Are You Shipping Your Ideas Successfully?

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Guest post by Glen Stansberry

If you’re going to be successful in this life, you have to try a lot of ideas. Success doesn’t usually come with one great idea, but rather a string of ideas (and failures) with a gem or two nestled inside the list.

Seth Godin calls pumping out ideas “shipping”, or finishing lots of tasks and ideas. When we ship often, we start to build momentum. We quiet our doubts, and learn what doesn’t work.

When you ship frequently, you know that a few of your ideas will fail. But you can’t let that stop you! You won’t know which ideas will pan out, and which ideas will totally suck.

[tweetmeme]The simple truth is this: you’ll never know unless you try. You’ll certainly fail a few times. You might fail a lot. But failure is really just a big learning experience, nothing more. It’s only when we start to see failure as a screwup that we start to get into trouble.

Teddy Roosevelt, a prolific shipper, had this to say about failure:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

There is no effort without error and shortcoming. You’re going to fail. This is why you have to try lots of ideas. This is why you need to become a prolific shipper.

Becoming an Idea Factory

If you’re like me, the sheer number of ideas isn’t the problem, it’s the hours in the day. After all, time is our most valuable resource. So here’s a few guidelines to go by when planning and executing ideas.

  • Loose the inner perfectionist. At least for now. Your goal isn’t to be perfect right away, but consistent. Learn how to pare down the idea to the smallest elements, and iterate on them over time. Sure, you should be creating detailed, mind-blowing things. But oftentimes we get into our heads that “more” means better. Not true. And most mediums (like the Web) allow you to easily reiterate on your projects. Ship first, improve later. The whole goal of shipping is to build momentum. Many times the inner perfectionist awakes only as an excuse to not ship.
  • Set timelines…. and STICK TO THEM. Unfortunately, it’s just the way this works. Creative people often eschew deadlines, as they don’t allow for “flexibility” and total creative control. But deadlines and timelines are important for shipping, and they often free up your mind for more creativity too. If you think adhering to deadlines means you’re going to skimp on quality, than revisit the previous point.
  • Celebrate small milestones. Celebrating small victories is crucial. You can only stay excited about a project for only a finite amount of time. Small celebrations for hitting milestones keeps the fire alive.
  • Do a yearly review. I cribbed this from Chris Guillebeau. Essentially, you create a roadmap of your goals in every aspect of your life, and check your progress every week and month throughout the year. The annual review allows you to stay focused on the big picture, and gives you a chance to look back on your successes throughout the year. Instant motivation.
  • Set a routine. We need to get this through our creative little heads: Routines are good for us. It’s one of the many creative myths that routines and timelines “kill creativity”. The funny thing about having a structured day is that it frees up our mind to create potent stuff. By getting your brain and body in the mindset to create at a certain time each day means that you’ll create better things, more often. Routines are essential to being a shipper.
  • Tell your doubts to shove it. Seriously. Push that self-doubt deep down, and power through the insecurities. Everyone has them. Everyone. And those who don’t appear to have any insecurities have just learned how to ignore them.

Really, the biggest hurdle most of us have with shipping isn’t skill or knowledge. It’s usually a matter of listening to the doubt in our own minds and letting it delay our work. You’ll notice all of the above points don’t have anything to do with outside factors. They’re all mindsets that we need to change within our own heads.

Shipping is really just the process of creating a plan and sticking to it. Rinse, repeat.

Becoming a prolific shipper and getting used to creating and finishing projects means that you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t really fast. You’ll fail some, and you’ll learn from it. But most importantly, you’ll learn how to stop listening to your own doubts and fears and push things out the door.

And that’s when things get really exciting.

Glen Stansberry writes about creativity and shipping ideas at LifeDev. You can also follow Glen on Twitter.

But wait, there’s more!

Great post isn’t it and Glen has plenty more nuggets of wisdom for creative types on his blog. Plus, Glen and I have done a guest post swap so please read my post on LifeDev, it’s called Keep the Dream Alive While Staying Debt Free – one of the secrets of my success and well-being.

Thank You for Reading

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Photo credit: Jdnx


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  1. Suzanne Vara July 23, 2010 at 12:44 pm - Reply


    We never know unless we try and when we try and fail, the best thing to do is try again. I think children when trying to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels. Day 1 – lots of bobbles and falls. By day 5 still some bobbles and less falls. Day 10 – speed, Day 14 task mastered and free sailing. This is not to say that life is that easy but getting back up and trying again is the path to success.

    I do enjoy a routine as when you get stray you realize that you missed something in your day. I am a fan though of changing things up when you get into a rut.

    I do not know many who are successful who did not fail at something along the way. We only look at where they are now and how great they are but not what it took to get there.


    • Annabel Candy July 23, 2010 at 1:37 pm - Reply

      Hi Suzanne, thanks for commenting. I have a lot to learn here. Well, not so much learn but I find constant reminders like this one are brilliant for my motivation and confidence:) Especially that bit about not being a perfectionist! It’s true, when we see successful people in their swish cars and fancy houses we always say how lucky they are, not how hard they must have worked:)

  2. Sandra Lee July 23, 2010 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Glen, I like the idea of paring down ideas to the smallest elements, but then I also liked your article on creating quality content! Hmmn, how to reconcile these two, I wonder!

    • Annabel Candy July 23, 2010 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Sandra, maybe we have to aim for as high quality as possible within the time available. Really, when you’re an artist (by that I mean writer, painter, photographer etc) there is no perfect solution. If you get something done and finished that is quality! That’s the best you could do right then. If you like you can do another one better or move on to another project altogether… Hmm, I wonder what Glen would say:)

    • Glen Stansberry July 24, 2010 at 4:53 am - Reply

      Hey Sandra,

      Good point! :) Here’s what I meant: slimming the initial scope of the project down helps get the idea out the door. Then reiterate to form awesome stuff :)

      • Annabel Candy July 24, 2010 at 9:45 am

        Thanks, master! That’s what I thought:)

  3. Sadya July 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    I don’t think most people even ship their ideas at all , much less successfully. I’m so done with people telling me about their plans to travel/write/start a business/sing etc. and the fact that they’ve been telling me about it for years now and not doing anything about , makes me want to avoid them. My pessimistic guess is that they will never ship their ideas at all. And while I’ve always been very secretive about my aspirations I think I too have on occasions fell into the trap of not shipping my ideas. I’m now consciously making an effort to not do that anymore or ever at all…

    • Annabel Candy July 23, 2010 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Hi Sadya! You’re right. Some people are all talk. I think you have to be careful who you talk to about your plans because some people can put a dampener on them. Other people spark your creativity, passion and determination and help you make sure you ship and keep shipping. Can’t wait to see what ship you launch:)

    • Dave Doolin July 24, 2010 at 2:17 am - Reply

      Sadya, ship small. Instead of a truckload of idea, maybe a wheelbarrow of idea. Once it’s out there, you can work with it. This is why even the “failed” material has value. Given your material is objectively good, failure is often marketing, which is subjective. Repackage, reship.

      • Annabel Candy July 24, 2010 at 9:46 am

        Hi Dave, lovely to see you thoroughbreds here:) I like that motto for picking up and moving on in life or anything: Repackage, reship. Thanks!

  4. rob white July 24, 2010 at 1:42 am - Reply

    When we are out there participating fully in life and shipping our ideas around it is vital to remember that all defeat is meant to be temporary… it just shows us what needs correcting. The important thing is to actualize our ideas so they are not mere thoughts. The difference between those who ‘fail and lose’ at life, and those who ‘fail and win; is that the winners relate to life in an enthusiastic way, in spite of their failures. They look for what the is to learn that is new.

    • Annabel Candy July 24, 2010 at 9:47 am - Reply

      Thanks Rob, love that lesson on how to be a winner: “winners relate to life in an enthusiastic way, in spite of their failures.”

  5. Steve July 24, 2010 at 4:13 am - Reply

    This is just what I needed to hear today. I have been lax in shipping lately. It seems that sometimes I forget where I tied up my ship. It must be around here somewhere. Let me know if you see it!

    • Annabel Candy July 24, 2010 at 9:48 am - Reply

      Hi Steve, lol, thanks for joining us again! You’ll find it, don’t stop looking:) Sometimes it takes a while….

  6. Jennifer Garza July 24, 2010 at 7:22 am - Reply

    Great post! In keeping with the quotes, I like what Thomas Edison had to say: “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” People are funny about failure.

    We often stand in our own way. The “known” gets comfortable. Instead of shipping off our ideas, which opens the door to rejection and failure, we obsess over getting them “perfect.”

    • Annabel Candy July 24, 2010 at 9:52 am - Reply

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for commenting and the brilliant quote! Obsessing over perfect has been a problem for me – it’s the fear of being judged. The fear that people will talk about how bad what I did, said or wrote was. I’ve stopped worrying so much about what other people think and that’s freed me up. We’re all doing our best in life and that’s all we can do. Hmmm, how about a rehash on an old saying: Better to have shipped and lost than never to have shipped at all:)

  7. J.D. Meier July 26, 2010 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Timelines are a great way to keep things on track. A practice we do at work is we get smart people on a cadence and then we ship stuff by catching trains … and the key is getting the trains to leave the station on time.

  8. Ricardo Bueno July 27, 2010 at 8:33 am - Reply

    I think that setting smaller tasks and rewarding yourself for milestones is totally important! Rewarding yourself in this way allows you to get the confidence you need (and momentum) to keep going.

    One thing that I used to do often (sometimes monthly) was check my progress against my yearly goals. For some reason, I stopped doing this. It’s a good exercise and I definitely recommend it.

  9. Steve Scott Site July 27, 2010 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    TR- I was just thinking about him today. Great quote by a great man.
    Anyhow I like your idea on “shipping ideas” I sometimes have problems with my “inner perfectionist” not wanting to let things loose.

    If I waited for “him” to be happy I might never get anything done, though. Listening to doubts can often send you onto the shoals of dispair, which is a dark and dismal place to be.

    I absolutely agree that you need to banish the fears and doubts and like Nike says succinctly, “just do it”

    Sometimes you screw up, sometimes you make mistakes, but it is in fact these mistakes and missteps you make that really make you achieve and reach new heights.


  10. jonathanfigaro July 29, 2010 at 11:52 am - Reply

    I think doubt play a major role in everyone life. Even yours Annabel. For, you had to have doubt before you became confident enough to create such a great website and allow guest speakers to post there theories and opinions on your site, don’t you agree? So it cant be too bad to doubt.

    For whats the yin without the yang. We must feel pain to enjoy the pleasure of love, Don’t you agree? As long as we don’t allow doubt to control our hearts, then we can definitely shape our own lives, thought by thought, action by action.

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