An Entrepreneur’s fatal flaw: We love to create, but hate to maintain

Shane Labs December 9, 2013 8

Quick poll: What’s more fun for you: thinking about a new idea that you know is gonna be a hit, or finishing a project that you’ve been working on for a couple months?

If you’re like me, you like the new idea – coming up with a domain name, picking a logo, fantasizing about how much it’s going to rock. But isn’t that weird? If we’ve been working on a project for months, shouldn’t we be more excited that it’s complete and take pride in what we’ve accomplished? Why do we get our jollies from thinking of new ideas instead?

Thinking

We love to come up with new ideas

It’s because we as entrepreneurs and developers have a fatal flaw: we like to create, but we hate to maintain.

I know I’m extremely guilty of this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you are too. I have a bunch of side projects that are 90% complete. When I start developing them I’m super amped and on a roll, but as I get nearer to the end I lose motivation. And then the worst thing happens – I get a new idea and I abandon my current project.

The end result of that behavior is that I have a bunch of unfinished projects. Not only is there no way to make money from an unfinished product, but it’s damaging to my self-esteem and motivation.

I’m not saying that you have to finish every project, you start

If there’s a reason to abort a project because you uncover something that you know will make it a failure, there’s no reason to waste time and resources. But I do want you to take a look at yourself and see if you notice a pattern of not finishing projects. And if you do, make it a goal to completely finish your next one.

Or better yet – take a project that’s 90% done, and complete it! Keep in mind that completing a project does not just mean creating the product, but also includes marketing it. Spend 2-3 months after you finish creating the product to push it into the public. This may not be a simple solution to guaranteeing project success, but projects that remain ‘almost complete’ forever have a 0 % success rate.

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8 Comments »

  1. Zak Azure December 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    It’s more or less your personality type, or a characteristic of how you work. Solution is to team up with someone that hates / can’t start up projects but can finish them.

    This way you are the innovator and creator and the other person is the follow through when you run out of steam. They then handle it to completion and launch.

    That way you actually reach market and commercialize instead of having millions of 80% good ideas that never see the light of day.

    I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to make close friends, partners or hire a reliable employee or two when they can. Every person has weaknesses and strengths.

    That’s why working with just one extra person can increase your effective power exponentially. You can ride your strengths and have someone else cover your shortcomings to reach your goal. Following through isn’t easy, I know a lot of people struggle with this.

  2. Esaks December 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Don’t build anything until you have sold the idea. Sell 5-10 copies before you code 1 line. It’s really that simple.

    For most people building is easy, and talking to people is hard. you don’t want to face rejection so you defer rejection as long as possible. Doing this however wastes a lot of time and often leads to project abandonment or worse building something no one actually wants.

  3. Andalus December 18, 2013 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    You should also try focusing on the goal that lies beyond your business ideas. Do you want to get rich? Help people? Improve your life somehow? Whatever it is, keep that in mind when you work on one of your ideas instead of being completely fixated on the task at hand. You should definitely focus your attention on the present, but keep that ultimate goal in your mind. It will help drive you forward.

  4. Walter December 18, 2013 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    I have suffered from this too. The way I have learned to get through it is by breaking my project down into smaller functional phases.
    My motto is: Launch a working prototype that someone will pay money for within 2 months
    I have learned that the first version gets completely re-written from scratch by version 2 once customers start giving feedback.
    Phase 1 should take you 25% of the time to build to launch that a typical project takes you at the moment. The hardest thing about doing this I found is not being able to work with the really cool tech. because it takes longer to build a prototype with it, and having to use more clunky but faster to develop with tech. I.e. for a web-app, I will build my prototype with Web2py instead of AngularJS and Revel. I love web2py, but I also hate it because it is so damn fast to prototype with that I get lazy.
    Next goal I have for what I need to work on: Before starting on phase 1, find and have at least 1 person (stranger), and preferably more, commit to paying some amount of money for the good or service, even if it is just $1.00.
    The key with this first client is to see if I can get them excited enough to actually try my good or service, and provide me with feedback.
    If I can’t find at least 1 person, I should move on to a different idea and not even waste my time on developing that one, unless it is for my personal benefit (I have one of those).

  5. Engineer December 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Yeah I have this problem too. Lately I’ve tried bouncing between projects. I’ll work on one for a few weeks, and then transition to an older one when I get bored and need to feel excited again. It turns into a slow crawl towards completion but it’s been working. Two projects completed in the last 6 months!

    • Shane Labs December 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm - Reply

      Two projects completed! Congrats! Be sure to let us know how they’re working out 🙂

  6. Bumbler December 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    You want to know what the real problem is? I mean, do you really, really want to know?
    Fair warning.
    Ok, you asked for it…
    You’re a pussy!
    An uncompleted project has no chance to fail because it never got off the ground. You can’t fail at something you haven’t really tried. You’re putting up the front like you’re this busy guy with a ton of great ideas that could all make you rich!
    What you think is that you’re full of potential. What you really are is full of shit.
    You’re afraid to fail. You think it’s “shiny object syndrome”, but what you really have is “no balls syndrome”.
    You spend a few days marketing something, see that it didn’t instantly take off and make you a gazillionaire, so you give up before it has a real chance to fail. What you’ve basically done is pussy out on every single idea you’ve ever had.
    If you want to stop yourself from doing that in the future, make a big, bold, public declaration. Pick one project that you’re excited about, tell your friends about it, your family, post it on Facebook, blog about it, and basically tell everyone you can possibly reach about it.
    Tell people you actually know, in person, like your friends who will give you hell for failing on it. You need to put some real pressure on yourself, and have some real consequences for failure.
    Make it known that you will post progress results every week for the first month, every 2 weeks for the next 3 months, and once a month for the remainder of the first year.
    Earmark X amount of money to put into advertising, and SPEND THAT MONEY! You can’t spend it on anything else, so if you fail, you’re out X amount of money. And, this has to be an amount that’s significant to you.
    If $500 is something you’d feel if you lost it, make it $500. If you wouldn’t feel it until it’s $50,000, then make it $50,000.
    To put it bluntly, you’re afraid to fail.
    You may not like hearing that, but it’s very common. I’ve suffered from it too, but I have too many bills and real responsibilities to mess around with crap that won’t make me money now.
    I don’t even think about starting a new project unless I can easily see it doing 6 figures in profit in year one. If I don’t think that’s easily do-able, the project is immediately scrapped, and often not even started.
    All those side projects are suck costs, lost revenue, and wasted time.
    You shouldn’t be proud of them, they’re crap. They’re all failures, and you’re scared to really go for it.
    EDIT: I’d be willing to bet you’re at least “comfortable” in your current work situation. You’re making enough to live on, you’re not afraid that you won’t be able to put food on the table, and you know you’re going to have a roof over your head. You have no reason to go for it and risk failing.
    Sure, there’s a potential positive, but you’re more afraid of the potential negative of failing. It’s called “fear of loss”.
    Look at it this way.
    As humans, many of us will put our lives on the line to stop someone from stealing $200 from our wallets. We’ll actually fight back against a mugger, or someone threatening us with a knife. For what? $200? That’s insane!
    On the other hand, would you go knife someone for that same $200? Would you put your life in danger to gain that same $200? The answer is very likely no.
    We’re driven more by a fear of losing what we already have, than by the potential of gaining something we don’t have yet.
    This is why we stay in shitty relationships, keep working dead-end jobs, and are fine living close to where we’ve always lived. We’re afraid of losing what we already have, and that’s a more powerful driver than the potential for gain.
    Humans are wired to be risk averse, it’s a survival mechanism. Most successful entrepreneurs aren’t wired like the normal people, they’re natural risk takers. Maybe you’re just not wired to work for yourself.
    Google “fear of loss”, especially anything by Cialdini.

    • Shane Labs December 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the long thought! I do see many of your points, in fact this blog is one of the ways I’m increasing accountability for myself. You’re right that I am comfortable in my current lifestyle, and my aim is to make some money on side projects, not quit my job and become a full-fledged entrepreneur. But there are some good realizations in here, thanks for sharing!

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