I am a failure.
My side projects have not made me millions. I’ve not been featured on the App Store. I have not won Site Of The Day on Awwwards, I’ve not even had an Honourable Mention. I’m now over the hill and into my 30’s. My best is past me. I’ve failed at life.
Or at least that’s how it can feel. Every day you can read articles about 20 somethings “disrupting industries” and making millions or people hitting the big time with a lucky strike. I want to be successful and what that success is has been drilled into me by countless “inspirational” stories I’ve read. I’ve lived by the “Dream Big” mentality and it hasn’t helped me. With definitions of success as grandiose as these it’s no wonder that all of my ideas and side projects have been dead before I’ve even started building them.
I’ve Lived by the “Dream Big” Mentality and it Hasn’t Helped Me
For years I’ve planned out the game that changes the game industry; the app that changes the way you live your life; and the website that will change the world. These ideas sat and gathered dust whilst I waited for all of the correct pieces to fall into place. Where the pieces were falling from I couldn’t tell you. God maybe? The stars? Maybe the designs for one of my apps are sitting on a USB drive on the International Space Station. One day, one of the astronauts will be looking down kindly on me and they will eject the USB Drive which will somehow survive the journey back down to earth and land flat in my palm. Or maybe not.
I couldn’t start these projects as they were doomed to fail the exacting standards I’d set myself. For the ones that did manage to fight for themselves and get started an abrupt end was in store for them. My ideas crumbled under the weight of my aspirations. Finishing these projects would just confirm to me that they had failed; that my ideas were never as good as I thought; and that I was never going to be the success I hoped to be. So these half made things, full of promise got pushed aside and they too gathered dust.
My Ideas Crumbled Under the Weight of my Aspirations
Earlier this year I started working on a new idea for an app. A weather app for cyclists who commute to work, a narrow market but I knew I would definitely find it useful. I’d recently picked up Ionic, which gave me a rapid way of building and releasing iOS and Android applications using web technologies (if you’re a web developer and haven’t looked at Ionic I thoroughly recommend playing about with it). Using Ionic to solve a problem I was having felt like a great opportunity for me to learn some new skills. I didn’t worry too much about process (I spend a lot of time worrying about process in my day job), and I had gained some momentum. Instead of wireframing, designing and marketing I just coded. I wanted to get something working as soon as possible.
You may be surprised to learn that my app didn’t make me rich
And I did get it working, sort of. There were a few bugs which needed ironing out. The design needed to be improved slightly. But I had an app that was running on my own phone. It wasn’t on the app store yet but the momentum was carrying me forward. Small steps were making a big difference, and not worrying about the bigger picture meant that I was working stress free.
Small Steps Make a Big Difference
The app I was building was specifically for me, but it was definitely going to make a few hundred thousand. Who doesn’t want to buy a cycling specific weather app? However, I put future riches out of my mind and continued the snowballing momentum I had. The snowball was so large that it actually smashed straight through the brick wall that is Apple’s provisioning profiles, app deployment and review process. Earlier this year I released my first app, solely created by me, which people were paying for.
I’d completed a personal project and this achievement has changed the way I approach all of my side projects now.
You may be surprised to learn that my app didn’t make me rich. It hasn’t got a shed load of 5 star reviews and apple haven’t noticed it one bit. But I feel happy nonetheless. I designed, built and released my own idea. Every time I think, “Well it’s not made any money.” I invariably start thinking, “Well at least I finished it. At least it works”. And it does work, it looks good and I’ve learnt a lot whilst creating it. I’ve navigated the labyrinth that is iOS provisioning and certifications. People can download it and use it, and some are. This is what success is for me.
I found a project I was interested in and didn’t worry about whether it would be popular, or make me rich. I ignored people telling me it wouldn’t work, or wouldn’t be popular. I focused on small steps instead of worrying about selling my idea to Google, or getting featured in the AppStore, and I found that everything became much more accomplishable. All I wanted to do was make it work. If I could get it on the AppStore then it was a success.
I don’t want to get bogged down by fear of failing and it’s not going to stop me from creating things anymore
I’ve started thinking of success as an evolving goal. At the moment success means to me, finishing and releasing the project. After the project is released I can look at what’s next for the project to be more successful, but all the while knowing that the project is already a success. I don’t want to get bogged down by fear of failing and it’s not going to stop me from creating things anymore.
I Don’t Want to get Bogged Down by Fear of Failing
I have already noticed a difference in my mindset. Ideas big and small seem less stressful. I have a couple of projects in the works and my primary goal is to complete and launch them. When I achieve that the projects are a success and after that everything is a plus.
So as a parting note, if you’ve ever not started something because you’re afraid of it not becoming a success, readdress what success means to you. Start small, stay small and finish it. You’ll feel a lot more successful than you do if you never finish anything.