The best businesses have a bias towards action. They're always making offers. They prove the aphorism that "money loves speed." Since the Internet has made it lightning-fast to bring a product to market, many entrepreneurs have discovered that the secret to success is to always be shipping.
Shipping Increases Your Potential for Success
Why does money love speed? Author, trainer, and fitness coach Craig Ballantyne offers a simple explanation. The dictionary defines "action" as something that causes change. So if you want to create change--such as increase your profits--you need to take action to make that change happen. Sure, you could get lucky and get the outcome you want without any effort on your part, but few of us are that lucky. Besides, do you really want to hitch your success on luck?
Taking action fast increases your odds of succeeding. As Canadian hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, "You lose 100% of the shots you don't take." So the more shots you take, the higher your chances of scoring a goal. Seth Godin, himself a prolific author, marketer, entrepreneur, and public speaker, admits that most of his products have failed. "But I have a modicum of success because I keep shipping," Godin says.
Shipping Lets You Discover What Works
Your need to get things perfect from the get-go can impede your success. You can spend thousands of dollars and take many hours hammering out a product, only to see it bomb in the market. This happens when you don't validate your ideas first and let buyers help you create what for them is a great product.
Instead of waiting for the perfect idea, test the idea you have now. This is not to say that you should go and ship inferior products. Recognize what is good enough for right now and ship that. Create the first iteration your product, ship it, and--depending on the market's response--either scrap the product or make it great.
When you're always shipping, each new product is an experiment. The first iteration is your way of testing the market and discovering what works. If it doesn't work, then you've learned something new, and you can use that knowledge to create something that does work. So you either cut your losses early or iterate your way to a great product.
But Why Is It So Hard?
It's hard to always be shipping, because it goes against our survival instincts. When we contemplate putting something out there, our primitive brain kicks in to protect us from risks: "What if people don't like it?" "What if it sucks?" "What if I fail?"
That's your lizard brain talking, Godin points out. Your lizard brain concerns itself only with the Fs: "fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing-up, and fornication." It couldn't care less about the As: actualization, achievement, and advancement. The lizard brain's job is to hold you back from anything risky. It makes you sabotage your efforts and trash a product before it ships.
Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, calls this experience resistance. It's a repelling force--an enemy within--that keeps you from following your higher calling. Resistance keeps you from going beyond mere survival to growth and prosperity. And it's strongest right when you're approaching the finish line.
How to Always Be Shipping
You can overcome resistance and quiet the lizard brain. One way is by minimizing your risks with a piloting process. Focus first on shipping a pilot or Minimum Viable Product. That's a scaled down version of your product that will give meaningful results to your customers. Sell your pilot to beta testers for a discounted price. Get their feedback and use it to tweak your product, until you have a full version that has maximum potential to succeed.
Letting go of the need to be perfect is essential to success. Accept that business is uncertain. You'll have false starts and flops. A lot of the things you do won't be great right out of the gate. Opportunities are out there waiting to be seized, if only you could quiet that lizard brain, overcome that resistance, and ship.