Pieter Levels once likened start-ups to a swimming pool.
He said there are two groups of people: there are those standing around the pool discussing how to swim, and those who are actually swimming.
Perhaps you don’t know how to swim yet but you’ll learn much faster inside the pool than out of it. I say dive in.
I think it’s easy to consume too much information from books, videos, podcasts etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning this way and think it’s a valuable part of my life, but you can waste time by learning stuff you don’t need yet.
For instance you might read a book about marketing. It contains useful information, sure, but if you’re just starting out then it’s mostly irrelevant. Most of the lessons won’t apply to you until you have 100s of customers.
You’ll also gloss over key bits of information because you simply lack the experience which makes that information valuable.
Instead if you just launched something you’d realise that getting any users can be quite hard. Suddenly marketing isn’t so important and you’re faced with problems that you never knew about. Talking to customers and direct sales is probably more applicable to you at this point.
Without actually doing something you don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t know what you need to know.
So I say learn as you go. Once you take the plunge you’ll face real problems and future learnings will be much more actionable.
General learning is great in that it exposes you to ideas that will help you later.
Take maths at school for example. Many just do the minimum amount necessary to pass but don’t grasp how it applies to them yet. Thankfully they are exposed to the ideas.
Let’s say they decide to re-pitch their roof one day. Suddenly they’re required to deal with angles and distances, and are reminded of our good friend trigonometry.
So they re-read up on the topic, apply some equations, and successfully re-pitch their roof. Yay for maths! They realise that maths can be useful and start using it more in their lives.
So when I said that you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’, well you also don’t know what will be useful to you.
I think it’s fantastic to be curious and open your mind to new ideas. Things you learn now can help you in the future even if you don’t know it yet.
Just be wary of trying to learn too much if you want to be productive. You might be learning the wrong things.
So if you’re one of those people standing at the edge of the pool trying to learn how to swim, perhaps you fear the risk of drowning i.e. you’re scared to fail.
I’m here to tell you it’s not that bad, but I suggest that you fail fast and fail early. Working on an MVP for 6 months vs 2 weeks before a failed launch is probably going to hurt a LOT more.
So save yourself the trouble and get failure out of your system. I’m still learning how to swim too but I’ve enjoyed the experience so far. It turns out the swimmers here are quite friendly.
And like I said before, just by doing something you will be exposed to things you never knew existed. For me this has been things like copy writing, building an audience, and discovering that I enjoy blogging. Who knew? For me it’s been worth it.
So if you’re still at the edge of the pool I say put down your swimming guide, get your feet wet, and take the plunge. The water’s lovely.