At the risk of hyperbole, there’s simply never been a better time to get started with a new enterprise than today – particularly if you’re already sitting on some hard-won technical skills as a web professional.
Sure, it’s easy to look out there in the market and think all the good ideas are taken. The reality, however, is that the world is wide open for new ideas, with entire fields such as VR/AR still yet to come on stream. Even “established” areas such as eCommerce or online marketing are pretty much in their infancy.
How do you get from zero to one?
All that said, actually getting started with a new project is a significant challenge. The gap between vague aspirations and any type of concrete start is one of the biggest you’ll ever face. Let’s lace up our shoes and see how you can start making the leap from zero to one on your next project.
Start by taking a tip from an American icon
In addition to being the subject of a rather excellent biopic , one of America’s greatest military heroes also had pretty much the last word on the merits of action over self-indulgent day-dreaming:
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” ~ General George S. Patton
This excellent war theatre advice applies equally well to your next project. Regardless of what area you’re looking at tackling, the temptation is always to spend an inordinate amount of time outlining a theoretically perfect plan, before actually pulling any sort of trigger. Don’t fall victim to this tendency.
While planning is obviously essential, you don’t want to get too caught up in it before you’ve actually done anything. Particularly at the outset of things, any plan you make is going to be strictly provisional and subject to change once you’re actually up and running. As Mike Tyson famously put it: “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the face.”
Get your early thoughts down on paper, but make sure you’re getting in the ring in terms of actual action as early as possible.
How does this look in practice? Stop dithering and commit the first line of code. Get the domain bought. Put up a temporary launch page. Publicly commit to a start date. Do anything and everything that makes taking your next concrete steps, however teetering, absolutely unavoidable.
Ship early, ship often
As a follow-on from our first point, once you’ve actually got your project in motion, you want to get the first version of it out the door as soon as humanly possible. This is a big zero to one moment to embrace, and not necessarily a comfortable one. Heed the words of LinkedIn’s Reed Hoffman :
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
Obviously, there are practical issues at play here. If you’re designing an airliner or a critical sub-component of a medical imaging system, you don’t want to be rushing into things.
If at all possible, you want to be getting a minimal viable version of your product out there pronto and iterating from there.
Do whatever it takes to get that first sale
You’ve got the rest of your life to worry about advanced sales and marketing strategies. In a brand, spanking new project, all that really matters at the very beginning is whether you can get one person to buy it.
In this context, don’t be precious or proud about that first sale. You should be prepared to grovel, hustle, and go to ridiculous lengths to get your first few leads and eventually seal the deal.
Note that we’re not necessarily advocating this as a long-term strategy, but you’ll learn an extraordinary amount from your first few encounters with real buyers in the market. Be prepared to bend over backwards to make the most of it.
Key resources to instill the Zero to One mindset
While we’re actively trying to steer you towards action rather than contemplation here, there are a number of key resources concerning the zero to one mindset that it’d be remiss of us not to mention. Add these to your short-term reading list and you’ll be well primed to get over pretty much any initial hump:
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel: Billionaire buddy of both Hulk Hogan and the President-elect, Peter Thiel literally wrote the book on the power of getting off the launch pad early.
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries: Excellent tactical breakdown of how and why you should ship early and iterate from there.
- Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss: An absolute monster in terms of practical ‘just do it’ advice from some of the highest achievers on the planet.
Zero to one is a key conceptual tool to keep in mind all through your next project and beyond.
At every stage of your future success, you should be hellbent on moving whatever the matter at hand is from the realm of the imaginary into a concrete reality – however ugly the first version is.
Let’s recap the three crucial stages we covered for doing so:
- Don’t get hung up on planning: Stick those early plans down on paper by all means, but massively prioritise action.
- Ship early: Stop worrying about it – just bite the bullet and do it.
- Hustle hard for first sales: You’ll learn more from your first five sales than your next five hundred. Do whatever it takes to make them happen.
Have you already embraced the zero to one mindset, or are you still on the fence? Share your thoughts and feedback via the comments below!