After executing on my first projects, I realized why I’m afraid of failure.
I actually fear reality
When you are dreaming about your project, everything always feels right. Sure there is some work involved, but in the end, the result is stunning. It feels good to think about your project because you picture yourself in your dream.
When you think about making anything: a blog, a Youtube channel, a startup, a book, a song, it’s like Schrödinger’s cat.
If you don’t open the box, the cat is not dead yet. Before you ship your project, there is still this possibility to reach your dream.
When you execute, you open the box on your dream. You find out how your cat looks. And it hurts because it’s never as beautiful as you imagined. The cat is somewhat ugly and sick compared to your dream cat.
It doesn’t hurt because the cat is dead. It hurts because you have a proof that you will never see your dream cat in reality.
When I am done writing this article, it will never look as moving and enlightened as I had imagined it when I first opened my text editor.
It challenges my ego
When you realize you will never be able to realize your dream, it challenges how you see yourself. Each setback questions your identity, and your future.
In May I was coding the first lines of Threadhunt from a hotel room in Ubud, Bali. It was one of my first attempts at coding a side project in Node. I was struggling to setup login and authentication and wasted the whole afternoon looking for an answer, and I didn’t find it.
So I was feeling completely down: I can’t even make a fucking login! And I’m even contemplating the idea of making money one day from this side project? I’m a crappy developer and will never make anything significant! My life is probably going to end up miserable at some point.
The problem is to extrapolate the short term setback into a long term vision.
Here is how it looks:
When you’re in the middle of a dip you extrapolate and think about what it implies on the long term.
Segregate your project from yourself. Refuse to let your emotions challenge your identity
How am I supposed to care less about what I do all the day?
I put all my weekend in this project, how am I supposed to make it secondary?
My take is to view it as a quest.
When you climb a mountain, you don’t really care about each individual step. Of course it’s better if you don’t trip, but the important thing is to get to the summit.
View your work as a long term search for quality.
You pulled out a crappy project. It’s ok, you just tripped on the way to the summit.
Don’t put too much importance in a single project.
When projects succeed or fail, they are just a source of feedback for your long term quest. How did you improve during this project?
For example if you’re a writer, your quest is the ability to convey emotions and meaning through words. If you’re a developer, your quest is the skill to make machines work for you efficiently.
When a single project doesn’t work out, think of it a part of the process, not as an event.
How to remove ego from this quest?
I think you need to find another reason than yourself for this quest.
I feel when we are empty or don’t know what to do, we fill the void by distractions or ego. When you have a setback and you don’t have a framework to explain it, you fallback to your ego. You think you’re special and everything is related to you. When you have ambition and dreams of success, if you don’t know the why, you justify it by ego. You begin to think that you deserve it, that you are an over achiever, all that BS.
So what I suggest is to find another reason for your quest, that is not related to you.
As an author your mission is important because you change how people think, and you help them make better choices.
As a developer you make machines work instead of humans, so it’s about liberating people from boring work.
I’ll let you know how this works out for me.