few reasons. First, it is hard for a small company to find work and the more we offered to do the bigger the pool of potential work. We probably wouldn’t have made it this long without that pool. Second, it has allowed us to see what our target market needs and therefore how much work of different types is available. Third, it has given us the opportunity to try things and see what we like and don’t like. Combined with knowing what kinds of work is out there, this allows us to decide to do the things we are best at and enjoy doing the most (those two seem to go hand in hand.)

Start broad and narrow over time. You don’t have enough information to be narrow at the start.

Overbooked

I’m not good at saying no to people. Part of that is being in a position of needing to pay the bills. Part of that is the drive to complete the mission no matter the cost. Part of it is poor time management and believing that I can always squeeze another hour out of a day. But I think the biggest part is just that I have an image of myself that I have to keep up. That image is of a person who doesn’t drop the ball or let other people down and letting go of that image without thinking I’m a bad person is tough.

Knowing What Success Looks Like

Smart people have this idea that they can figure things out. That’s what smart people do every day. But I think it gets applied too broadly. Some things can’t be figured out. The next successful thing seems like something that a smart person could figure out. But they can’t. Tens years ago no one would have bet on Instagram and Snapchat, two things that couldn’t have existed 10 years ago because too many other pieces had to move into play. 10 years is a long time but odds are that you wouldn’t have bet on either of those 5 years ago, or 3, or even last year. Confusing what you know and believe for how the world is.

Custom

I’ve been working on a project where I’m taking an open source application and fitting it to the needs of a client. Like buying a pair of jeans at Old Navy and having them hemmed to fit you right. It will fit better but it won’t quite be perfect. Sometimes better is good enough.

This project has really helped reinforce my love for custom solutions to problems. With custom software I don’t just change the hem but instead I get to choose the material I want to work with, measure it all out perfectly, and stitch it together with precision.

Sometimes having a product with a general feature set is good. I like that my phone is a camera so I don’t need to carry both. But sometimes a general feature set just gets in the way of what you’re trying to do. Trying to make things generic makes everything a little bit worse.