Commentary: From Couch to Web Success

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: The Importance of Proper Training :

For the past two months, I’ve been getting ready to participate in a local 5K run. Without any formal exercise whatsoever in the last (gee, I don’t know) 10 years — unless you count the occasional walk up a flight of stairs when the elevator isn’t working — I knew I needed another way to achieve my goal.

In the past, whenever I would get the urge to exercise I would head to the gym, jump on the treadmill and run too far and too fast until I was on the verge of passing out. That of course was followed by several excruciatingly painful days when my muscles were unable to perform their natural duties of lifting and carrying my frame with any stability (or grace). In the end, I wouldn’t really exercise much at all, because I was so worn out from training the wrong way. As a result, I’d give up (quickly) over and over again. I vowed that this time would be different and by all accounts, it has been. Here’s how and why.

Shortly after the New Year, I downloaded the very popular application Couch-to-5K on my mobile phone. When I finally got around to using it toward the end of January, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t actually going to run a 5K on my first time out; instead it would take me weeks to reach a distance that I felt comfortable (and proud) enough with to tell my wife and friends about my accomplishment. What is unique about the application is that it forced me to train (and “develop” if you will) in a different way.

But that’s not all. I started to think differently about success in general and how making small improvements and steady gains, was a far more valuable use of my time and energy.

Think of it this way. You’ve got an idea for a new Web service/website and, of course, it’s going to be the next big thing and change the world. You could work sporadically on it for weeks, months or even years but when a predetermined launch date comes you realize there’s so much more that needs to be done or could have been done better, and you ultimately don’t launch. Training for a 5K, in a way, is a great deal like launching a Web business. When you work on too big a scale from the start (caring more for the big picture than the small details), you may miss system cues that indicate something is not as efficient as it needs to be (like a body that is too sore to move or a Web application whose UX is clunky and bloated). And when it’s not efficient (or perfect), it’s just not effective.

When you start with the simplest, most basic iteration of something and perfect it over time, it’s easier (and ultimately better) to keep building and growing from that point. It will develop into something that’s stronger but leaner and more valuable but less costly to develop. The point here may be to think about business growth with a more rigid mentality. You won’t move on to the next thing until you really perfect the mechanics of what you’re working on right now. There’s something to be said about doing a job well (and right the first time). It may take longer, but your enterprise will be better for it in the long run.

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