(Image by kamshots via Flickr)
In Linchpin, Seth Godin talks about the idea of ‘shipping’ – the idea that there’s no value in what you’re working on unless it’s actually being used.
Completing something means ‘shipping it’ to the customer. We all have the power to ship. In recent years, the literal act of shipping has gone from a pretty exclusive activity, only practised by large mail order companies to being something we all have certainly the power and opportunity to practice and experience: eBay, Etsy, Amazon and so many other places open up the world for us all to be tiny businesses and know what it feels like to wrap up the goods, write a thank you note and send them off through the postal system to a customer.
It’s possible these days to build websites, create eBooks, design customised T-shirts, write and record music, make TV shows, and organise events – all with such fantastically low barriers to entry. All of these things would have been, to our grandparents, things that required prior approval from some kind of middleman: publishers, manufacturers, record company executives, managers and so on. These days it’s all right there for us. We can ship without them.
So the choice is yours: sit around waiting for approval, or just ship. Sit around trying to make something that little bit closer to perfection (which is currently being used by no one!), or just ship. This is a fantastic mindset to have more generally. The focus should not be just on doing, but really on honing in on answering the question, “What would this look like when it’s finished?”.
We can sometimes get so carried away in how much better something can be that we forget that the whole purpose is to put it out into the world. Even if what you’re working on is something as simple as a report, thinking about the shipping stage of that might allow you to come up with a creative customer service idea or might just motivate you towards that elusive final stage in the process with more confidence.
At the final stage, we’re often caught in a high level of resistance to finishing the thing – we’re worried about how other people might judge our work and whether we’ll look foolish in some way. We worry about whether it’s perfect rather than whether it’s going to have the desired impact. We get caught in self-doubt and it’s so tempting without anyone to help us ship to take the easy option and either ditch the whole project or apply more delaying tactics. It’s not about how much you do, but ultimately how much you ship.