Start Paddling

I’ve launched a lot of side projects over the course of my career, but I still get nervous each and every time — especially when I’m trying something for the first time, like selling an icon set or an Apple TV app. A laundry list of doubts creeps into my brain.

What if nobody likes it?
What if there’s a bug I haven’t found?
What if it turns out I’m not all that good at this programming thing?

My hand hovers over the keyboard. I could walk away without risking anything, I tell myself.

And then I launch it anyway.

It isn’t because I’m brave, or free of fear. It’s because, over the years, I’ve learned pushing through my fears is the only way to learn and grow.

You can plan all you want. You can fiddle with a landing page design until your eyes bleed. You can hem and haw, and worry how your side project will be received. But, in the end, you only make progress when you look over the edge of the cliff and jump. You’re never going to feel ready.

It’s easy to sit around forever, waiting for the moment you feel prepared to dive into something new. But that moment is never going to come. You always could have worked more, tested more, practiced more. There’s always something more you could have done. But, at some point, you have to launch the damn thing.

I often think about the first time I went whitewater rafting. One of the first things they teach you is you don’t sit in the raft; you sit on the edge of it, right next to the rushing water. I won’t lie; it scared the crap out of me. I constantly felt off-balance, and I was sure I’d end up in the drink at any moment.

But here’s the secret: the only way to keep your balance is to paddle. It’s only by putting your oar in the water and getting to work that you’ll stay in the boat. If you wait until you feel stable, you’ll be waiting a long time. Because it never feels stable.

Unless you have a crystal ball — and let’s talk, if you do — you’ll never be able to look into the future. Accept that you’ll make mistakes and be criticized, no matter what you do. Pick a direction and get moving.

Perfection is something you can strive for, but you’ll never reach it. Launching something imperfect can feel risky, to be certain. But I think it’s a far bigger risk never to launch it at all.