The ShipIt Journal, Part 2

In the podcast series, Seth Godin’s Startup School, Seth Godin gave a guided tour to a group of highly-motivated early-stage entrepreneurs on some of the questions they will have to dig deep and ask themselves while they build up their business. Here are my takeaways from various topics discussed in the podcast episodes.

The ShipIt Journal, now in free PDF format

  • At some point, we define all events and activities that need to happen. We exhaustively list every dependency and everything that everyone must do. The goal is on the first day to be clear with everybody about what all those dependencies are and to rip out every dependency that is there. We want to move the thrashing all the way to the first day.
  • The lean approach to startup involves building a minimum viable product. Minimum viable products (MVPs) allow us to iterate and produce versions of the products that are “less bad” than the previous versions. If our product is less than viable, we will likely launch something that has no chance to capture the hearts and minds of our audience and to extract the value we need. Building an MVP also requires us to hang out with the potential customers and find out whether this is something they might want. Sometimes those customers can come in groups. We might not know our MVP will resonate with which group, and sometimes we must pick a group to focus our effort.
  • Who becomes our competition gets back to the fear? On the day we launch, we now have competition. By outlining our potential competitors, we have one less reason to hesitate to ship.
  • “Plus It” and “Minus It” allow us to fine-tune our offering for two reasons. First, it is more likely we are going to finish our project. Second, it can make us more likely that we will become the best in the world at something. When we start with “This is not for you,” it makes it much easier to be remarkable. It makes it much easier to be the best in the world because it is not aiming for the impossible task of being there for everybody. After it is shipped and in the hands of people with whom we have built a relationship, we can now do more legitimate testing to see what we should add as opposed to trying to guess what we can take away.
  • For many projects that produce work that matter, we would often be doing the things for the very first time. By putting ourselves in a position that feels foreign and might not work, it requires emotional labor. What professionals do is they stay professionals by regularly doing things that require emotional labor. They are regularly doing things that are outside of their comfort zone. That is why we are doing the project, and it is all about we are doing this because we have never done it before.
  • Shame is the project killer. The fear of shame is what people used to keep us in line. We often use one hundred words to answer a ten-word question because the other ninety words are designed to distract the person who asked the question. Just get to the ten words because we have nothing to be ashamed. We can trump the shame by being meaningful and by going into the world by doing something that needed to be done in the first place. Project after project, we learn to ship. Over time, the foundation of thrashing and shipping gets stronger, and we get better at it. Suddenly our dreams become projects, and our projects become businesses.