Keep calm and ship

There’s a very natural cycle when we ship a new project.

In the lead up, we experience hope. Hope is a beautiful thing as we’re in the land of what might be. It is beautiful and lasts until we start doing the work.

Next, there’s doubt. Could I really deliver on what I hoped? The reality doesn’t seem to be close to what I imagined. Is this going to go anywhere?

Once the work is done, we experience fear. Is this any good? Should I just pack up and leave? It is this stage that gets most projects. In response to that fear, we try making all sorts of last minute edits and changes. We forget why we wanted to do this and try and settle for something “people” will like. Or, we just stop and walk away.

Once we get past the fear, we ship. Ah! It feels great. We are elated.

For ten seconds.

Then, as we review what we shipped, we realize it isn’t the perfect product we’d envisioned. Why didn’t I catch that obvious flaw? Ugh.

Doubt and anxiety set in again. Are they going to hate it? Is someone going to write that horrible negative email?

A few hours pass. We still haven’t heard anything. Is this a confirmation of our worst fears? Should we be ashamed of what we shipped?


I’ve shipped many a project over these years. And, yet, I’ve always experienced this cycle of emotions. It is fresh in my mind as I shipped the first edition of the “Notes by Ada” project yesterday. I realized after I shipped that MailChimp’s formatting hadn’t worked as well on mobile. Bummer.

Whenever I experience this, I remember the following truths.

First, I have been ashamed of the first version of every project I have shipped so far. I always look back and ask – “What was I thinking?”

Second, we learn some incredibly valuable lessons when we ship. The best way to respond to them is to improve our creation process. And, you don’t really have a great process until you ship that first product, fall and learn. This attempt might not work, and that’s okay.

Finally, the questions to ask aren’t – “Was I good or perfect?”. They are – “Was I engaged? Was I paying attention?” As long as the answer to that was yes, we were doing the best we could. When we know better, we’ll do better.

Until then, keep calm and ship.

What if I fail?

That toxic force, the fear of failure, thrives on being avoided. It kills initiative, destroys happiness, and encourages inaction. And, yet, it prefers we don’t talk about it or think about it.

So, the next time you feel its power, ask yourself – what if I fail? Write down your thoughts as you answer the question.

What if the person turns down my hand of friendship?
What if that company says no to my cover letter?
What if that group rejects the idea?
What if I try and lose?
What if she says no?

It is not that bad. It is never that bad. Sometimes, it is even fantastic and liberating.

Sure, we need boundaries. But, I’d argue that we could do with more risk and less status-quo today. We live better lives when we drive and embrace change. And, when we live better lives, we make the world a better place.

And, even if we did fail in that attempt, it’s okay. We’ll learn. We’ll get better. We’ll try again tomorrow.