The Planning Fallacy

When I set out to build my app, I thought i'd be done in six months. I’d put it on the App Store, watch the money roll in, and move to the next project while this one generated easy passive income. As I write this, it’s been 5 years and it's incredibly clear I was quite naïve. Building something is hard, and if you've never done it before, even harder.

Part of my impatience and irrationality came from the “entrepreneur culture” in the tech scene. There's a pressure and expectation to move fast because someone is right behind you to beat you to market and take all the money. I definitely felt this anxiety and spent a fair share of time worrying. Looking back, it was entirely unnecessary and counter-productive.

These are several things I understand today that I didn’t before:

  1. There are very few markets that are winner take all (despite all the attention they get in startup culture), so even if you’re not the first one, you’ll be fine as the second, third, or tenth

  2. A shit product launched early is still a shit product

  3. Your failure is more likely to be caused by your lack of skill, not your competition – so better off focusing on yourself

  4. You can’t worry while doing, so spend your time doing

At this stage of building my app, I'm playing the long game. I’m thinking strategically about the product (e.g. working with an insight that’s hard for others to copy, building something I’m uniquely suited to build, etc.) and working sustainably. This gives the project time to breathe, keeps the team feeling good, and is much more enjoyable.

My friend Jim said it best: "Anything worth doing takes time" – definitely more than six months.