I know what you're thinking. Another "blah blah driven development" pattern that people will swear is going to change how we build businesses, right? Wrong. This is not that at all.
This is a glance at how (I)- an individual far too prone to putting all of my eggs in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow basket- is managing to satisfy my optimistic spirit without compromising the goals.
Separate the Goals from the Idea
Ideas can be nebulous. They can also have multiple paths to "success". We'll use Protegé as a case study throughout this article.
Now, the idea of Protegé was to build a place where early-career developers could find remote work opportunities. But how? Use a job board template from Wordpress or some other WYSIWYG editor? Build a newsletter? Roll our own solution?
The problem with any of these options is that none of them have a defined point of 'success'.
Is it when the product exists and works? Is it when you can confirm people are getting jobs from it? Or, is it when it starts making money?
Regardless of your choice here, it's a great idea to come up with minimum viable goals for your project. You see the same pattern applied to problem-solving and working on large tasks. Break it down into smaller and more manageable pieces.
Use those goals as stepping stones towards your idea.
Minimum Viable Goals
MVG's aren't throw-away goals. In fact, they are the exact opposite. They sit somewhere between your defined point of success and the smaller task-oriented goals you'll define during the building of your project.
You could also call them your mental safety net. The idea of these goals is to have a high chance of achievement, and ideally, they should be achievable from your efforts alone.
Goals that are heavily dependent on external forces (users, traffic, revenue numbers, etc...) are hard to predict and control.
I know how my brain works. I will hold myself responsible and accountable for any failures of my project, regardless of whether or not its outcome was within my realm of control.
Setting my MVG's within my realm of control serves a dual purpose. It removes the chance of me mentally bullying myself for failure when I had no say in its outcome, and also gives me a list of points to hold myself accountable for.
Again, using Protegé as the example- its MVG's were:
A company can click through the job flow and list a job
This is a technical MVG. Whether or not a company actually used the feature is removed from the goal.
I can list Protegé on my portfolio.
Again, whether or not someone uses it, or if it brings in any money isn't even considered when measuring this metric.
Based on these goals, Protegé is already a success!
Maintaining Reality Beyond MVG's
So, you've reached your MVG's- now what? This is the beautiful part.
It. Doesn't. Matter.
It doesn't matter what you do now because, at this point, your project is a success! You've done the original thing you sat out to do, and anything beyond this point is a bonus.
Leave it up to showcase. Write a series of articles detailing the build process. Turn it off altogether. Sell it. Market it. It. Doesn't. Matter.
What does matter, is that you consistently remind yourself that you've moved into territory where you will have less and less effect and control over the outcomes of the next steps you take.
By all means, push it as far as you wish- but always tell yourself something along these lines, "I built [Project Name]. I'm trying to accomplish [goal X] now. I've already accomplished my MVG's- so this project is a success, regardless of what happens moving forward."
I want to reiterate that this is not an article on how to successfully build a business as a raging optimist. This article is detailing the steps I've put in place for myself to safeguard my confidence and mental health while climbing every Mt. Everest my brain can think of.
Here's a quick recap of what we covered:
Separate your idea from your goals
Set minimum viable goals (early)
Maintain expectations beyond your MVG's
This approach may not be the solution for everyone. It may already be well-known and I'm just putting a different outfit on it- but it works for me.
I hope other insatiable optimists find some value here.
Now, get after it!