You know that unfinished strategy document resting on your cloud right now? Some idea that intrigued you, but got buried in analysis paralysis? Or, a design that you spent hours creating; “Is this cool enough to be the intro slide of my YouTube podcast?” you must’ve thought. Or no, probably just a local file of a logo – one of the three files on your desktop, staring at you. Again, an unfinished project.
Look up, don’t dwell, and just read ahead.
The intention, of course, was not to simply remind you of something unpleasant but to tell you about a brilliant, somewhat obvious approach that has helped me ship projects. No, I’m not an expert. I make mistakes too. I also have a list of ideas I’m yet to execute.
But, what I also have is a concept/approach/ strategy (call it whatever) to make sure an idea doesn’t die before even seeing the light of day.
It’s Ready, Fire, Aim.
Ready, Fire, Aim is a concept by Michael Materson that he wrote in the context of starting a new business and succeeding in these entrepreneurial endeavours. And, here’s what it meant.
In the last six months, thanks to this, we have been able to ship over six projects, each ready to be taken to the next level. In fact, if you’ve been following us for a while now, you must’ve also seen most of these in action or read about the progress we’ve made.
Ready, Fire, Aim – Extended.
Now, does this apply only to products? I’d say no. Regardless of what you’re doing, the starting point of applying Ready, Fire, Aim as an approach to other things is “do not waste time trying to perfect it”. Not convinced?
Think about an unfinished project. If not yours, someone else’s. Most times, these projects take a hit because of the discomfort with ambiguity, analysis paralysis, the wait for the “perfect” plan, or even the inability to predict the outcome.
Ready, Fire, Aim, from the beginning, solves for exactly that. It tells you that the “ready” stage will not be perfect. It tells you to stop wasting time and to just put your idea out for the world to consume. And, finally, to refine it when it shows results (according to your metrics – I believe).
For me, while this approach has taken a while to get comfortable with, most of what I’ve worked on is owed to this. From ideating and releasing our first calendar at DD, and building a platform to have more women on leadership-level panels, to a job board of women-led startups – each damn thing!
What I’m trying to say instead is that the needle moves only when you choose an idea, pick a launch date, and work backwards from there. Of course, there are multiple factors at play. There’s nuance. And, like each piece of advice or method, even this should be taken with a pinch of salt.
To keep this piece organised, and to leave you with an aching, annoying need to get up and do something, here’s what I’m going to be talking about – being in a state of momentum, biting more than you can chew, detaching yourself from the outcome, taking ownership of your actions, and getting comfortable with ambiguity.
Being in a state of momentum
Let’s get a challenge out of the way first – being in a state of momentum. From what you understand about Ready, Fire, Aim, you would agree or at least slightly agree that when you ready, fire, aim through life, it can feel like everything’s too fast. Like things are getting out of your hand. And, take it from me, it does. If there are moments of order, there’s also chaos.
When you get past the launch stage (ready), you might pause. To celebrate. To think. To plan for what’s to come. And, after moments of fast-paced decision-making and adrenaline rush, that pause can be risky.
And that’s why it’s even more important to keep at it (whatever it is that you launched or began doing), regardless of how happy, confused, or scared you are. I believe that when you’re mindful of this possibility, you’re more careful. You tend to hold onto the momentum with a tighter grip.
Bite more than you can chew
Yes, it’s an unpopular piece of opinion. A risky one at that because half the world (mostly LinkedIn junta) is talking about work-life balance and mental health. But, nuance, remember?
Allow me to first tell you what ‘bite more than you can chew’ does NOT mean. Working so much that you burn out in a few weeks. Feeling unhappy or like you’re not making any progress or failing to enjoy the grind you signed up for in the first place. You will not sustain and there’s no debate there.
Here’s what I mean instead. To me, as a 21-year-old, biting more than I can chew means finding untapped potential. Over the last few months, I’ve realised that I have more time than I think I do. I have more energy than I think I do. And, unless I take up something mentally stimulating, I will not push myself to do better. It’s a mindset game. If you aim for x, you will not try to achieve x+1. If you set a peanut-sized goal, you will not reach your peanut-butter ambitions, will you?
That’s what biting more than you can chew does. It gives you a reason to test your limits. That reason may be a project, a goal, or a challenging deliverable. More importantly, each with a slightly-uncomfortable level of tasks/plans. For me, at DD especially, it means thinking of ideas and the multiple ways of executing them instead of dwelling over what we don’t have (answers, energy, resources, et al).
Detach yourself from the outcome
It’s human to want to know the outcome or the result of each thing we do. There’s comfort in knowing, in certainty, and in being able to lay out the possible consequences before beginning to even spend 2 minutes on it.
But, this want is the death of shipping things fast. For example, take our social media channels today. We know whom we want to reach out to. We know what kind of content we want to create. But, we’re not confident about the outcome (we doubted it when we had 40 people seeing our content. And we doubt it even when 300+ people do). I don’t think the outcome will ever present itself in front of us. We can only plan, assume, and predict, at best.
There’s, of course, another option that we scratched off long ago (and you should too) – not trying hard enough because of the inability to either predict the outcome or get comfortable with ambiguity. If we had done this, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
So, detach yourself from the outcome. Your SOLE responsibility is to create and do what you’re meant to. What you’re supposed to do to get where you want. Anything else is a mere distraction.
Disclaimer: Detaching yourself from the outcome doesn’t mean chasing without direction. It’s simply about focusing on creating the best output, giving something the shape it deserves, and NOT worrying about the outcome. It’s simply not your job.
And, hey, it’s quite simple, just not easy.
Own your actions
Often, when you decide to experiment or build in public, you’re more likely to make mistakes. Even those with the most accurate blueprints and Gantt charts mess up. It’s only fair that it happens to us, the ones simply Ready, Fire, Aim-ing through life, no?
So, own your actions. I’ve noticed that we get better at taking this responsibility when we are clear and grounded in our heads about why we did what we did. So, if you’re in a pit, if you ended up with an unanticipated response, own up to it. Apologise. Change what you need to and get on with the next thing.
That was all. From the Founder is a new series (this is just the second piece) and I’m still finding my voice and always a more helpful way to communicate things I believe helped me grow.
That’s Ready, Fire, Aim for you. And, I hope it did the ONLY thing I intended it to do – get you off your chair, and your project outside your head.