Return to site

We All Learn From Mistakes

But it is a hell of a lot easier to learn from other people's mistakes

In this week's video, startup founders Tara Reed and Jon Colgan talk about mistakes they have made along the way and how those mistakes led them to build their apps without code.

As Jon tells it, "I got into building apps without code for probably the most basic reason a person would: I wanted to build a technology company but had zero technical ability to do it." After three years of fits and starts trying to go the coded route, Jon had spent about $300,000 and gone through at least four distinct product teams. Even so, he never quite got the product he needed.

I bet there are some non-technical entrepreneurs reading this who can relate to trying to throw money at the "I cannot build my own app" problem.

Watch the video below for the full conversation between Tara and Jon.

Here are some key takeaways from the talk.

No extra points

In business, you do not get extra points for going alone. Like it or not, your output is the sole determinate of your success or failure.

Yes, there is something virtuous about being original. But no, being original does not enhance your chances of success, and in most cases, it probably reduces your initial output--because so much of your time is allocated to thinking rather than simply doing.

Study failure

To maximize your go-to-market output, study failure (mostly other people's).

I, like you, perhaps, find startup failure to be over-romanticized. Yes, as they say, failure is basically a good thing in the sense that it becomes part of the path to eventual success (if you do not quit first). But no, it is not something to be aimed for.

That said, it is something to be sought out and studied. Recalling the importance of your output as a startup founder, it makes more sense to study other people's mistakes so you can avoid repeating them. In this way, you drastically narrow the breadth of your experiment and stand on the shoulders of giants--giant failures.

And sometimes--especially if you are past the initial launch phase of your business-- the giant failures you need to study closest are your own. The model that got you here is not going to be the model that gets you to the next place. And you have to get really comfortable tearing that down and reinventing that model.

If you can, find a mentor

The irony of advice like this--"study other people's failures"--is that there is a requisite degree of sophistication to even know where to look in the first place. And if you lack that sophistication, then this advice probably will not help you much at all.

As a logician might put it, to find and study other people's failures that are the most relevant to your app idea, there is a certain degree of sophistication that is necessary--but not necessarily (duh duh duh) sufficient. In other words, like most things, there is a range of sophistication from barely to quite.

To increase your chances of finding the best failures to study and to maximize the lessons you could learn from them, you would need to be quite sophisticated. And here again, we encounter irony: the most sophisticated people are the people who have been there before. But you are probably working on either a new idea or an idea new to you.

For that reason, it almost always makes sense to eliminate chunks of your learning curve by supplanting trial and error with a mentor experienced in that given area.

Here is what to look for in a mentor.

Let's pretend that you are a new airplane pilot

You have trained and trained through thousands of simulations, and today is finally here. You get to co-pilot your first actual flight. You enter the cockpit and sit down. To your right is the captain, a pilot you assume to have lots of experience flying airplanes, and a person you hope to learn from.

Learning from an experienced pilot, after all, will significantly accelerate your education.

Having never met you before, the pilot looks over and says hello. Then he buckles in and starts flipping switches, one of which starts the engine. You are excited. Then the captain says, "I hope you are excited to be on this flight, because this is my first one."

This is not a proper mentor. Find someone who has been there before. And just because someone has a job title relevant to your ideal mentor, do not assume that title to be bolstered by any sort of experience. In selecting a good mentor, experience matters; titles do not. So make sure to vet the prospective mentor's experience.

If you can, bootstrap

Bootstrapping is the best time to study mistakes.

When you are creating a market, bootstrapping is a really important thing to do, because down the road, you are going to need that muscle memory and scar tissue. If you do not have it, then trying to innovate is like trying to cram-train for a marathon.

The other thing that bootstrapping does is bridle you with a budget. When you are on a budget, you will not like that your ambitions and ideas outstrip your resources. But you will, by necessity, learn to differentiate between what is critical and what is not. What is not critical might still be important, but you figure out ways to not spend money on it.

Depending on where you are with your idea, it might not make sense to hire a coach to help you architect and build your app without code. I think the difference comes down to whether you are dabbling or determined. If you are determined, then you should do whatever it takes to do it right and avoid wasting time. If you are only dabbling, then consider these wise words:

"Never pay for what you steal." - Morgan Freeman, after stealing some cookies at the Oscars

If you are reading this blog, then...

You are probably a non-technical founder who wants to build an app but does not know how to code. If that is you, then let me be clear, you should focus on...

  1. learning to code or
  2. learning to build apps without code

True, learning to build your app yourself is the best way to preserve the originality of your unique idea, because it reduces the number hand-offs to other people. But more importantly, learning to build your app yourself drastically reduces your risk, since you will not have to outlay a ton of capital right out of the gates--like the $300,000 Jon spent to no avail--thus lowering your risk enormously. Lowering your risk makes bootstrapping possible for longer, which gives you more time to study and learn from mistakes.

 

Do not waste $300,000 before you watch this video to learn from other people's mistakes.

You are probably a non-technical founder who wants to build an app but does not know how to code. If that is you, then let me be clear, you should focus on...

  1. learning to code or
  2. learning to build apps without code

True, learning to build your app yourself is the best way to preserve the originality of your unique idea, because it reduces the number hand-offs to other people. But more importantly, learning to build your app yourself drastically reduces your risk, since you will not have to outlay a ton of capital right out of the gates--like the $300,000 Jon spent to no avail--thus lowering your risk enormously. Lowering your risk makes bootstrapping possible for longer, which gives you more time to study and learn from mistakes.

Do not waste $300,000 before you watch this video to learn from other people's mistakes.

All Posts
×

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly