Just ship. Seriously.

Participating in ColorWars has been a really cool experience. It’s taught me a lot.

But the #1 thing I would say is it’s taught me to JUST SHIP, YOU FUCKING IDIOT.

(And by YOU FUCKING IDIOT, I mean me, not you. You are not a fucking idiot. You are my reader! And clearly you are therefore more charming, beautiful, thoughtful and productive than other people.)

Ahem.

So. We all know we should ship early, ship often. That small, achievable goals are the best. That having something useful and publishable within a day or two or three trumps planning everything perfectly to the nth degree. That we should make proverbial hay while the proverbial sun is proverbially shining (and before the proverbial atmosphere gains a proverbial 8 degrees from proverbial heat constipation).

We know it.

So why am I writing about something we all—even me, the fucking idiot—already know?

Of course, telling people what they know (and believe) already is a time-honored tradition. It’s a huge industry in the western world. Telling people what they already know—and thus making them feel good about their own prescience, confirming their belief that they are correct, and also (maybe) encouraging them to do what they should be doing—is sometimes referred to as “self-help.” Sometimes these tomes, videos, advice, etc., are filed under “Business,” but really the idea is the same.

But here’s the thing.

Nodding along to Getting Real isn’t going to ship your product.

Neither is reading this rant.

Heck, I’d even argue that the small token amount of satisfaction we get from feeling correct and justified and thinking about doing what we already know we should do is actually antithetical to putting out the actual effort. It’s like emotional satisficing—it feels good enough, but with no effort, so we’re not moved powerfully enough by our remaining creative frustration to actually, well, move.

So the only thing that really teaches you to fucking ship is, well, fucking shipping.

The only thing that gets you to consistently fucking ship is, well, fucking shipping. (You probably saw that one coming.)

It’s like exercise: you know it’s good for you. People tell you how good you’ll feel for it, and maybe you even remember vaguely that you thought it felt good after a long hot yoga session (my poison of choice). But rationales and even memories can’t ever be as real to us flaky humans as actually going out and doing it and feeling it.

So you go exercise. You feel wiped out, but like superman afterwards. You think to yourself, “Ah, right, this is what that feels like.”

AND THAT is the motivation to go do it again. Not, weeks later, reminding yourself, “I recall, I believe, that it felt pretty good after.” Not beating yourself up, saying “I should go contort myself in 100 degree heat.” And certainly not rationalizing, “If I want to <insert specific goal here>, I must go do yoga again.”

The fulfillment in shipping is shipping.

The fulfillment in exercising is the actual exercise itself, the immediate effect on your body.

Weighting ourselves down with “goals” more distant, more abstract, or even more concrete detracts from the sheer nowness of the real reward and moves us ever further from action.

And it seems like the more we talk about doing it, the more we think about it, the more we know our approach is right and the more we pat ourselves on the back for it, the less likely we are to ever do the thing.

11 Comments

  1. Amen… I agree 100%….

    Now I just have to do it LOL but I will take this as motivation to get off the dime and do what I know is right.

  2. "Great artists ship" in a circle around a giant friggin’ pirate ship.

    I now know what my first tattoo will be.

  3. This feels like a much deeper post than the topic itself suggests.

    Actually I did ship something recently, and it’s not just a happy feeling I got, but actual valuable feedback towards reaching perfection that I never would have discovered had I not shipped. This is why 2.0 (particularly of the web variety) is better than 2nd Edition.

  4. Amy says:

    @Mitchell, don’t just do something, sit there! ;)

    @Colin, that will be an awesome tattoo! Screenshot or it didn’t happen.

    @Gabe, it totally is deeper than it sounds. I wanted to write about shipping shipping, but it turned into life itself. Funny how that happens. :)

    And yeah, the feedback and stuff is great. Also it breaks paralysis, meaning you might "finish" something you’d never otherwise even get out the door. In the case of ColorWars, it means fun & community building activities occur when they would not have occurred at all.

    But it seems like that is secondary.

    SHIPPING is still its own reward. Satisfaction.

  5. nap says:

    Shipping early and often == little incremental rewards == satisfaction == motivation == eagerness to continue.

    Without that, it’s all just work. And we all know work for work’s sake alone is lame.

  6. I was trying to write about "fast delivering applications" as a parallel testimony agreement, but it was growing on and on.

    So here it is:

    http://marcricblog.blogspot.com/2008/04/i-have-tried-fast-delivery-but.html

  7. Reinis says:

    Absolutely!!

    I have been creating an ebook about personal budget for the last month.

    Then I got an offer to give a lecture about the same topic. I created the lecture in less than a week. And the feedback I got from the lecture is invaluable – now I can improve both the ebook and lecture – and help people organize their finances even better!

    Besides, the feelling that I helped people in just one hour is awesome!

    So, yeah, ship NOW! :)

  8. Louanne says:

    Yes–shipping is the best–but only if you are not shipping total crap. Let’s try to make sure it adds some value to the last version. :) Ship on!

    Louanne

  9. Stefan says:

    It is quite a long time ago I was able to just sit down and ship a web site in a few days. Today with a lot more experience I am so much concerned about quality, strategy, marketing and other stuff that actually I consider impossible to do something right fast.

  10. Charlene says:

    as someone who worked in startup software during the internet boom, my gut reaction to the title was, "NO! YOU SHIPPED TOO FUCKING SOON YOU IDIOTS!" but that’s just from a technical writer who had to "write around it in documentation" to make up for the shittiness in the not ready for prime-time software that shipped. </rant> That PTSD rant out of the way, I agree. :)

  11. I just wanted to say thanks for this little mantra. It’s made it so I can push through and ship my first web app http://todoosie.com . I have some bigger projects but they haven’t gotten near a point of shipping. I decided to pick something so small that there was no excuse for not shipping. It still took forever, but I’m pretty please with the results.

    JFS!

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