I have spent a lot of time reading books, articles, and blogs all about business, marketing, and startups. I don’t think it was wasted, but I don’t think it really prepares you to do much either. I think I’m better prepared to see mistakes coming for others, but I find that I tend to justify why my situation is different before learning the hard way that it is most certainly not.
I don’t think this is a bad thing. Experience is a superlative instructor. ( It reminds me of the Stanford Machine Learning course introduction to neural networks. The brain only has one really versatile learning algorithm and experience is the input. ) I expected the recent ‘You’re Overthinking It‘ article to be more along these lines. An exhortation to do more stuff, but it was not to be.
Do more stuff! Lean process emphasizes shortening the iteration cycle in order to speed up product development. Faster development with customers driving the process just might yield a profitable business before you run out of cash or motivation. I’m actively combining this simple and widely applied insight with another related one, “Practice makes perfect.” ( Boy, was Solomon right: There is nothing new under the sun. )
I’m thinking a little less about doing the perfect thing at the perfect time. I’m trying to build a large quantity of short, fast iterations in each area I want to improve. I have started adding small projects that let me get those experiences with less commitment and more focus. This is all one reason why I support Rob’s thinking behind acquisition. I’m planning to do a bit of that on a small scale myself. It’s a (hopefully?) great way to get instant reps.
A Defense of Reading
I know there are a lot of techniques I’ve learned through reading that gave me the chance to go out and get key experience. I think the mental models that analysis and synthesis of different perspectives develops can help me a lot. Even if that help is only deeper understanding after (re-)learning a hard lesson. I also think that connecting to these things motivates me. It makes me put on my startup/business/developer/marketer hat and act accordingly. That is useful to me on a long day, but I’ve got to balance reading with doing. Doing is the only one that really puts me closer to my goals.