Why You Have to do Every Damn Thing Yourself?

I have a sort of informal rule. When you and I are reading around the internet, books and all the other constant brain input we expose ourselves to today, if something comes up three times in a week, pay attention. Not the usual attention, like driving by a fender bender on the freeway. Real attention, read about it, think about the idea, and try to find the original source. Why do you have to do every damn thing yourself? Because:

I do too.

The post on web development was noticed, and some nice people made a few suggestions to ease the learning curve. What I am trying to do would be simple for an experienced JavaScript programmer. This had me thinking, why do I have to learn this for myself? Why can’t I hire someone?

While listening to the Tim Ferris Podcast (sorry I am behind on my podcasts, it is a few weeks old as of this post), the answer hit me. When Tim questioned Graham Duncan he mentioned, the source. I read up on it. The idea is better explained in Who’s Idea was it Anyway. Unfortunately the links to the original author, Peter Koeing, is now a “Money Seminars” thing, so seems to be buried.

The idea in the source is, there can be only one creator, a single person with the vision for an idea or creation.

Any enterprise, project or event always goes back to a single Source; the person who gave life to an idea and was the first to risk something in order to realize their vision. – Nadjeschda Taranczewski

Because people are individuals, single thinking entities, there is no way I can complete describe my vision to you. Parts, yes, but not the whole gestalt of the thing. We can draw mock ups, and work through the requirements documents, but that loses the way it should make you feel when you use this creation. It brings in the committee, and the essence gets lost.

One point made in the links above is more important than any other. As the creator, the father or mother of invention, you have a responsibility to the idea. Throwing the idea out into the void (Internet) does not free you of the responsibility. If it is to be realized and become something in the world, you have to build it

The Fountainhead

On the drive to the office, I’m playing the Audible version of The Fountainhead on the headphones for over two weeks now. Say what you will about the ideas, but she wrote looonnnnngggg books. Ayn gives a speech to Howard Roark in the last quarter of the book. Here is the sentence that hit me:

What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egoists. You don’t think through another’s brain and you don’t work through another’s hands.

One, this is the idea for Atlas Shrugged, and two if you are the source of the idea, it is yours to see through. There is no way to do it though another.

So I am an egoist, like Howard Roark. Doing things myself, or not doing. I take responsibility either way.

And Software?

Reading and realizing these things gave me a new lens on something that happened years ago. A friend and I were working on a side project. It sits someplace on an old hard drive of broken dreams. I blogged about defining the requirements for the project. After we had met for lunch and talked through the product idea, the processor, the firmware architecture, and even pricing and the next set of products, we should have been on the same page, right?

No. I wrote out what I thought the product should be. It was a car stereo system replacement, that would play mp3 and sync with your computer, while providing in car WiFi and storage. This was so long ago there was nothing like that available or even imagined. In my mind it was a replacement for the in dash unit in your car. He read the specs, and came back with “What!? I thought it was a box, in the trunk you would operate from a remote.”

We were in a totally different place, discussing the exact same thing.

Is there a fix?

Obviously, as one person, I don’t scale. With work, wife, kids, and a day job, time is tight already. Working at a large multinational company, I see everyday how new ideas get crushed, and innovation is near impossible. Even for the newer internet companies, as Steve Yegge said:

The main reason I left Google is that they can no longer innovate. They’ve pretty much lost that ability.

The only way things happen is with a 2 Pizza Team. If your team can not be fed by two pizzas, it is too big and won’t be able to get things done. It does not seem right, why are there huge multinational companies, but it is true. Within our team, things get done. They get done by other small groups. Startups are more fun because the whole company is a two pizza team.

I’ve been there more than once where the founders leave and the drive and focus are lost.

Marketing can not do it alone. The engineering team or product managers are not enough to carry the day. Even nice slogans on the web page and mission statements or being “customer focused” won’t help.

There is only one source, and we have a responsibility to the vision. It is up to the source to see the idea through, until it can survive on its own momentum. I hope my wife and I can do that for our kids. With all my ideas it is up to me to see them through. I’ll take on the work, and the early mornings, because succeed or fail, it is worth it. And I will do every damn thing myself.