Learn or Die – Ship One Thing Publicly Per Week

August 23, 2014 Will Lam

real artists ship quote steve jobs picture

Recently, I had a frustrating yet illuminating text conversation with a close friend that really got under my skin.  While the conversation was not directed at me, but to someone adjacent to us, it had to do with that person being a “doer” and having an utmost respect for doers who ship consistently.

Keep the word “consistently” in the back of your mind for a moment.

For added context, the past little while there were some things happening in my life that took up a good chunk of time and energy in my personal life, I noticed other habits (like continually learning Rails) that I held to so dearly had slipped.  While I wasn’t happy about it, it left me struggling and a bit complacent to get back to those habits until recently. Of course the conversation with my friend hit a nerve.

While I’ve “shipped” certain things before, I’d like to change that to be a little more consistent going forward. In life, consistency is everything, especially if you want to do some damage on something you discover you’re passionate about whether it’s learning to code, woodworking, calligraphy, whatever it is just do it.

Analysis By Paralysis

I think we discount what we have to say, which prevents us from sharing what we’re working on.  Just putting yourself out there and letting your ideas loose onto the world, even though they might be crappy closes the feedback loop so as long as you reflect, iterate and improve upon what you’ve done before.

Case in point, I have countless blog posts in draft mode because I didn’t think they were good enough, or business ideas that are just lying dormant in an Evernote notebook waiting to be brought to life to see whether it has any legs. Discussing with close friends may alleviate some sort of that anxiety as you’ve let someone else into your head and received a bit of feedback from them (hopefully constructive). How will you ever know your stuff is good enough until you push your unpolished gem into the world?

This led me to the idea of shipping one thing publicly a week – whether tweeting it out, taking a picture of your work Instagram or adding to an open source project. Ship one thing. We all have time to ship just one thing right?

Learn or Die? Isn’t that a little dramatic?

Well, yeah, it kind of is.  But it’s the point of  having that pressure on yourself to learn and ship something per week.  For bigger projects, you can break it down to chunks that are clearly defined that you need to deliver on a week to week basis.  If you’re not using that grey matter between your ears on a consistent basis and have something to show for it then what are you really doing with yourself?  The default should be to learn and grow.

There are some colleagues and acquaintances out there that are creating simply for the sake of creating and honing their already amazing skillsets, (I’m looking at you Veronica Wong, Gabriel, Grey Thompson, Nima, and Karim ; ), and doing it despite their insanely crazy schedules.

I don’t know how I got to this point of not dreaming big enough or being aggressive.  Putting more of myself out there and recording the ways I’m trying to learn, expand, and grow personally as well as professionally should be a net benefit.  I have been recording my efforts with Lift, but I haven’t been consistent in any one area outside of CrossFit and learning Ruby on Rails.

Learning Ruby on Rails Progress

What’s your “burning desire”

The greatest achievements of men, were at first, nothing but dreams of the minds of men who knew that dreams are the seedlings of all achievements. A burning desire, to be and to do, is the starting point, from which the dreamer must take off

– Napoleon Hill

As with any habit or muscles that you haven’t used in the past  – if you don’t use it, you’ll eventually lose it. It will atrophy and wither away.  For myself, it is learning to code coupled with the insatiable desire to learn, reflect, iterate and share what I’ve learned.  You should be pushed not only by professional deadlines set in the workplace, but personally, for growth and to expand our capacity to deliver and hone our skills.

In all experiences that have transformed me for the better, it felt as if it was a matter of life or death. You have to want something so bad, to the point of having something similar to what Napeleon Hill in his personal development classic “Think and Grow Rich” calls a “burning desire” to bring something to reality and literally will whatever it is you have in your head into existence.

Ship One Thing Per Week – No Matter How Big or Small

Realistically, you may have to take a hard look at yourself,  look at your schedule and hone in on blocks of time that you can carve out to make whatever that “one thing” you want to make significant progress on consistently.

Ship one thing per week.  Whether it’s a blog post, installing a WordPress plugin, setting up some software to start improving a process or get “X” result, delivering a small feature, a code commit and then make it public or whatever it is. Just do it!

I shipped one thing this past week, starting with this blog post, and now it’s onto the next thing. Anybody can ship something in a week and the next and the next. Catch my drift?

I’ve got 7 days left. What’s your excuse?

Featured Image credit: Busy Building Things

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