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Rule #1: There are no rules.

Reading Notes: Just Fucking Ship

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Whenever you look around, you know what you should be doing: creating and launching and selling a product, bootstrapping a business on the side. You’re smart. You’re capable. You’ve got the skills to make stuff […] why can’t you just make this happen? […] We’ll teach you 21 principles for getting off your butt and finally shipping. (official site)

Part of my 2016 reading list.

This is soup to nuts guide to the human aspects of shipping a side project. It’s not going to teach you how to design a logo or a code a website, but if what’s holding you back from completing your dream is lack of confidence, disorganization, over-ambition, etc., then this could be the book for you.

There’s nothing tremendously groundbreaking here, but it’s compact and won’t waste your time (as I’ve come to expect from Amy Hoy).

The most interesting aspect of the book is that she put her money where her mouth is and used the principles in the book to create and ship the book in 24 hours.

Here’s a quick rundown / reminder of the main points (but don’t spend too much time pondering if you want to read the book because you can read it in a single sitting):

  1. Always consider your guest.
    “Is this really what our specific customers need?” / “Will our customers like this?” These need to be constant refrains otherwise we’ll make the wrong things.
  2. Set a deadline…and mean it.
    Not a rule from above, but a personal challenge. You’ll work faster, smarter, and create anticipation.
  3. Work backwards.
    This will get you to think through the steps and to make a realistic estimate.
  4. Break it down into component parts.
    …and work on one thing at a time.
  5. Get crispy.
    Your components need to be concrete and actionable.
  6. Start small.
    Big plans fail. Start small, get some successes under your belt.
  7. Start on the atoms, not on the edges.
    Start on small things you can finish now. It’s satisfying and it’ll start to build.
  8. Track your progress.
    Make your work tangible and visible. Trello is a great option.
  9. Shop the shelf.
    Use pre-existing components. Beware the trap of trying to build everything in-house. Does your customer care? No. Then neither do you!
  10. Every version better.
    Doing is the only way to learn, so start small and iterate.
  11. Learn from recipes.
    Study and borrow ideas from successful people / companies.
  12. Choose your difficulty setting.
    Scope your project down. Only take on additional risk intentionally.
  13. Mise en place.
    Gather all the things you need (research, screenshots, todos, etc.) so that you can focus on working, not making decisions.
  14. Niceties vs Necessaries.
    Know what’s absolutely critical (core features, backups of user data) and what’s not (everything else) so you know what to cut if it comes down to the wire.
  15. Cut without remorse.
    Shipping a product is what matters, not shipping the perfect product you initially envisioned. That can come later.
  16. Feeling to fact.
    Uncertainty and insecurity will fuck with you, but follow a process and you’ll make something. Follow it more and eventually you’ll make good things. But you have to start.
  17. Mistakes happen.
    Cover the critical things and then don’t worry about it.
  18. Embrace your worst case.
    Seriously think through the worst case. How bad is it really? Probably not that bad.
  19. Embrace the Pauli Principle.
    Don’t hold out for the perfect launch. It may never come, but what you’ve already built has real value now.
  20. Your next launch.
    Launching isn’t as concrete as people think. Bad launch? Launch again. Who’s to tell you you can’t? (BTW, launches are products too—JFS them).
  21. Practice good habits.
    Revisit these steps as needed. Be mindful of the bad habits you tend to fall into.

(Sacha Chua’s sketchnotes also provide a great overview.)

Some choice clippings for me are the quotes she included early on:

My own behavor baffles me. For I find myself not doing what I really want to do, but doing what I really loathe…I often find that I have the will to do good, but not the power. — St. Paul, Romans 7:15-24

Who can’t identify with this even today? Akrasia affects us all at one point or another. I also appreciate his division between will and “power”.

Also:

We do not wish ardently for what we desire only through reason. — Francois de la Rochefoucauld

An important point, reminding me of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, from which the metaphor about motivation requiring the coordination of both The Rider (reason) and The Elephant (our powerful but coaxable emotional elements).

Yet JFS dismantles the (limiting) belief that we have to be in love with our product domain by pointing out that…

You don’t even need passion for the project itself. Or the topic area. I’m not passionate about time tracking, but I love running Freckle Time Tracking (which just turned 6 years old!). What I love is creating something that makes people happy and helps them run better businesses and creates a great life for me, my husband, & my team. (pg. 9)

I’m also particularly fond of the checklist of things to watch out for when sizing up a project (having personally fallen prey to a couple of these, and generally loving checklists):

  • moving parts
  • dependencies
  • crazy big ambitions
  • complexity
  • gatekeepers, whose approval you “require”
  • for people who might let you down (on purpose or otherwise)
  • for reinventing the wheel

Last but not least, I love that the book includes a “How to use this guide” section, something I think every book aiming at changing behavior should do. About which more later.

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