Remember to stay focused and keep shipping
Founder Friday is a weekly guest post written by a founder who is based in or hails from the Silicon Prairie. Each month, a topic relevant to startups is presented and founders share lessons learned or best practices utilized on that topic.
Following up Dusty Davidson's great article on goal setting will be no easy task, but coincidentally by writing this I'm taking a step in the right direction for one of my goals to write more. Looking back on what process I go through to set and achieve goals has really helped me better understand what it is that makes early stage startups tick. For me it comes down to setting goals that people would call me crazy for, but then creating bite-sized and focused to-do items to tackle them.
When I was starting SelectOut, I had a premise for a business (privacy), background in computer science and politics, and an overwhelming drive to succeed. No product to be seen, no business plan, and honestly no idea what I was even doing. None of that stopped me. I found a couple mentors that shared my passion and pushed me forward with the single goal of creating a company I could be with for 5, 10, or 20+ years while making a difference in the world.
There's a common quote that "If you're not failing at least 50% of the time then you're not working on hard enough goals." Well, all signs pointed to me probably failing, but still learning in the process, so I knew I was at a good starting point. With that beginning and the startup mentality of "Stay Focused & Keep Shipping," made popular by Mark Zuckerberg here, I was finally able to set realistic milestones towards my crazy goal.
The "Stay Focused" part may be the most important thing I use when creating goals. When I first started with SelectOut I tried to make the 20-year company at once. I had four different products I was working on, trying to set business deals with dozens of companies, look at possible funding, being a full time student, having a social life, and participating in university clubs all at once. Just typing those made me lose my breath; now try doing it all at once by yourself. Just looking at my goal list was enough to drive me crazy, so I scrapped it and focused on a single item at a time.
Since accomplishing that simplification I can honestly say I've been more productive and am getting much closer to my crazy goal than I was before. The second part of the quote was "Keep Shipping" which I like to take as release your Minimal Viable Product, learn from it, fix it, and ship updates. This part comes difficult to many people, especially new entrepreneurs as they want the best product they can to be released instead of the most basic. I myself still struggle releasing something if I can see anything potentially flawed or an improvement I could do, but they do say you are your own worst critic. Getting something shipped, anything really, is what tends to separate the real entrepreneurs from the wishful.
Anyone looking into entrepreneurship or really anything else in life should always set goals that seem impossible. Think crazy, think extravagant, think different (thanks, Apple), but no matter what think big. The real task at hand though is figuring out a way to accomplish the crazy one, and for me it came down to one item at a time. Piece by piece with a single focus to complete the bigger puzzle is all it takes. Remember to stay focused and keep shipping.
Credits: Screenshot of Facebook from facebook.com. Photo of Calvin Pappas courtesy of Pappas.
About the author: Calvin Pappas is a 20-year-old aspiring entrepreneur and founder of SelectOut. He is an online privacy advocate working to help simplify and improve privacy practices across the web.
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