The Weekend Project

It's around 4.30 in the morning right now. I woke up around an hour ago after taking a five hour "nap". I was supposed to go to the Techshop with Omar and work on some art projects, but I saw him falling asleep at around the same time I did too. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

I am not feeling particularly great. I came back home yesterday after a long brainstorming session with Sean. Sean and I have been spending a lot of time together lately. We're both passionate about building impactful things that will help change people's lives, and we've been conducting some brainstorming sessions to see what kind of projects we can work on together.

For this weekend, we thought we'd do an experiment where, instead of trying to do something big, we'd try to do something small over the weekend and sell it, whatever that small thing might be. One thing we talked about building, as a joke, is to make coasters made of cork with logos of "unicorn" companies and give them a hefty price tag. In a way, they'd be overvalued, just like some of the unicorns out there.

We did create a prototype, but the prototype didn't excite us. It felt cheap and there was nothing unique about it. In addition to that, there was this raging voice inside me inquiring why on earth am I wasting my time making a coaster. It's just not significant to me nor is it something I care about or would use.

Instead of refining the prototype, I think we silently disregarded it and were brainstorming another idea, and then another, and then another until we parted ways later that night. We didn't even commit to meeting up tomorrow to finish up this weekend project, and so it seems like this weekend project failed.

But, why did it fail? Is it because I wasn't excited? Is it because I didn't persist hard enough? Is it because the experiment itself was flawed? I think that's something worth diving into.

There's no question that my excitement clearly faded soon after we started working on the project, and it's also very clear to me that we didn't persist enough in trying to make things work. But, what about the setup of the experiment itself?

The experiment, as I remember it being phrased Thursday night when we thought about it, is to build something over the weekend and sell it. It is by no means meant to be a long term project, but the process of building something end-to-end and selling it, we thought, would be an interesting exercise.

As we started working and, now that I think about it, I realize there were fatal flaws with this experiment:

1. The objective wasn't clear.

What metrics we can look at to measure whether or not we succeeded? How many do we need to sell for us to call the experiment a success? Is selling just one to a friend sufficient, or should we aim to sell a dozen? Do we have to build the product ourselves, or is just selling an existing product sufficient? Does the product have to meet a particular quality bar - something what we're proud of sharing with the world?

None of these questions were things that Sean and I had discussed beforehand. As a result, we wasted a lot of brain cycles focusing on things that, in retrospect, don't really matter much. If we just cared about selling one, do we really need to spend a lot of time thinking about how we make it polished? Does it need to a generic product that can be used as a coaster, a trivet, a placemat, and a piece of art to hang on your wall all at the same time? Probably not.

Had we been very crisp about the objective from the very beginning, a lot of these discussions could have been avoided.

2. The goal wasn't clear.

Not just the objective was unclear, but also the goal that we're striving towards by accomplishing the objective was unclear. Is the goal to learn how to build products quickly and ship it? Is it to be resourceful and scrappy? Is it to be a better salesman and learn how to market a product? Is the goal to make money? Is the goal to be an entrepreneur? Is the goal to just help people in general?

These things matter - a lot. I know it might be too simplistic to have one very specific goal and nothing else since all these goals are often intertwined. For example, to be a successful entrepreneur you need to make money, and to make money you need to be good at selling, and you probably want to work on something that helps people as well, and to be helpful for people a sense of creativity and ability to build products quickly would be a substantial advantage, and so on.

The point here though is to have a clear sense of prioritization. Out of all these goals, which one matters the most, and how would I stack the other goals? At first stab, I'd say that, for myself, my top priority would be to impact as many people as possible, but even that's inherently vague. Not only that, but when people say they want to "impact people", I feel like it's often really just a generic altruistic-sounding umbrella that covers their real intention, which could be less altruistic - like being famous or making money (and there's nothing wrong with that).

Anyways, writing the last couple of paragraphs about goals were a bit of struggle for me, and I take that as a signal that I really need to brush up my goals and prioritize them. Otherwise I, in every sense of the word, don't know what I am doing.

Time for me to go watch the sunrise.

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