Josh Haas's Web Log

Simple Answers

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It’s Friday and I’m tired. I just built and deployed a new feature for my company, KeywordSmart, that shortens the free trial period for new users by counting “usage” slightly differently. I have no idea if this was a good idea or not. We did it because no one’s been reaching the end of the free trial, but a lot of users have spent a long time on there playing with it. So, the idea is, force people to make a decision: is our software worth paying for or not?

I think it’s a good thing to try, so we are. But trying to get a new product and make it valuable to people and get them to buy it feels like sculpting in the dark. There’s clay going everywhere and you’re definitely doing something, but what is it?

A month or two ago I read The Lean Startup which is a really great, revolutionary book on how to manage entrepreneurial activity. The thesis is that just like in traditional companies you set goals and manage against metrics, you can do the same thing with startups, but the goals and metrics are around learning.

Like all great books it makes things seem really clear and simple. Of course: all we need to do is identify the quantitative assumptions behind our business model, find a way to measure how reality stacks up against those assumptions, and iterate until we’ve gotten reality to match our goals. That’s easy! It’s so clear! I built a really nice report in excel that lays it all out: our goals, numbers, experiments we’re running, features in the pipeline.

Turns out that making a pretty spreadsheet doesn’t equal making a successful business. The numbers don’t tell you what to do; they don’t even tell you what’s necessarily going on. There’s still a lot of taking things on faith, taking risks, pouring time and energy into ideas that might not work out.

I feel like there’s a lot of things in my life where there’s a simple magic formula that if you just follow it, everything will work. If I just followed the rules in The Primal Blueprint I’d be in great physical shape and high energy. Instead I’m on my second cappucino today and craving a third because of the caffeine crash. If I meditated every day, if I always woke up and immediately did the most important thing on my todo list, if I always followed the five step process, if I… I’ve bounced through so many good ideas I’m exhausted just thinking about all of them.

The funny thing is that I think the simple answers are right. When you overlay logic on top of reality, reality changes… there are too many examples of succesful people who were able to start with a vision and make reality follow it for it not to be true. But the path to getting there seems to be infinitely longer than a straight line. Things seem to be incredibly simple and infinitely complex at the same time, which makes me blink just saying that.

I’m not a very patient person. I have a hard time seeing things as they should be while simultaneously accepting things as they are. I kind of just want to skip to the should be. Why can’t we all just apply a little logic and common sense, and have everything just click into place? … is how I think. In the real world, though, things are slow. I’m trying to learn how to go forward one step at a time. Step. Step. Step. Man that’s boring.

Written by jphaas

December 2nd, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized