Doing something hard

For the last six months I’ve been working with a small team to build up something new. We’re working within a larger startup with a beloved product, and looking at ways to increase delight and impact for users. 

The thing I’m seeing, and reminded of from past experiences, is that building something from scratch is incredibly hard. You face a lot of self-doubt, you’re not sure if you’re building the right thing, you don’t know if you’re hitting the rights marks, and each day you want to come in and bring your best. 

In the past I’ve approached projects like this with a mindset of win or die trying. I’m noticing that no longer works as much for me. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or probably more likely because I’ve faced severe burnout in the past and don’t want to repeat it. 

The approach I take now is to bring the best I can each day, and listen to my mind and body for when I’ve reached a limit. If I run into a deficit day after day I become less valuable as a team member. So, while the project constraints have been a significant challenge and our team has continually done its best to push through roadblocks, I’ve also been trying to make sure I stay healthy so I can keep being available and at my best. 

I’m reminded of a time two years ago when I pushed myself to the extreme limit and ended up sick twice within a month; laying in bed with a fever. 

Now I’m trying to be more careful, deliberate, and finding healthy ways to keep creativity and compassion flowing. In my role I need to be creative, to think of new ways to handle things, to not just push pixels and run through rote tasks. 

To be able to make something new, to think different (pardon the parlance), requires being healthy, consuming great ideas, and pushing forward in interesting ways. 

If you’re someone who creates things for a living, make sure you’re getting sleep, exercise, eating well, and finding time to bring your best each day, and also to step away and see life outside of work.