Check the Lens and Refocus

The most beautiful thing about looking at an image that has been captured is the seeing what the photographer wanted you to see, to capture the exact scene out of all the noise. I’m not a photographer by any stretch of the word but I do appreciate the skill and talent that these individuals put into their work.

As I have assisted my beautiful wife on a few photo shoots one thing always stands out to me and that is how a photographer is able to see the scene they want and capture that beauty and essence of the moment while being able to cut out all the surrounding distractions. When you are behind the camera you see everything going on, the leafless tree to right, the dead grass and weeds to the left, the sound of the traffic passing behind you, and everything else moving about in this imperfect, chaotic world. But somehow, the photographer is able to capture this moment in time and focus in on the one tiny beautiful scene amongst the ever flowing surroundings. This is beautifully artistic to me and extremely difficult to learn; it is just too easy to focus on all the distractions around you.

As I have been slowly building out this new product I have found myself constantly fighting this internal struggle of, “This is terrible!”, “This isn’t right!”, and “What am I even doing!?”. I can never seem to really find the clear path to go down in order to deliver the core product I set out to create. As anyone who has ever tried to create a software product, you know that you start with a simple idea and as you make progress to build this out you will inevitably stumble upon a million other little details that you had never thought of before hand. The real challenge is staying focused on the core vision of the product.

I am a month into this venture and I keep feeling like I am not making any forward progress, like I am not completing any milestones, and that I am frankly failing at this endeavor. I continuously lose motivation to keep pushing forward because the end goal keeps getting more and more difficult to see. “Where am I heading right now?” is the question that plagues my mind. I feel like I am only seeing the distractions and have lost focus of the main scene.

As I look back over the last month all I have really accomplished are the basics of any standard subscription based software: A user signup function, authentication of users (still not even fully finished), basic database models, and some half-assed feature sets. I started to ask myself why I was not able to push ahead and do what needed to be done and why I seem to have lost motivation to even sit down and focus on one feature implementation at a time. I believe the answer is this: I have no clue what I am doing. I mean honestly I am getting into uncharted waters on this application build and facing things that I am not sure how to implement. Along with this, I suffer severely from imposter syndrome and feel that since I am trying to do something I have not done before in a market space I am not fully familiar with that the user market will not be satisfied with the product. This notion scares the crap out of me. This seemingly simple application has become something I wasn’t prepared for, a real application.

So, how do I move forward? Well I believe I figured this out about a week ago. I looked at all of the progress I had made, all of the little pivots and design changes I had gone through, and finally had a Eureka moment. I had lost focus on the actual application and was really trying to build out additional, non-essential features. I was focusing on user data gathering, dashboards to help the users get the most out of their business, client management systems, scheduling assistants, and user ratings/reviews, and somehow had not even started on the core functionality of the product. I was basically tryin to build a racecar with only paint and gauges but there is no engine or wheels to make it move.  It was as if the clouds parted and focused the sun light on the exact location of this “shoot” and showed me where I needed to go.

I had become overwhelmed by the simplicity of the toolbars, the lack of links, the absence of features, and the emptiness that seemed to fill the webpages. I felt as if I didn’t have enough features to call this thing a real application. I was more focused on putting in the distractions than ignoring them and finding the clear scene. As I started to refocus my sight back to the original vision of the product I stumbled upon an old quote that had been forgotten; stuck up on the top shelf with the emergency flashlights, kindergarten pictures, and Grandma’s old glass unicorn collectibles. It was a quote of inspiration for myself a few years back when I first starting tinkering with the idea of becoming a software entrepreneur by LinkedIn’s founder Reid Hoffman, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”. Suddenly I realized what I needed to do.

Over the last week I stripped away all of the non-essential features I had been working on and was left with, well, nothing. I realized I had been focused so heavily on the wrong things that I had not actually done much for the application. As I sit here writing this, I am gearing up to start back into the application build and listed out the details of what needs to be done to get the product to market. Surprisingly, that list is very small and feels empty and this is the trap I must overcome.

As I start again I now realize I must keep my eyes focused on the fact that the beauty is not in all the details the artist sees behind the scenes but rather in the ability to hone in on the only thing that matters amongst all the readily available noise. What makes the photograph unique is not capturing the flood left from the rains but rather capturing the rain drop amongst the flood.

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