Yesterday I wrote about how I haven't been doing too well psychologically over the last little bit as a result of being pulled in a number of directions for too long and not being able to focus on the things that I consider to be more important in life. Interestingly enough, an episode of the Freakonomics podcast talking about the perception of life's problems1 appeared on my phone a few hours after I published the blog post. The title was "Why Is My Life So Hard?" and, while I don't believe my life is particularly hard given the amount of egregious inequality in the world, the show was asking the right question at the right time. For me, I just want to create truly wonderful tools, raise a family, and enjoy some time with my dog. On the surface, these are not difficult or impossible goals.
One of the great things about listening to smart people talk about the human mind is that they ask some really good questions. This is one that got me thinking quite a bit:
Most of us feel we face more headwinds and obstacles than everyone else — which breeds resentment. We also undervalue the tailwinds that help us — which leaves us ungrateful and unhappy. How can we avoid this trap?
This describes how I feel about 10Centuries when I see other, younger networks that I perceive to have zero value pop up, earn millions in funding, and receive far more press coverage than one can shake a stick at. Does anyone remember Yo? Here's a snippet of its history, lifted from Wikipedia:
Yo was created by Israeli developer Or Arbel in eight hours, being launched on April Fools Day 2014 for Android and iOS. Originally chief technology officer of stock trading platform Stox, Arbel quit his job and has since begun working on the app full-time. The app has received USD$1 million in investment from a group of investors led by Moshe Hogeg, CEO of Mobli, who had originally asked Arbel to design a single-button app to call his assistant. […] The app was valued at between $5 and $10 million in July 2014 and received a further $1.5 million in funding. Website IFTTT included Yo as an option for their service in July 2014.
Success stories like this frustrate me, because 10Centuries does a whole heck of a lot more than Yo, and it's not an April Fool's joke. Where are the investor inquiries into this service? Where is the press coverage? Where is the rapid growth that would put my auto-scaling mechanisms to the test? While I've often said — quite honestly — that having millions in the bank would ruin me, I would not be averse to some form of investment, given the right conditions, in order to bring in talented people who could help make the platform better for everyone.
Sour grapes, right? I agree. Because there's a lot of really good stuff happening with 10Centuries, too. The dozens of people who do find value in the project. The 2-million page views per week that are served across every public-facing site. The fact that the darn project is actually starting to break even and turn a small profit after years of hard work and serious financial investment on my part. Then there's the personal satisfaction I get from seeing the whole thing running and people making use of the service.
Are the headwinds — the challenges — facing the 10C project really getting in the way of the system's success? No. For every problem there is a solution. If I'm serious about keeping the system going for ten centuries, then I should play the long game and focus on incremental updates that continually make the system better. There's no need to rush. There's no need to compare my offerings with those of similar competing services, aside from rationally examining what other systems do better (or worse) and using those lessons to inform future decisions.
When I take a step back, breathe, and think about the things that are really bugging me, I can see that the tailwinds are far stronger than the headwinds. There are always occasional gusts that can knock a person off kilter for a while but, like most other weather patterns, they're just temporary distractions.
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