I didn’t make a single New Year’s resolution. I learned a long time ago that if a calendar date was my motivation for self improvement, I was doomed to fail. Arbitrary motivation is too fragile and ephemeral to keep me moving. Instead, I try to leverage constant motion. Inertia is hard to slow down, and as suggested by some great recent literature you might even be able to turn that inertia into a lifelong habit. That said, I do enjoy the quiet of a holiday as an opportunity to reflect and organize my next moves.

This year I found myself thinking a lot about shipping. My partners and I have been totally engrossed in the process of turning our side project into a business. We’ve spent countless hours identifying blocks and developing tools to make it easier to bring early stage software to market. Along the way, something truly surprising happened — we missed a couple shipping deadlines.

After two months of rapid development we started hedging and creating self-imposed barriers to shipping— knowing we were holding back our own progress. We had clearly defined use cases and a fixed MVP feature set. Our process was iterative. We routinely deliver the smallest possible change to fulfill a need with minimum bells and whistles. Yet, here we were building a product to help devs ship side projects faster and we were holding back? WTF?!?

In the end, we shipped our first MVP and have been cranking through iterations on our way to an MVPP. But, I was left to wonder where we went wrong. After a little space (and a lot more work on the project) here’s what I I deduced:

In the most simple terms, we forgot the value of shipping. It’s easy to do. You get deep in the shit and begin to worry about the product’s shortcomings, your insecurities, and those intangible unidentifiable subjective concerns you cannot control (‘does is look right’, ‘what if someone hate’s the way I did…’, ‘I took a shortcut on that bit of the UX and should totally fix it before I share this’, etc.). Stress compounds, deadlines slide and before you know it you’re still sitting on your MVP…

It can happen to the most confident of creative entrepreneurs. I’ve been here before in a number of creative pursuits (design, development, fine art). My guess is that you have been there, too. And as far as I see, there is really only one solution to getting moving again:

You need to ship your project. Shipping solves everything.

With that in mind, here are 5 reasons you should ship your side project today:

  1. It’s more fun and useful to share early and often. There is an inherent human desire to share the thing you create/build/conquer. I learned this in art school. You can hide yourself away for years producing a masterpiece — or just throw your wet paint on the wall and ask for a critique. Your output is more likely to improve if you listen to feedback and collaborate. Those opinions can be solid gold. This can be intimidating, but trust your gut and do it. And don’t be afraid to share something that isn’t 100% ‘right’. My 4 -year-old daughter is often so excited to show me a drawing that she brings it to me several times before it’s ‘complete’. I hope she never changes.

  2. Nobody ships a masterpiece every time. Every creative act ends with delivery. The best makers, ship over and over. It’s easy to see that in software because the process is inherently iterative. Remember the first version of Facebook you used? How about the first iPod? Even Leonardo likely created more than one Mona Lisa. Ship your V1 — or even better, ship your MVP. It doesn’t count until it’s delivered. Delivering any version will improve your project by giving you a new milestone to work from. Bonus: between cycles I typically experience a creative recharge that yields new insight into the thing(s) I just made. When you get to the version you are proud of — sing it from the rooftops.

  3. Shipping presents new solutions. The tools of creation are evolving and improving everyday. I love being part of that evolution. Don’t put off making your contribution if you get stuck or can’t find or build the exact solution you have in your mind. Whatever the block/issue is, you are bound to find a solution after shipping. If you feel you are not where you would like to be (I feel that way all the time), let shipping be your litmus test. The market might go ape-shit for your release. Or, you might deliver a 60% solution that inspires someone else to help you get to 95%.

  4. Shipping shows you what you can achieve. It’s easy to get bogged down in details and miss the fact that the sum of those parts adds up to something pretty amazing. Nothing is more satisfying than looking back at your pile of work — in the presence of others —to see what you are capable of. External validation makes it easier to see your strengths. If you bury your work or post it in an obscure place not even you will recognize the value of what you have done.

  5. It’s Tuesday. Okay, maybe you are reading this on a Wednesday or Thursday. But make no mistake, this is your best moment to deliver. In another couple days or weeks, you might slide into the metaphorical weekend where your drive and motivation has last some steam. If you felt a burning passion to start something (and you did) and now find yourself stuck or apprehensive about finishing it, consider this the Tuesday of your project. You’ve got a couple more decent opportunities to deliver this week. After that you’ll be dropping the ball to binge on Netflix and craft beer. Don’t get me wrong. Rest is critical to creativity. But, remember that thing I said about constant motion. You want to be there. And, the world wants to see your output — before Friday.

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it, I’d love to hear from you. I’ve been making stuff my whole life (digital and physical). Building ⋈ Bowtie has presented a unique set of challenges that inspire me to share. If you want to check out the ⋈ BowTie MVP, we would love your input (available by invite right now).

Please Comment! We love feedback.

For more information, please read our Docs. photo thx to Dan Bogan.