One of my favorite bloggers, and Quibbers, Ryan Hoover, wrote a recent blog post comparing web/mobile products to the golf swing, in particular the follow through. More so, the lack of follow through you see from most amateur players and, I guess, startups. There’s usually a good reason they’re not public, yet.
With a Hilton Head golf trip coming up in the AM, and startups always on my mind, I thought I’d offer my take on this analogy.
A popular mistake many novice golfers make is thinking they have to lift the golf ball. The only way, as they see it, for the ball to get airborne is by swinging up at it.
Yet, counter-intuitively, the best way to properly advance a golf ball is by hitting down on it. We actually see this play out time and time again in how startups approach product development. Here’s three ways I see this manifest itself with product decisions:
1. A golf club is lofted for a reason. Let the club do the work. For early-stage startups, don’t build more than you have to. Leverage existing platforms and technologies to find product-market fit.
2. In going down at the ball, you’ll be taking a divot. In some cases, it’s a really ugly, gross, hideous divot. It might be so bad that your playing partners are following the divot, rather than the flight and shape of your golf shot. Why? Because everyone love to focus on the negative.
Funny thing is, this happens with product. The tech blogs always make sure to criticize what’s wrong with your latest release. But that buggy version, however, might be functional enough and serve a real need. That shot, similarly, worked given the conditions, no matter how grotesque the divot was. That release worked for your target audience, whereas it might be the worst looking thing for another subset of users. Just like a shot at St. Andrews probably won’t work at TPC Sawgrass.
3. Lifting up is addictive. Why? Because you get to see where the shot went sooner, than if you stayed with the shot. Quicker results, which Eric Reis might espouse, and feeds the lizard brain, doesn’t equate to better long-term health for your golf or product scorecard. Simply advancing your golf ball doesn’t necessarily mean you improved your golf ball, or round that day. Same thing with product. Quite the opposite on the links. Shipping product, as much as its championed throughout the startup community, is not directly related to overall company progress. Adding a killer new feature might bring lots of new users, but piss off your hardcore, early users. Hitting a 300 yard drive feels great off the club and looks sexy in the air, but when it bounds past the white out of bounds stakes, you actually regressed.
What other golf-product comparisons can you draw? Or sports-product analogies in general? They never do get old.
Photo Credit: http://quantumgolf.info/definitions.html
While Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (which I’ve yet to read, but its on the way) might be the Holy Grail for good habit folk, The Now Habit is its partner in crime. Now it took me awhile to get started on this book; cruel irony indeed, but when I did, I zipped through it in 48 hours time. How about that for immediate results?
Since finishing it on Sunday night, I’ve already realized the benefits just two days into the work week. Here’s what I got:
1. Counter to any productivity strategy I’ve ever followed, the author, Neil Fiore, advises you to first plan out your leisure, recreation and, goes as far to call it, guilt-free play when looking at the week ahead. If play is missing at the end of the workday or the weekend, book something. Anything to get your mind off work. The theory being you must have something to look forward to after leaving the office or finishing the week. Basically, never feel guilty about unwinding.
With that in mind, I was much more deliberate in planning what I would be doing after work this week. For example, Monday was a golf range session with Ben Ingard, Tuesday at Toastmasters (not sure if it qualifies as play since public speaking is my biggest fear), Wednesday an Intelligent.ly class and then Cold Ward Kids concert and, finally, Thursday night, head off to Chicago for a Bachelor Party/Masters weekend.
2. Remove the “I have to” and “I should” self-talk and replace it with “I choose.” Somewhat similar to Dan Pink’s approach to a new situation or project with a question rather than an affirmation, the choosing mindset is empowering. No, I don’t have to workout in the morning, although I love starting my days that way, but looking at it through the choose lens gave me a renewed sense of purpose pounding the pavement and downward dogging the last two mornings.
3. Finishing scares the shit out of me. Delivering, when it comes down to it, is really intimidating. Not only is someone judging my work, but probably my self-worth, too. Fiore addresses this by advising you to stop focusing on finishing, and begin focusing on starting. If you just keep starting, finishing will take care of itself. Break projects into sub-projects then mini-projects, until finally it’s nothing but a simple task. Using the marathon analogy, forget the 26.2 miles. Only be worried about each small step.
Taking this approach with a post for the RunKeeper blog today, I kept breaking the story down bit by bit, before I was looking at each sentence as its own little piece. Even when I got distracted at the office, I kept telling myself “keep starting.”
4. Fiore is a huge advocate of the 30 minute work block. Kind of like the Pomodoro approach that stresses 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest. Fiore’s approach, however, works slightly different. For one, it must be high quality work. When you dissect a given work day, you realize there aren’t that many opportunities for extremely focused work with the countless distractions and menial tasks we must attend to. Secondly, before you plow full steam ahead on those precious 30 minutes, you must have a reward or carrot waiting for you at the end of the time block.
Personally, this was by far the most productive change to my week. Today, for example, I committed to 30 minutes of globalization work, then, had the reward of looking up Cold War Kids tickets afterwards. Yesterday, support tickets took up one of the blocks, but knowing that I’d be taking an afternoon stroll later, it softened the blow of support cynicism. Work for your play, right?
Only two days in, but loving it so far. I’ll make sure to report back next week, or maybe after, I get through Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. But, what’s my reward????
Every single person’s happiness, or lack thereof, was entirely dependent on their connections with other people. Money, luck, health and other seemingly obvious factors didn’t guarantee happiness. But relationships were found to be a necessity.
Most everyone in the design and tech fields work on something that facilitates human interaction online. We enable necessary connections between people. Not users. People.
…This interaction—and the relationships which are fostered as a result—enrich people’s lives. We should consider this in our designs and strive to generate happiness in everything we create.
Such. A. Good. Post.
This is why our jobs exist.