Work on what matters

I’ve made many mistakes in my short professional career. Some big, some small, and many others (known and unknown) that I still make today.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made (and seen) is wasting time on things that don’t matter.

It’s so easy to do.

You could spend hours (and days) finding the perfect business cards, over-designing a logo, hiring legal and accounting firms, going to networking events, perfecting your social profiles, writing up a business plan, opening bank accounts, etc, etc.

All of this feels like work. It gives you something tangible and allows you to tell people that you’re the founder of a business. After all, you have a business card and website that says so!

But beyond the bare essentials, none of this matters. It’s merely unimportant busywork that gives you a sense of accomplishment.

What does matter is building a small (often rough) product that you can test with potential users. Charging for something. Experimenting with distribution channels. Iterating based on user feedback. Making hypotheses, testing them, and committing to experiment and change things when the (often negative) results come in.

What matters is real work. It feels like it, too. It’s the work that’s always uncertain, that’s bound to fail over and over, that’s hard, plain and simple.

I try to avoid giving advice arms-length advice, but if I had to give one piece of advice to my younger self, or another just starting out, it would be this:

Starting something new is an uphill battle. It will be hard. And the beginning is the easiest part of the process. No matter how good you think your idea is, success only comes after years of toiling away in obscurity. You’ll always be short on resources, time, and information. Success requires dropping the ego, a commitment to continual improvement, a dash (or pound) of good luck, and hard work pinpointed on the things that matter.

It’s an easy idea to dismiss. “Just do what matters! But of course! Why didn’t I think of that before!?”

But what this requires is taking a hard look at yourself and not believing your own crap. Having the courage to admit that you’re not god’s gift to {your business}, that many of your ideas will be bad, and that much of the “work” you’ve been doing isn’t work at all.

What matters to your business? What matters the most? Spend your time on that. Ruthlessly focus on it. For this is where real progress is made.