One of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned is this: “This might not work.”
The lesson has become more and more engrained in my mind as I’ve seen projects succeed and projects fail. Today I read yet another post from a startup saying they’re closing the doors and shutting down. Having to write that kind of post is a scary prospect for a guy like me who’s 2+ years into a venture that, in all reality, might not work.
As I’ve become more aware of our mortality as an organization in our infancy, I realize how important it is to celebrate the process.
Celebrating the process is something I fully experienced for the first time during my time in NYC last summer, working with a team of some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. It was a two week sprint, and at the end, by all of our initial measures of success, it didn’t work. We shipped, but not in the way we thought we would… But I don’t regret a single second of the experience.
I believe part of the reason I don’t have any regrets is that we celebrated the process. We lived the experience, as we were experiencing it. Each of us had to blog daily, and we started each day with a checkin on where we were, where we were going, and the learnings we had taken away so far.
It created a feeling of daily progress and utter enjoyment along the way. We celebrated small wins and enjoyed each other’s company. And at the end, when we knew we weren’t going to ship everything we had built, it hurt like hell.
But the thing is, there’s always that risk up front. This might not work, whatever “this” is, so we have to celebrate what does work along the way. The small wins and the learning matter, because they show us our potential and make it more likely that the next project will work.
Sometimes we’re so future oriented, looking toward the next thing, and imagining what “success” looks like. All of that is important, but when it doesn’t work, all you have left is the joy you felt in each little moment of victory along the way.
So today, I hope you’ll celebrate what you’re learning from your current project. I hope you’ll take time to look at all that you’ve already accomplished. I hope you’ll take note of the wins you’ve created. Even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.
This might not work. But today… Well, today you can celebrate the process.