Why I Built CustomJournal — Project #3 of 12 in 12 months
I didn’t write about my previous projects so I’ll catch you up on how I got here before I talk about CustomJournal.
I quit my job over a year ago. I knew it was time to leave. Towards the end the winds changed. There was a change in management, the community broke down and the people who I shed blood and sweat with started leaving. My rate of growth slowed down a lot. Although I made good money there I realized that it would be really dangerous to stay.
I started with long term travel, something I always had wanted to do but never had time to do because of work. I had seen how things were shifting at work ahead of time and cut down my expenses so that I would have ample runway to take whatever path I chose next. I gave as much time as I needed in my travels to de-stress and think. I traveled for 6 months total. When I got back, I decided that I would once and for all, focus on a dream of mine of starting a business. But I didn’t know where to start.
Luckily, I stumbled onto this podcast episode by Peter Levels which was so inspirational. When he was stuck and depressed after a failed venture, his Dad told him the best thing to do is to take a big pile of dirt and start moving the dirt from one pile to another. When you are stuck, especially if you are starting to spiral down, the worst thing you can do is to stand still. You have to get moving. Action leads to .. well more action. But with the previous experience, the new action will likely be better. I’m sure you could literally move dirt and that would itself be beneficial. But the message here is you need to stop dwelling and start doing.
Which led him down the path of his 12 startups / 12 months challenge. Why is this idea so brilliant? Because it puts in just the right amount of constraint and prevents 2 major mistakes that new entrepreneurs often make:
1) Not getting started — So many people never do anything. They talk about starting a business. They read books about starting a business. I’m guilty of both. When I was working my job 4 years ago, the company I was working at acquired a startup. I took the founder out to lunch to ask him about the experience. I was so pumped about it and then… I did nothing. FOR 4 YEARS! During that time I also read at least 10 books on startups and business. Its too easy to dream and talk, its hard to get started. This challenge forces you to get started right away.
2) Spend too long building product — the almost too common story is the one where the entrepreneur comes up with a brilliant idea, then proceeds to spend a year building it out. Some never really ship it because it is never “done”, others ship and then quickly find that no one wants their product. By putting the 1 month constraint on your project, you are forced to think critically about what the true MVP is. You are also less likely to build useless feature that your users don’t care about. The sooner you can ship the sooner you can get feedback and adjust.
“If You’re Not Embarrassed By The First Version Of Your Product, You’ve Launched Too Late” — Reid Hoffman
And those are the reasons for why I am taking on this challenge. To make sure I get enough at bats and that I am actually moving. Do. Ship. Get Feedback. Learn. Repeat.
So how did I decide to build this app?
When I had quit my job and was traveling through Asia I used a standard structured journaling template that I found online and just started to fill it in each day in a single Google Keep note. Each day I copied the template over, dated it and filled in the journal. After some time I realized that I wanted to change the questions that I asked myself. I found a few other questions that I wanted to reflect on each day. The specific one was to reflect on a how I pushed or challenged my self that day. I wanted to make sure I was thinking about growth. So my template slowly adapted. After doing this for awhile, I got a little bit annoyed of the copy and pasting on a mobile phone, so I was looking around for a structured journal app that I could use to replace my journal. But none of them really support customizing the prompts. So that’s how I got my idea.
This leads back to the idea of doing. If you are having trouble thinking about an idea, you should also consider moving dirt. If you keep an entrepreneurial mindset, ideas will pop up from your action.
If you are someone like me who has been wanted to ship a product for the longest time, but has never taken action, consider taking up a challenge like this one.
Of course my next product. But I have another twist to this challenge. I’ll be doing it from abroad! I’m digital nomad-ing in a couple months and have already bought my plane tickets. Will let you know where when it gets closer.