In this first Green Valentine post of 2013, you won’t find any New Year’s resolutions or advice about new beginnings. Instead, I want to encourage you to focus on finishing, or shipping.
I first heard Seth Godin talk about shipping and overcoming our internal resistance in his bookLinchpin (2010). Here’s how he explains what it means to ship (p.103):
The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship. Shipping means hitting the publish button on your blog, showing a presentation to the sales team, answering the phone, selling the muffins, sending out your references. Shipping is the collision between your work and the outside world. … Shipping something out the door, doing it regularly, without hassle, emergency, or fear–this is a rare skill, something that makes you indispensable. (my emphasis)
A personal shipping pledge
Like so many of Godin’s ideas, the call to ship is simply conveyed but gives real pause. For a confessed ideas/front end/blue sky person like me, it is a compelling reminder not to start anything I don’t mean to finish, on time. After all, however wonderful the idea, or however worthy the excuse for not delivering on a project (squeamishness, perfectionism, distraction), if a project doesn’t ship, I have failed.
So in 2013, I pledge to make shipping a critical part of my art. For example, it is important to my business and to me as a writer that I publish a blog post here weekly. Shipping means disciplining myself to do that each Tuesday at 10am, even if it may not be as perfect or elegant as I would like. Shipping means that over time, the Tuesday morning deadline will help to discipline and shape the art. Hell, Saturday Night Live has been writing to a live on-air deadline for over 40 years. I reckon I can have a go, too.
I also pledge to accept that I will only start things I mean to finish. (For some of you, this is as natural as falling off a log. For others like me, it’s, well, not.) While I am determined to continue dreaming, planning, and covering my Moleskines and walls with ideas and inspirations, I will try to be more disciplined about the projects I choose to start. Because finishing – getting my art into the world – is the thing.
A 2013 shipping mantra for lawyers, learning and development professionals, and other artists
As Steve Jobs said, true artists ship.
Take time to pick your passion project or projects for this year – the ones in addition to your everyday work. A new program. A new client offering. Writing articles, blog posts, newsletter items. Tackling your fear of social media, or public speaking, or the billable hour. Choose wisely, because what you start, you must finish. Perhaps start with one. Deliver on it. Pick another.
In your everyday work, spend one week devoted to delivering on time, every time. Send a less detailed reporting note than you would have liked, or just pick up the phone and report verbally. Pick the 10 most critical emails each morning and answer them then and there, in 50 words or less. Arrange the coffee or introduction you promised. Say yes less. Accept imperfection (where you can, lawyers, where you can.) Enjoy how good it feels to connect with the world in this way, and how shipping begets more shipping.
Read more of Seth Godin’s thinking about shipping (and overcoming internal resistance) on his blog and in his books. When you have 18 minutes to spend, I recommend his talk from the 2011 99U Conference, below. See you Tuesday morning.