Why side projects are hard — psychologically speaking

I’ve just read this excellent short article about side projects http://davemart.in/resistance/. Everything there is very true — only it does not describe the things that are going through our minds that make everything so difficult.

Yes, the “Resistance is Real” as Dave says. But why?

I asked a psychology expert exactly that question because I just couldn’t figure out why all side projects begin with such a fun experience and an urge to launch a product, and slowly fade away and suffocate until the next idea comes to play. No, it’s not some sort of progression of learning things that you have not known before. It’s something completely different.

Apparently, people need fantasies to motivate them to do things. When you start working on a side project, you create yourself a wonderful fantasy of how you want to envision your side project. You ignore the “hard things” simply because you tell yourself that you’ll deal with the hard stuff later.

But the problem is — the more you get closer to completion, the harder reality hits: your fantasy is not real. Your fantasy probably contained a version of you coding 90% of the time and taking care of the rest 10% of the time. Slowly but surely, you discover you need to start doing other things which you don’t want, hire people, raise money, etc. Or maybe you launched your product and now you’re battling with yourself the painful battle of finding product-market fit — and suddenly you discover that your fantasy simply isn’t real — there is no product-market fit for your dream product.

And here’s the most painful thing — now that you suspect the possibility that your fantasy isn’t real — you now have an incentive not to finish your side project forever, so you can keep dreaming it is real.

Oh well. If only fantasies were real.