Just Finish It

An exec at a company I’m an investor in sent this to me this morning. Does this feel like your life at your company?

I’m an enormous fan of Eric Ries and The Lean Startup. His, and Steve Blank’s, thinking and writing changed how we approach startups. However, the bright shiny object syndrome is alive and well in StartupLand and, when conflated with MVPs and fail fast, often results in misery.

Finishing a product and shipping is extremely challenging. It’s different for hardware, as there is a physical instantiation of a product that you have to put in the proverbial box and send out the door. With software, you can ship a buggy piece of shit and keep updating it daily (or continuously) to improve it. But when the product includes some hardware, once it’s out the door you’ve got to live with it.

But, for both hardware and software, the lack of focus on finishing is toxic. When you read Jeff Bezos’ annual letter and internalize “customer obsession” you realize that if you view the world from the perspective of the customer, everything in your business hinges on getting your product into their hands, and then totally delighting them.

At my first company, we did releases of software for multiple clients each week (we were a custom software company.) In some ways, this process has the same characteristics as a weekly sprint, except for it was the early 1990s, and we often had to ship floppy disks by Fedex to our clients. I knew the exact time I had to walk out the door of my office to walk to South Station (in Boston) to get in a cab to go to the Fedex depot at Logan Airport to make the FedEx cutoff. Whenever I did that, I always had a euphoric feeling when I got back in the cab, sat back, and headed home for the night. We’ve come a long way from that dynamic in the last 25 years, but the awesome feeling of shipping hasn’t changed.

This may sound simple and trite but think about it for a second. If you are a CEO or a founder, are you creating an illusion of shipping, but creating a cycle of bright shiny object syndrome?

And with that, this post is shipped …

Also published on Medium.

  • Never a truer word.

  • Ryan Luikens


  • Victor Muthoka

    I struggle w/ this when working on strategy & having all these ideas that need to be chased grow daily. Realized recently that i’m suffocating under unfinished/unexecuted ideas. Thanks for the reminder.

  • cavepainting

    Everything about the new shiny object seems and sounds great when you are uninformed. But as you do research, delve into the details of the space and get more informed, reality sets in manifesting as pessimism. At this time, the mind seeks the thrill of another shiny object with the highs that only naivete or ignorance can offer. And so it goes on and on..

    Finishing is the ability to go from a state of informed pessimism to informed optimism (rephrasing some one else’s quote here). It is a hard grind and needs the founder to be acutely aware and conscious of the mind and the tricks it can play, and exercise the self control and discipline to understand and focus on what truly matters. And I guess that’s what separates the real founders from those are stuck in a circular loop.