Making the case for “good enough”


A few weekends ago I went canoeing with some friends. Whenever I'm on a canoe in the woods I imagine what it would've been like to be one of the early settlers. You're in uncharted territory, with only what you have with you, no hospitals, no safety. Each night you'd have to find a place to setup camp. You’d be well aware of how big the land was, and that you could camp anywhere, but you would have also been aware of how much food you had, the health and morale of the people with you, the weather, etc. There could be a better camp down the river, but pushing on rather than settling for the night could be trouble.

Building a product is similar. Deciding to do it means leaving safety and heading off on an adventure. You're alone, or maybe with a small team, have limited resources (time, money, skills), and you’re in uncharted territory. Success isn’t guaranteed and if you misread the situation, there could be trouble.

The idea of "good enough" when building a product is often looked down upon. It's equated to making something sub-standard, or being lazy but i don't see it that way. I see it in terms of constraints.

When you're starting out, you don't have everything you need to build something perfect. When starting Revere, I had limited money so I asked some friends to help me program it at an extremely discounted rate; I couldn't afford a designer so I used my rudimentary design skills to do it myself, and I couldn't afford to leave my job so I worked three hours a night and on weekends. Under those conditions there was no chance of building the product I imagined, so I had to settle for something less, but good enough to start.

I learned this the hard way with my first business ten years ago. I had an idea for a website/service and a perfect vision for what it should be. I believed it had to be perfect right from the start and wouldn't settle for anything less. So I tried to build it all in one step. No versions, no iterations, from nothing to perfect all at once. It didn't work. Three years and many tens of thousands of dollars later I ran out of money and had to close everything down. I wasn't willing to stop at the "good enough" camp and pushed on only to run out of supplies and die in the woods.

To settle is to respect the way the world works and be self-aware do you know your limitations. You can eventually reach that perfect place but it's gonna take some camp outs.