The Process Takes Time

Art can’t be hurried. It must be allowed to take its course. It must be given its space – and can’t be rushed or checked off a to-do list on the way to something else.
– The Perennial Seller

There’s a process that takes place when you create, whether it’s writing, developing software, or making music. That process involves uncomfortable things like self-doubt, frustration, fatigue, even depression.

It’s tempting to want to skip the process, or parts of it, and just get to the result. More money, more recognition, more respect.

We take shortcuts because the process is too hard. There’s not enough time, and not enough money.

We rush to get it out the door because we have deadlines, or we are impatient, not because it’s ready.

This sabotages the result, because you didn’t let the process finish. It stunts the growth of your idea, and spits out something that isn’t your best work.

The alternative is to take a longer view. Will this hold up 3 years from now when all the current trends have come and gone? Will you still be proud to tell everyone you meet about this thing you created years ago?

Apple is not always the first company to release a new feature. They weren’t the first to have a digital mp3 player, a portable video player, or even a touchscreen phone. The LG Prada was a touchscreen phone that came out a year before the iPhone, and I owned an Archos Jukebox that had video well before the video iPod.

LG and Archos released first, but Apple was busy making something that would last. Now Apple is one of the most profitable companies ever, and where are LG and Archos? Fighting for Apple’s scraps along with everyone else. The extra time Apple took to create a masterpiece paid off.

As I look back at articles I’ve written and products I’ve created, many of them have proven to be transient. If I had taken the time I spent on 5 mediocre blog posts and instead created one that would last, I would have an archive of perennial work.

In the world of software development, the process is more iterative. Polishing your work to perfection often involves releasing early, and using customer feedback as your compass.

With software, there is still a process that needs to take it’s time. An MVP needs to be built, then real customers need to pay for it and give their feedback. The place where most people lose patience is iterating after the first release.

In 2009 Kevin Systrom created an app called Burbn. It was a location based check-in app, and also allowed photo sharing. It wasn’t very unique, and only had a handful of users, but managed to get $500,000 in funding.

In 2010 25 year old Mike Krieger joined Systrom, and they re-assessed Burbn. The most popular feature was photo sharing, so they decided to double down on that, plus add a social component. They would get rid of the other features and change the app name.

On October 6th, 2010, they re-released Burbn as Instagram, and it became the most popular photo sharing app that very same day.

The process of developing Burbn into Instagram took time. If Systrom and Krieger rushed through the feedback and iteration process, they never would have created Instagram. They would have tried to get more users for their fledgling app Burbn, and never seen any real success.

When you hit a roadblock, or feel like it’s not happening fast enough, be patient. It’s all part of the process.

Understand that it’s supposed to happen this way, it was never going to be easy. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, then keep working until it’s done.

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Posted by Scott

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