Just over a year in a startup has largely reinforced my “approach to things,” but the anniversary has also prompted me to reflect and put some thoughts into words here.
The learning process, the creative process, is iterative. Life is iterative. It requires putting out incomplete ideas, incomplete selves, testing hypotheses, and accepting that they are just that: incomplete, hypotheses. It requires honest critique without judgment. It requires growing into the possibility of what’s next rather than stagnating in what is or was.
So, to remain learners, creators, and innovators means that we can’t judge an iteration as if it were a final conclusion. We don’t judge the seedling for not being a flower. We don’t judge the child for not being an adult. Instead, we cultivate and observe and adapt as change happens and as we identify new needs and strategies for development.
Similarly, when creating a new product, offering a new service, or even just sharing a new idea, we need to understand each iteration as a point in a process, in progress, rather than a singular point for finite evaluation. When we look at yesterday’s work through the eyes and knowledge of today, it can seem woefully inadequate. (It’s the old hindsight is 20-20 thing.) That’s because we have learned. But, judging rather than iterating on this moment would be like saying the first step on a ladder is a failure because it doesn’t get us to the top.
So, the successful startup requires that we suspend judgment for the sake of learning and iteration. Supporting this, in turn, requires the hunger of a team, the motivation of the individual, the constructive critique of a confidante, the patience of a parent, the grace of a friend, and the creativity of, well, a startup. (Is it a wonder why so many fail!?)
Whether in software or in our own personal development, version 2.0 is typically better than version 1.0, and presumably 3.0 will be better yet. That’s the point – continuous possibility for learning and improvement. Just as version 3.0 would not be there without previous iterations, so our current selves wouldn’t be here without our previous iterations.
At the end of the day, as a startup or an individual, we only fail when we stop iterating. And, we typically only stop iterating when 1. we stop learning, 2. we fear failure, 3. we don’t care anymore.
So, our products and ideas and selves should always be incomplete. That’s really the point, isn’t it?