A Pulse

Living things have a pulse. They constantly move although sometimes in barely perceptible ways but we notice this change. At a basic level we differentiate between living and dead. We feel a sense of dread from seeing death.

The things we create can be moving and vibrant or static and dead. Each thing we create needs to move in a different way to fit its style but each needs to move.

Driving Cross Country

Lets say you’re planning a trip across the UNited States, starting in Washington state and going all the way to Florida. Your only tools for the trip are a car and a crude map that you created based upon your previous travels. Most of your navigation will come from reading highway signs and you have no way of anticipating construction, accidents, or detours.

So you’re planning this trip and I ask you how long the trip will take. How accurate do you think your number will be? Do you think you’d be off my minutes or hours?

Now imagine your getting close to the end of your road trip but you’re way behind schedule because you ran into multiple detours. And then someone tells you that you should get someone else to help with the driving so you can keep moving through the night rather than stopping to sleep.

But this new person doesn’t know how to read the map you’ve created. You didn’t think about it needing to be for anyone but yourself. So this new person doesn’t know exactly where you’re going. And this new person also doesn’t know how to drive your car. I don’t know why she doesn’t but she just doesn’t, although she is familiar with the concept.

So the first few hours of driving together are at a slower pace than you were at because you’re spending some time teaching her how to drive the car. And she can’t drive at night yet because she doesn’t know the way well enough so you aren’t seeing the amount of extra progress you expected. It isn’t long before you’ve realized that she’s not a help and only slowing you down. It isn’t that she’s done something wrong it’s just that she can’t learn what she needs to learn fast enough to make a difference in your drive.

This situation I’ve described is very similar to software development projects. We don’t have tools to tell us the effect route to avoid trouble and we only have our own experience and ingenuity as a guide. But one anticipated detour in code can easily add hours or days to a project and there is no way to avoid that. The transfer of information between a team is one of the biggest hurdles that needs to be overcome and unfortunately adding a person near the end can only cause harm. But there is one difference between the two scenarios – the time scale. A minute in this road trip is the equivalent of an hour or more.

Learning My Limitations

The last 18 months of starting a company and consistently striving to do better has taught me my limitations better than anything else. I’ve always been baffled by the thought of not being able to do something – if anyone else can do it then I firmly believe that I can also. But now I see where someone else could probably do things better. I think that’s progress.

What Insight Can I Provide

The more I learn the less I feel I know and therefore the less that I feel like I can give back to anyone else. I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last 18 or so months and while thinking about it earlier today I struggled to come up with lessons I could share with someone else wanting to do the same thing. I have to ask myself what insight I can provide when I feel like I haven’t proven myself and even if I have then I know there’s no guarantee that what I did will work for you. At this point I can’t confidently share any business fundamentals that are critical to success.

What I can share is what I’ve experienced without the insight. Maybe that’s enough.

Going To The Customer

Like you I make a lot of assumptions. I’m especially bad when dealing with people because I’m not good at it so I have to try extra hard and I don’t always have the energy for that. One assumption I’ve been making lately is that other people know my process for building things. This process is obvious to me, of course, so everyone else must know too, right? This assumption leads me to the conclusion that people are being intentional incompetent rather than the truth which is that I just haven’t explained things well. Or at all.

So the point is that you can’t expect your customers to willingly go out of their way to research and learn everything about you and what you do. You have to go to them repeatedly and just a little bit at a time guide them towards what you need them to know. Otherwise you’ll get caught up in a situation where it seems like everyone is speaking a different language, people will get angry, and projects will fail.

Clearing My Plate

I’m not motivated by money, respect, or power. The only thing that motivates me is getting things done. The cycle is like the hunger cycle – get hungry and fill my plate, clear my plate, and then get hungry again.

Unsolvable Problems

Listening to the same podcast as yesterday, but a different episode, a person mentioned something along the lines of “that is how we will solve the homelessness problem.” But I don’t think that homelessness is a solvable problem. You can make it better perhaps, but our world is currently setup in a way that knowingly puts some people out on the streets and is ok with that. The problem isn’t the homeless it is that our society thinks it ok that some people don’t have a consistent, safe place to shower, shit, and sleep.

In our current system, homelessness is not solvable. Despite the compassion I feel for those without homes, it’s a problem I don’t want to touch since I know I can’t fix it.

Never Do For Somebody Something They Can Do For Themselves

I heard this comment on a podcast today that was talking about homelessness in our community. I think that other than the “never” being a bit strong this is good everyday advice for all aspects of your life. Like when you want to make things easier for your kids when they’re fully capable of doing something. Or when an employee asks you about something they they can look up themselves.

Time To Give Up

When is the right time to give up? It is easy to say “never give up” but that isn’t the right answer. It also isn’t the right time simply because you run into a little adversity. And the right time depends on what you’re doing. Are you wanting to give up on training that new hire and deciding to let him go? That needs to happen sooner rather than later. Are you wanting to give up on adding a feature a client asked for? That shouldn’t happen until you’ve come to the conclusion that what they want is impossible or outside of your abilities (and really, only impossible things are outside of your abilities.)

Feeling Badly About Saying No

I’ve been on a kick lately about saying no to things. Apparently I’ve been pushed to my limit and can’t handle anything else so everything is turning into a no. But I still feel like a jerk for saying no and I don’t like feeling like a jerk. I start to apologize for saying no when I really meant it.