January 10, 2017
The Importance of Planning [Practically Speaking]
I wrote previously about the importance of planning and gave 5 simple reasons why planning is critically important. Since I wrote that article I’ve received hundreds of comments on the topic and thousands of views. Clearly this is a topic that people are interested in. As I re-read the article though I discovered something was missing. Practical application. Yes, there is definitely a need for having solid reasons why planning is important, but there’s also a great deal of usefulness found in applying those reasons to everyday life and identifying how that planning can be put into practice. In this short article I’d like to give you a follow-up 5 ways that you can implement planning in your daily routine and through your actions demonstrate why planning is important for success.
Practical Step One: Keep a Journal
Previously I wrote about the importance of writing out goals. I’ll touch on this more in a future point when we look at setting daily goals. In this first practical step though I want to encourage you to begin keeping a journal. There is tremendous value in writing down your thoughts, your ideas, and your feelings. Ooh, did that last one get you? Not everyone like to write down feelings. In fact I understand it can be quite challenging to be honest with yourself and actually make your feelings ‘real’ by putting them in writing. This is a very important process. Journaling is in fact critically important to your planning process. Let me explain. By putting your ideas and thoughts down on paper you are keeping a log of your days and your time. What better way to plan your future than to have a record of your past and present.
Still not understanding? Think about it like this. The next time you start to make a plan and you have a question about the feasibility of your idea, or your timeframe, imagine you’re able to glance back in your journal and see how long something similar took you in the past. You could see your idea as it unfolded, your feelings about the process and a realistic idea of how long it took you to accomplish (or abandon) the idea. In this way your past directly influences your future and advises your planning.
I recently discovered the Best Self Journal. It has some excellent features which allow you to do all of the above and even some things I’ll touch on later in this post. I don’t recommend many products directly but I’ve found this journal to be incredibly helpful. Have you found a journal that works particularly well? I’d love to hear about it!
As this relates to time and a daily routine we can easily move into our second point for daily applications of planning.
Practical Step Two: Maintain Your Calendar
The second step I would recommend when it comes to the importance of planning and what that looks like in a daily routine is maintaining your calendar. The best way to prepare, to plan, is to be organized and intentional with your time. Schedule your days and your meetings. Be specific in what you want to accomplish throughout your day.
I remember once reading that Warren Buffett never scheduled meetings more than 24 hours in advance. He did so because of the very real possibility of schedules changing and things becoming less relevant the farther away they are scheduled. Obviously this is a bit of an extreme on one end of the spectrum but it proves an interesting point which we’ll discuss in in practical step #5 below.
For now I would suggest a more balanced approach. Rather than no schedule (or a one-day schedule) maybe look at a weekly calendar. I’ve personally found that anything longer than that tends to make the meeting and the information shared less relevant. If it’s important then make it happen. Maintaining your calendar and prioritizing your time is critically important in your planning process.
Practical Step Three: Organize Your Email
The third practical step in planning to implement on a daily basis involves that dreaded disaster, the maelstrom of messages. You guessed it – your inbox. Ugh, I have no doubt we all struggle with email organization. I’ve seen innumerable methodologies and processes for achieving what some like to call “inbox zero”. If you’re unfamiliar this is the state where your email inbox holds zero messages. And this state is not achieved because you mass delete them all. No, every email is to be processed, responded to, tagged or tucked into a folder. While this is certainly one method of inbox organization I don’t believe it’s the only one.
My email is one of the central ways I plan and organize my life. I use my email as my brain in many ways. What that means is for me I appreciate having my emails present in one place (the inbox) and easy to scroll through. For me this works well. I can jog my memory about tasks to complete, people to contact or meetings to schedule (see Practical Step #2 above). As a result of this way of using email it’s not helpful for me to have a zero message inbox state. What is far far more important is to have a zero unread message state. That means my emails may continue to live in my inbox, I may flag some as important to make sure they catch my eye later, but I don’t archive them all. Sure, I will archive irrelevant messages, delete the junk ones, but many will continue to live in my inbox. The important thing is they are read. I have reviewed the contents and am aware of each message.
I understand this method might not work for you either. The important thing to consider is not the exact method you use, but rather that you use a method. Keeping an organized email inbox means you are in control of your thinking and your time. You are actively planning how you respond to people and how you manage your time.
I know I’m going long on this point but since email is such a major part of our lives I feel the need to mention one last practical point. Don’t let email control you. By keeping an organized email system you are planning your email time effectively and ultimately planning your life more productively. Don’t spend your days in your email. Keep it organized, plan your approach, and be intentional about it.
Practical Step Four: Set Daily Goals
The fourth point involved in practical daily planning involves setting daily goals. I briefly touched on this earlier when we discussed maintaining a calendar (and even a bit with the journal).
The thing I love about these practical steps is how they are intertwined and connected. Each of these daily, intentional items work together to make your planning better and your success inevitable. They are important.
The journal I mentioned previously gives a great daily layout which includes a spot for daily goals. This is a fantastic way to organize and plan what you would like to accomplish TODAY.
The idea of daily goals is a very fun and practical way of implementing planning. With daily goals it’s easy to see success or failure. Over time your goal-setting will become better and better and you’ll find yourself becoming an expert in knowing what is capable of being accomplished in a day. The more you know abut your own abilities the better your planning becomes. This may well be the most practical and easy-to-understand point from this entire list. Setting daily achievable goals directly demonstrates the importance of planning. Set. Achieve. Replicate.
Practical Step Five: Build In A Buffer
The final practical step I want to share with you relating to the importance of planning through practical application involves building in a buffer. Don’t be so incredibly strict in your planning that you fail to plan for the unexpected. Life is unpredictable. Humans are by their very nature prone to fluctuation and last-minute changes. If you plan too meticulously you’ll end up failing miserably.
Building a buffer into your planning allows you to be flexible and still achieve everything you have planned. Since this is practically speaking here’s what that buffer might look like:
- Allow for extra time between your meetings on your calendar. Don’t schedule things so tightly that you have no time for delays in a meeting. Have you ever been in an entire day of meetings without a single delay? I doubt it.
- Plan extra time for your journaling. Some days the words will flow and others will be a struggle. Again, scheduling things too tightly will lead to a higher stress level and a less creative approach.
- Even your daily goals should have a buffer. As you look at your goals for a day and how they relate to your work week, consider how these may shift from day-to-day. Don’t build up a domino chain where a single failure will make your entire week unsuccessful.
As I hope you can see these are five practical ways to demonstrate the importance of planning through your daily routines. Putting these items into practice each day won’t guarantee you success but will absolutely demonstrate the importance of planning. You will quickly see the results from these real-life simple steps. The importance of planning is something you absolutely should not neglect and I look forward to hearing your stories about how these steps help you take a more intentional and planned approach to your work and ultimately your life.
July 28, 2014
5 Ways to Always Win
Small business owners (like myself) are often challenged with proving themselves to others. This is especially relevant when dealing with bigger companies. Something about a big company they frequently like to throw their weight around and prove their value by how many dollars are in the bank, how big their market share, or how many employees they maintain. I find myself struggling at times with how to best respond to those questions and what I personally view as a ‘win’. Of course I’d be lying to say that I didn’t want a business to be sustainable, growing, and profitable. But sometimes I think it’s important to be more specific. Some of the time I like to define some other ways to always win.
I’d like to give you 5 ways you can win at anything. Pick whatever you want apply one or more of these 5 principles and you’ll find you are always guaranteed a win. I know you immediately want to just scan the key points steal the ideas and run with them (or perhaps groan inwardly and close the screen). I’d encourage you to thoughtfully read each point. Perhaps the next time you’re looked down upon to prove your success you can use one of these to bring things into focus.
1. Be The Best
The first of the ways to always win is to be the best. It might sound like an easy way out and not even really a tip, but, simply put, if you’re the best you will win. You will have the better product, the better service, the better opportunity. The first way you can always consider yourself and your business a success is if you truly are better than your competitors. If you have spent time, energy, money – or more commonly – blood, sweat, and tears building your business and you have made your goal to be the best at what you do then you have a reason to say you win. You have defined your market, you have identified a need and you have delivered the best solution. It’s important that the market points to you as the best also. It’s not a label you hang on yourself. Self-proclaimed accolades are of no importance. Be the best because your customers say you’re the best. No one can deny your success when this is the case.
2. Be Confident
If you have worked hard to build your company, if you have listened to the need and focused your time on meeting that need through your product and service then you absolutely must be confident in yourself. If you want to win you must expect to win. This doesn’t of course imply that you never fail. In fact, its rather because of the failures that you can be confident. There’s a quote by Colin Powell which I think fits here.
“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.”
– Colin Powell
Note that failure is understood to be a part of the process. Again, I’m not suggesting a foolish confidence but rather a confidence placed in a job well done. Be confident in the road you have chosen the failures and lessons along the way and you will win. Be confident and you will win.
3. Be Determined
The last in this triad is the idea of being determined. If you are determined to win this impacts how you run your business and ultimately decides your success. If you are determined to succeed you will find a way to succeed. You will win if you are determined to win and never give up. This concept of being determined is again not a foolish headlong plunge in a single direction. Your determination should never take the “blinders” approach. The blinders approach is when you set a course of action, define the steps and then march forward like a horse with blinders refusing to look to either the left or the right. This approach is not the right type of determined approach. The better idea is the concept of determined persistence. You’re determined to succeed. You persist in your striving regardless of failures, course corrections, changes in plan until ultimately you achieve your goal. If you are determined like this you will always win.
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence…Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
– Calvin Coolidge
These first three methods are the most common. These are the ones you’ve heard before and you probably can relate to because you’ve seen them somewhere else or just generally understood them to be the way in which most business judges wins and losses, successes and failures. I’d like to give you two additional way you can always win. I don’t mean this to be glib or tongue-in-cheek. I earnestly believe these two points are equally important when considering winning.
4. Redefine Success
The next time you start to judge yourself or give account for your business to someone else consider the opportunity to share a different idea about winning and success. I think it’s too easy to look at the bottom line, the dollars, market share, or number of employees when describing a win. In reality there are absolutely other ways to win. Perhaps a better definition of success might be the quality of life you’ve improved for someone else, the spark of knowledge you’ve given to someone else, or the opportunity to celebrate the success of another person as a result of your influence. I believe those are absolutely wins. I consider myself to have succeeded when I see someone else win and I’ve been able to be a part. My business may not have seen a direct increase in sales as a result but that doesn’t diminish the fact that we’ve won indirectly.
Success should not always be measured by Wall Street standards. Redefine success and you will always win.
5. Join Others
The last way you can be sure you will always win comes when you stop looking at your business with an us vs. them mentality. When you join a community, a network of others you have an opportunity. You can share your experiences, you can share your failures and you can learn. Not only does this improve your chances of success as defined in the initial three ways above but perhaps even more importantly you’ll see success in others and you’ll join with them in their victories. Winning does not always mean your personal success. You can also win through celebrating with the wins of someone else.
Similar to redefining success above, joining with others means you’ve won a connection, a relationship, and greatest of all, a friend. Every time I have the chance to develop a lasting friendship with someone else I absolutely consider that a win. You will always win if you join with others.
I hope you’ve sincerely read through the above 5 ways to always win. Of course the idea I want to share is that winning is much more than what we often consider winning when it comes to the business, corporate view of winning. Your business is much more than that single type of winning. Life is much more than a number on a page. You can always win in life if you’ll take the time to truly understand the important things.
July 16, 2014
4 Survival Tactics for Your Open Source Project
It finally happened. You developed a killer app. You spent months agonizing over every decision in getting the application to market and you’ve worked incredibly hard to create a cutting-edge technological marvel which blows away everything else on the web. You focused on all the right metrics, the user experience is beautiful and the community is thriving. (Yep, it’s open source). You feel on top of the world, and it’s exciting.
Don’t get left behind
Before you know it, in a blink of an eye, the year(s) flew by and now you’re standing looking back over a long history of product releases. You’ve pushed new versions and sure you’ve updated things along the way. Your community has seen better days but it’s still strong and still somewhat active. This is the day you failed to plan for. The day which sneaks up on you and you never saw it coming. Sure, you had lulls and there were times when activity slowed down in the project. Every project has those moments right? You told yourself it was just a fleeting rare occurrence and nothing more serious. Now you sit looking around at the dust and rubble left behind and wonder what the future holds. How could you have prevented this outcome? Here are 4 quick ways to ensure your open source project stays relevant and you don’t get left behind.
1. Be Aware
The first step to ensuring you don’t get left behind when it comes to your project in the world of technology involves staying aware of what’s happening around you. Don’t be so caught up in your own world and your own drama that you fail to see the bigger picture. Keep track of current trends, what others are doing and how they are changing the technology scene where you work. Subscribe to your main competitors’ newsletters or mailing lists. Watch what improvements and modifications they are making. Be aware of your surroundings. This is the first tip of good survival tactics for your open source project.
2. Be Accessible
Accessibility is always a hot topic and an important one. The concept of accessibility typically takes two main paths when discussed in relation to an open source project. First, you should want to make sure your product is accessible and available for everyone to use. This is almost a given these days and most open source projects spend significant time ensuring they are accessible for all.
The second path that accessibility takes is the openness and accessibility of the project to new volunteers. How easy is it for someone to contribute and be a part? Does your project do more than just “say” they encourage new volunteers? How is this demonstrated? What is the on-boarding process for a new volunteer and how easy is it for them to not only be involved but see something accomplished? You must be accessible (and prove it) in order to stay relevant and survive.
3. Be Active
The idea of staying active is deceptively simple. Here’s why being active is so difficult. Active is different from busy. Busy is the false pretense of doing something to look as though you are active. Busy is a creative way to waste time. If that’s the case, how do you determine the difference between busy and active? You can quickly tell by the results. Do you have results to show for your time? If you can point to improvements and updates and ways in which your open source project has grown as a result then you have been active in the right sense of the word.
Active involves the idea of being aware as well since they are very closely tied together. If you are aware of something but do nothing about it then the awareness provides no benefit. Once you are aware of something and you make the conscious effort to do something about it. To be active with what you know then both the step of being aware and the step of being active work together for the benefit of your project.
4. Be Accepting
This fourth and final (for this article) step in your survival tactics involve the idea of being accepting. Accepting is an interesting word. It sounds passive and yet here it’s used in a very aggressive sense. You could think of this acceptance as an active desire to change where needed. Change is tricky. I’ve spoken about it before on several occasions. Some individuals are very risk averse and avoid change simply out of fear of the unknown. Survival requires the acceptance of change and the ability to deal with changes.
Accepting also can be considered accepting of other individuals within your open source project. Having a culture which accepts differences of opinions and ideas and deals effectively with differences when they occur is quite important to an open source communities chances for survival. As your open source community grows it will need to be capable of growing and accepting others. The ideas, the code, the questions, and the fears of others must be faced as an opportunity to grow and (when necessary) change.
You Can Survive
These are four survival tactics which you can and should employ in your open source project to ensure you don’t get left in the dust. There are other tactics as well but master these four and you’ll be well on your way to staying relevant, vibrant, and growing within the ever-changing landscape of today’s world.
July 8, 2014
Too often as small business owners we are terrified of failure. Fear is a powerful motivator but it’s not always an appropriate one. We tend to live constantly in fear of failure as though a failure would somehow define us and characterize our lives. We find ourselves judging our usefulness and our self-worth by our successes. We all need to learn a bit more how to embrace failures.
Embracing failures is a difficult thing to do and usually one we don’t enjoy focusing on. It’s much easier to discuss embracing success. We are inherently drawn to the idea of defining success as the positive outcome and failure as the negative outcome. This is not always the case and we should work on being more comfortable with failing. Failures can teach us far more than a success ever could and our opportunity to learn and grow from failure is far greater.
Failure Is Not Final
One of the first things I remember when I find myself failing at something is that failure is not final. I purposely chose the active verb “failing” because I believe many times it’s not a past tense thing I have done, but an ongoing opportunity for change or growth. In fact, along the way to success you may encounter dozens of tiny failures. These failures are not “show-stoppers” so to speak but rather opportunities to shift direction or focus and improve the final product. Here’s a quote by Thomas Edison which I think fits well.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison was famous for his inventions (e.g. the lightbulb) and his persistence. I once had opportunity to visit his laboratory and hear more about some of the more obscure creations he invented. I remember this quote being engraved on a plaque and it stuck with me. He is often thought of for his inspiration & perspiration quote but I find this quote to be far more relevant and encouraging.
Failure Is A Learning Experience
I think most of us would agree that failure is indeed a learning experience. The part we struggle with the most is applying what we learn and implementing change as a result. We can’t simply turn our failures into a distant experience. We should embrace these failures and use them to motivate us in our future efforts. If something doesn’t work the way I planned I try to learn why it didn’t work and use that knowledge to shape my future attempts. We must be willing to acknowledge failure first, and secondly study the failure to analyze exactly why it failed. I wrote earlier about overcoming adversity in that post I mention that adversity is what gives us skills and experience. When those adversities overwhelm us they are still a learning experience.
Failure Is Inevitable
One of my favorite magazines is a monthly one called, Inc. Magazine. This publication shares the stories and successes of some of the popular startups of the day as well as more established companies. A common thread I have found in reading the stories of many of these founders is twofold. First, they will almost all tell you they were not an overnight success. It appears so but in reality they have spent months, years, building up to the point where they became successful. And secondly, many of them will describe the failures they experienced along the way. Failure is a sign of attempting something. If you don’t try then you will never fail nor will you ever succeed. I’m reminded of another quote by another inventor.
“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” – Benjamin Franklin
Here’s an incredibly successful inventor, writer, politician boldly stating that we should not fear failure. He doesn’t say you might know failure. He says you will know failure. He too saw failures as inevitable. But instead of giving up he used failure as a motivator. We should continue to reach out and not fear failure. Embracing failure and planning to learn from it.
Failure Is An Event
The last point I want to share is that failure is an event, not a character summary. What I mean by that is to recognize failures will happen and to not place your self-worth in a failure. Just as you would not measure the quality of your life by the time you once went to the beach. A failure is merely another event which occurred in your life. What you do with that failure points more to your character than the actual event of failing ever could. I struggle with this point the most. Possibly more ego and pride than anything else I hate to acknowledge failures as I quickly conclude they are character definitions. This is wrong thinking. I love to use my kids and my wife as my motivation to get beyond the failure. Especially at this time when my children are young. They don’t know me by my business successes or more importantly by my failures. They know me by the time I spend with them and the way I love them and care for them. My personal relationships with each of them create and define my life far more than a failure event ever could.
I encourage you also to use and embrace failure. Embracing failure is hard at times and none of us would seek failures out but as we’ve seen – failures are inevitable and these events will affect all of us. Use them as learning experiences to improve, to grow, and to change. Change can be hard but if we don’t implement change when we fail then we’re not learning from our experiences and becoming better.
April 29, 2014
5 Things Every Successful Founder Does
The life of an entrepreneur is a busy one. Here are 5 things every successful founder does. I’m not guaranteeing success by following these five steps. But if you look at a successful company more than likely you will find a founder who follows these 5 principles.
Principle #1: Time is Money
Serious founders understand the principle that their time is valuable. They don’t waste their time on ideas which distract them from their core mission. They plan their time for maximum efficiency and schedule their days. This does not mean they work overtime. In fact, smart founders work regular hours and take time away from work to recharge themselves. Taking personal time, time for exercise, time for family and hobbies helps them to spend their work time more effectively. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking to be a successful founder you should work 24/7. This will do far more harm than good. Your time is valuable, use it wisely.
“Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.”
– Roger Babson
Principle #2: Do What Matters
Successful entrepreneurs focus on what’s important to their business. They set a plan for what makes their business unique and what their differentiating factors are. Once they have determined what is important for their business success they focus their time and talents on achieving those things. This is important. As I mentioned, an entrepreneur must wear so many hats and focus on so many different areas of the business it can be very easy to become distracted and lose time (and as we just saw, time is money). As a founder be sure you share responsibilities. Make sure you have a team you can trust and spend your time on those items which require your attention. Don’t get trapped doing tasks someone else should be doing. Do what matters.
“Those who occupy their minds with small matters, generally become incapable of greatness.”
– Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Principle #3: Don’t Give Up Easily
Some founders appear to have found overnight success. It looks as though they woke up one morning and instantly became “the next big thing.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. In most cases the overnight sensations are in reality the product of years of hard work and innumerable failures. What makes the difference is how these founders handle failure. The goal is to fail early and fail often. By not giving up when met with failure these founders learn how to improve their idea, grow their product, and make those changes which will in time yield a successful business. Don’t be afraid to fail. And when you do fail, don’t give up.
“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success. “
– Biz Stone
Principle #4: Ignore the Doubters
Founders believe they have an idea which will change the world in some way. They have seen “the future”. As such often times they are met with doubters. Many people are unable to see this vision quite the same way. Either they can’t understand how it would be successful or they simply don’t want to step outside their comfort zone to accept change. Successful founders focus on their ideas with bulldog determination and don’t allow themselves to be swayed by the naysayers. Doubters are the people who play it safe; they fail to see the possibilities and aspirations you seek to attain. Don’t let them hold you back. Don’t allow your dreams to be limited by what someone else might think.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
– Steve Jobs
Principle #5: Set Realistic Goals
It’s easy to see an opportunity and start to make a plan for how you would improve a product. Every good business starts with an idea and a goal. Successful founders create realistic goals and then meet them. It’s not enough to simply dream big. To see success these entrepreneurs finish what they set out to do. The best way to ensure they meet their goals is by settings themselves up for success with goals they can reach. They seek out a minimum viable product which meets the need they have discovered and they launch. Don’t get so caught up in adding features and secondary ideas that you never launch your business. Set goals you are sure to attain, launch your product and then add features.
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”
– Zig Ziglar
Successful founders understand the importance of these 5 principles. They apply them to their business and their life. If you’re struggling as a founder or entrepreneur take a look at the list above and find one or two items where you can improve and then work on it. Don’t skim yet another article and miss the important take-away. You have to do more than read or hear. You have to apply them.
And of course – good luck! We’re all in this together.
April 9, 2014
5 Ways You’ll Fail at Open Source
The term open source is a very hot buzzword these days and it seems everyone wants a piece of the action. Here are five reasons why you will fail at open source.
Now don’t get too pessimistic on me. I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer. Instead I want to warn about 5 areas where if you are not careful you will be prone to fail. Avoid these five common pitfalls and you will be much more likely to succeed in the world of open source technology.
1. Lack of support
If you plan to release an open source product be mindful of what this means for your support. Don’t expect the community to come to your rescue in providing support for your product. Especially in the beginning. Everyone wants to believe they have the next big thing which will be instantly used by millions of people. Don’t expect floods of traffic and community volunteers beating a path to your support forums to help answer questions. You will be the one responsible. Your team will be in charge of handling questions, encouraging usage, and ensuring that the early adopters are able to implement your product with ease. You are the support – be ready for it.
2. Failure to innovate
This one is an easy one to let slip by. Releasing an open source product means it’s open for anyone to pull down, fork, make changes, and then submit those changes back to you the original creator. This also means you can have new features created by the community and thus improve the software product. But you should never, never rely on the community to innovate for you. You need to be constantly innovating in your product. Setting a course for new features, planning and improving the product yourself. You should lead the way in innovation.
3. Missing culture
Open source is very very different from corporate life. I know you could argue there are ways in which it’s similar but there are also ways in which it differs. One of those areas is in the concept of culture. The culture of an open source project is incredibly important. Volunteers and contributors are giving their time and their talent with no direct monetary return. If money is not a driving factor you should consider what motivates them. The feeling of community, of contributing to something great, of helping out a friend. There are lots of reasons, but these reasons when weaved together form the culture for the product. An environment which nurtures, supports, and recognizes the work of its volunteers will succeed. An open source product missing a culture will fail in time. Establish a culture.
4. Wrong mission
Open source is not a mission. Your product, your organization must have a mission. Why do what you do? What is the goal or the vision that has been decided upon. If you don’t correctly define your mission then the community will not understand your reasons for decisions made. You should be open and transparent with your mission and what you hope to accomplish with your open source project. Be prepared for disagreements and differences of opinions. Be ready to clarify your mission and why you believe what you believe. If you give the wrong mission you’ll attract the wrong community and you’ll ultimately fail. State your mission clearly and stick to it.
5. Fear of failure
Who’s not afraid of failure? We all are. It’s inherent in human nature (or at least in the adults). But every successful open source project will struggle and fail at some point. There will be obstacles to overcome and differences to learn from. If you are too worried your project is going to fail you will be afraid to experiment, afraid to innovate, and you will lose out on the potential success which may have resulted. The fear of failure can take many forms, from indecision when it’s critical a decision be made, or making the wrong decision in an effort to keep vocal individuals happy, or even making the right decision but moving too slowly because you worry how it will be handled or perceived by others. All of these are ways in which you demonstrate a fear of failure. As a result your open source community will sense this hesitancy, the lack of commitment, and will become fearful as well. Don’t be afraid of failure.
It’s that easy. Five simple steps which will cause you to fail in the world of open source. Sure there are others, and sure you could avoid these five steps and still fail in open source. Remember open source in and of itself is not a solution; merely a type of product license. Don’t think simply naming something open source will guarantee your success. Be thoughtful as you plan your project, be careful to avoid some of the common pitfalls listed above, and be confident, you can succeed in open source.
April 9, 2014
At times I sit and watch my oldest daughter Kate in utter amazement. She boldly attempts things without any fear of failure. I cringe on the inside and think to myself all the millions of ways it could go wrong.
One particular instance comes quickly to my mind. She was only 7 at the time and had been taking violin lessons for only a few weeks. There was a recital in which some of the older and more experienced students would be participating and her instructor asked her to join them and play a few simple songs. Now, obviously Kate, practiced. She practiced hard.
The day came when she was to play and I was convinced she was not far enough along in her lessons to undertake the daunting job of playing publicly in front of a crowd. Especially not on the violin. It truly is an unforgiving instrument (trust me, I’ve heard hours and hours of practice). And yet, to my shame, Kate boldly stepped up to the center of the stage, placed her violin on her should and proceeded to play the two songs she had been practicing. And she did wonderfully well.
Reflecting on that performance now I’m struck with what I would consider childlike bravery. It’s something I think becomes lost as we become older. We lose the ability to place ourselves in uncomfortable or challenging situations. As adults we try to shelter ourselves from potential failure. We convince ourselves that we’re protecting ourselves from embarrassment – and perhaps we are. But at what cost?
If we were to exhibit more of a childlike bravery where we boldly step forward and attempt things without the fear of failure. If we dare to place ourselves outside our comfort zone, challenge the status quo and truly be brave on the stage in front of the crowd…what could we achieve. Perhaps we would fail.
Perhaps we would be met with jeers and scoffing. But possibly, just maybe we would do wonderfully well.
The Other Side
But that’s only half the story. Here’s the other half. As her parent I consider it my duty to protect her. To somehow take it upon myself to keep her from failing as though I’m doing her some favor. It’s a difficult task because I find myself wanting to stop her too often. But that’s not truly protecting her, that’s doing her the greatest disservice imaginable. Taking away her possibility of failure also takes away any chance of success as well. Keeping her from trying also takes away her optimistic bravado. I take away her childlike faith.
Even as adults we should be careful in the advice we give to others. Be mindful to not squash the dreams of someone else in an effort to falsely protect them. Taking away the possibility of failure will also ruin any chance of them realizing success. We should encourage each other to dream and explore and attempt great things. And so I encourage you – be bold. Try something new. Don’t be afraid of failure. Follow your heart and be brave.