A long time ago, my friends and I were in trouble. An app we used almost every day to debug software for our clients had basically stopped working, and it was giving us all headaches. There wasn't really a viable alternative on the market at the time, so we decided we'd build one. Three months later, our app—Honeybadger—was launched.
Over the next 5 years, we'd build Honeybadger into something we were really proud of, used by thousands of developers to debug exceptions and monitor their web apps for errors. We also built a company that we really wanted to work at, turning down a tempting acquisition offer at one point.
In case you don't believe me, here's a pic from a recent company meetup (we're all remote). If you're wondering why we're wearing blue, it was for Autism Awareness Month:
When I tell other devs how small our company is, I usually get the same reaction: "No way, I thought you were like 20 people" (one time someone said 100 🤔), "I would love to [do my own awesome thing] someday".
Building Honeybadger was a lot of work—and we got a bit lucky with our timing, tbh—but we're not special. In fact, we're pretty average (I didn't even finish college 😬).
I can think of a few things we did right with Honeybadger, but there's one very basic thing we did that I blame most of our success on: we shipped a scrappy version 1.
It wasn't perfect, and it didn't do all the things our customers love us for today. That didn't matter, though, because it was enough to make us happy, and as it turns out, there were other devs like us out there. Had we wasted time trying to make it perfect, it would have never taken off, and I wouldn't be here to tell you that—whatever it may be—you can ship it too.
Shipping doesn't mean you have to start your own app (although you certainly can). You may want to write blog posts, record screen casts, contribute to open source, or just kick ass at your job/career. You can do all of these things—the fundamentals are the same.
I know it's harder than that. There are all the times you don't start, because you don't know how, or don't believe you can. There's the paralyzing fear that drops in every time you think about finally executing on your plans. There's the cynical voice that whispers "this will never work" whenever you're nearing the finish line.
If you add up all of these excuses, you get what Seth Godin calls "the resistance." The 10,000 foot view is that most of what you know is holding you back, keeping you from creating your best work. If you want to ship, you need to overcome the resistance.
No matter where you are in your career, there's always a next level. Building software is easier when you make small changes over time (nobody wants a big rewrite). Habits work the same way. The more things you ship, the easier shipping becomes. Why not start today?
Pick the smallest thing you can do right now, and then do it. Send a pull request. Share something you know with someone else. Investigate a new tool or technology. Read Linchpin, by Seth Godin (the book I mentioned earlier—it's good).
Get in the habit of shipping small things; when the big one arrives, you'll ship that too. 🚀
If you found this story inspirational, reply and let me know a) what you're shipping today, and b) what you'd like to ship in the future. There are no wrong answers. 😄
This story was adapted from an email I recently sent to our community newsletter, Leveling Up. If you liked it, feel free to subscribe.