by Yann Girard — Get free updates of new posts hereTweet
I totally love Lean Startup and its adjacent methodologies. I am actually using and testing its methods, tools and recommendations myself since a couple of months already.
I was able to observe subtle changes in my work attitude and the way I was approaching certain things. To me it seemed that I lost the willingness to fully focus and dedicate my entire energy to one single project. It seemed that I didn't really display the normal perseverance I'd known myself for from previous projects.
Instead of being focused on just one thing I was doing and testing way too many things at the same time, because Lean Startup gave me the methodology and the tools for it. The result was that I didn't really get anything done and didn’t get any real actionable results. This got me thinking and I tried to figure out what had happened to me.
That's when I realized that the approach that Lean Startup introduced me to gave me a lot of excuses for actually not pursuing things ambitioned enough, for not being persistent enough and in the end never really getting things done and finally shipping things.
Without realizing it, testing most of the things meant that I was constantly feeding my lizard brain (the amygdale), the part of the brain that is responsible for sensing danger, instincts and gut feelings, primal thoughts, subconscious and so on.
It’s the part of our brains that is responsible for basic survival and responsible for the fear of all new things and most importantly failure. New and unknown situations might become dangerous in one way or the other. In the worst case scenario they might even result in death. That’s why the lizard brain is afraid of them, tries to protect itself and does everything to avoid them.
The stronger the lizard brain, the stronger the resistance to get ourselves in unknown situations, to get things done and ship things, as it might result in failure, critique or any other negative consequences. Hence, the testing loop I got myself into just built up my inner resistance of finally committing and delivering things.
But don't get me wrong here. I am not saying that this has anything to do with the Lean Startup approach itself. The approach is good and I think it is more of a general user problem. We all have this lizard brain. Some are stronger in fighting it and some are weaker. But one group that seems particularly weak in fighting it is the Generation Y group to which I belong to as well.
A couple of months ago a post was published on the Huffington Post blog called “Why Generation Y Yuppies are unhappy” and it brilliantly summarized the current problems of my generation and it illustrates why Lean Startup is bad for a lot of Gen-Y founders. The key takeaways from this post can be summarized as follows:
Gen-Y yuppies think they are something special, are better and greater than everything else on this planet earth, can achieve whatever they want in a very short amount of time, have expectations that are just completely disillusioned, get quickly frustrated and quit easily. The end result being that my generation doesn’t display enough stamina, perseverance and willpower to just continue getting things done, shipping and finishing things. The expectation of an overnight success or career is deeply anchored in our minds.
And that’s where the Lean Startup methodology is just giving me and my generation the most powerful tool and excuse ever to not follow up hard enough on opportunities and chances. A perfect excuse to stop doing things, if they don’t show instant success. “I tested it, but I didn’t get real traction and so I moved on to something else” is the answer you get to hear quite often.
But the thing is that traction doesn’t really come over night. Real traction usually comes after a couple of years or maybe even decades only. It involves a lot of hard work, passion, commitment and a hell lot of perseverance and optimism.
So what Lean Startup does instead is that it constantly feeds the lizard brain that tricks us into thinking, “yeah we are trying to change things”, but in the end we just test things over and over again with no real results, waste time and maybe money and switch from project to project without really committing to anything. This ultimately hinders us from finally stating what our features should be, what target group we should focus on, what revenue model we should be using and ultimately getting our shit out there.
This is all great for the lizard brain, but unfortunately not for us. It’s good for the lizard brain as you don’t expose yourself to the outside world too much, which saves it from potentially negative comments or feedback. It’s bad for us because we never really commit to anything because the next big thing might be just around the corner.
That’s when we risk getting ourselves into an infinite testing loop that will never lead to shipping something that is supposed to hit a bigger audience. We are keeping ourselves back from ultimately and definitely experiencing failure and blind ourselves from the fact that failure exists, which is one of the most important lessons an entrepreneur can ever learn in his life. Instead we keep on testing and tweaking our lives until we realize that it’s almost over and we never actually delivered things, committed to something and were just imagining how great life could be once we achieve this, this or that.
That’s the moment when we have to realize that we are caught in a vicious circle of expectations that doesn't have anything to do with reality anymore. Even with Lean Startup and all of its adjacent methodologies the only way to build a successful product is by working our asses off, being 150% committed, knowing how to brilliantly sell shit, have a great network of people and multipliers surrounding us and let’s face it a whole lot of luck and great timing. Lean Startup should be viewed more like a toolset and not as a guarantee for instant success!