Engineering Minimum Viable Inspiration.
As a founder, it’s easy to lose focus on what job(s) we’re supposed to do.
Sometimes it’s all rainbows & unicorns: designing and building product, marketing and selling, recruiting the team and raising money. other times, it’s a bowl full of crap: dealing with unhappy customers or employees, making payroll when you’re low on cash, handling rejection from a partner or investor, or maybe just cleaning up dishes after someone left them dirty. it really doesn’t matter — they’re all your job. Just #gitrdone.
It’s often hard to figure out which jobs are necessary and important, and which ones you can leave for others, or maybe even not worry about at all. this is the eternal founder dilemma — which hats do you wear, which ones do you give to others, which ones do you forget about? all in less time than you need, while your hair is on fire & your house is burning down. Choose.
But there’s one job you can’t hand off to anyone else: setting the vision and inspiring your team. that job is yours & yours alone. no one else can do it.
Now here’s a question: are you doing that job? are you inspiring? to both yourself and others? are you doing it well, and enough? how can you tell?
My guess is most of you are not. to paraphrase Eric Ries and Steve Blank, you don’t have an MVI: Minimum Viable Inspiration. people just don’t give a shit, or what’s worse: YOU don’t give a shit. even if you do give a shit, it may be hard to get others inspired… either because you’re not a very inspiring communicator, or maybe because you’re tired or worn down.
Now of course, most Vision and Mission efforts are a steaming pile of smelly turds. in most cases, you’re over-thinking how important bringing your startup is to the world, and you’re over-emphasizing how important YOU are to that mission. a lot of founders are FAR more in love with themselves than anyone else is (even their mom), but that doesn’t stop most of us from fantasizing for days about how amazing and wonderful we are, regardless whether we’re the next Steve Jobs or next Homer Simpson. (by the way, most of you fuckfaces are Homer Simpson, but you bet your ass *I* am the next Steve Jobs. < — see? that’s founder disease right there 😉
But for those of you who have a real business — that is, you’ve got shipping product or service, users or customers, maybe even some revenue — if you aren’t completely incompetent, you may find after some time you develop the opposite condition. as Ben Horowitz says, you might be in The Struggle.
You’ve probably been busting your ass for several months (years?) getting your Insanely Great Thingamajig off the ground… you’ve probably been grinding away so long you’ve forgotten what the hell was so inspiring in the first place… you probably get pissed off at your co-founder(s) and your team for not doing their job, or for whining about some crap that doesn’t really matter that much… you spend a hell of a lot of your time just trying to keep all the plates spinning, all the whiners happy, and make sure you just get the damn product out the door to customers, and make sure accounting gets vendors paid and gets payroll out on your time… Jesus H Christ will you ppl PLEASE shut the hell UP and just DO your *FUCKING* JOB?!? srsly, what is your damage? can’t you leave me the hell alone for a minute & SELL something?
Yeah, that’s a telltale sign: “just shut up and do your job” — that’s when you know it’s bad. you don’t want to listen to the whining anymore; you just want to get shit done (#GSD) — like it’s their problem and not yours. you’re fucking grinding away, grinding away… like that’s all there is. grinding both you and them into microscopic little goddamn pieces of your former selves.
You don’t care about the why, and there is absolutely no fucking inspiration whatsoever in the mission anymore. yer dead, yer done, stick a fork in you.
So let me tell you what’s wrong… it’s not them — it’s *YOU*.
It’s *YOUR* job to make them care. it’s *YOUR* job to make YOU care.
And it’s *YOUR* job to Sell the Goddam Dream... Every. Fucking. Day.
When they start whining about all the little stuff — and believe me, they will — and you’re thinking why the FUCK aren’t they just getting shit DONE? — that’s when you’ve lost the plot my friend. time to stop grinding.
That’s when you know it’s time to re-inspire yourself, re-inspire the troops, & make sure they know why it’s important to wash those damn dirty dishes. why it’s critical for them to make that stupid little widget just so. why it’s ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE & EARTH-SHATTERING to get that customer.
‘cuz if you can’t inspire yourself and your team to get fired up about doing the job, then sure as hell you ain’t Steve Jobs… you’re just Homer Simpson.
So wake the fuck up, Homer.
Time to write a little love poem to you & the people you brought along for the ride. why are we here? where are we going? what does it all mean?
Good luck with that shit… you’ll probably need it.
This article originally appeared on 500 Hats.