Ethan Mick

Execution is Hard

I'm an idea person.

Maybe you are too. Sometimes, I wish I wasn't. I wish I didn't have ideas that I always thought were good (who knows, maybe some of them are good). I wish I could just execute.

In the past few years I have learned one lesson over and over again. It's not about the idea, it's about the execution.

Put another way: Your idea sucks.

Sorry, but it's probably true. Your new app, service, device is probably a mediocre idea at best. It's also probably not that original. But that's okay, because really, the idea doesn't matter that much. It's how you execute it.

For example, YouTube was founded in February 2005 and grew to be acquired by Google for $1.65 billion the following year. But creating a video uploading site was not a new or novel idea. In fact, Vimeo had been started in November 2004! Google didn't buy YouTube because sharing videos was a great idea nobody had thought of before. It was because they had executed really well, and created a product that people loved using. You can bet that if somebody else had grown as quickly, Google would have bought them.

WhatsApp is another great example. The initial release was in 2009, long after competitors had their own messaging. Google Talk (2005), Facebook messages, IM, and texting all existed before WhatsApp. On top of all that, the app launched exclusively on the iPhone! If I just heard that, I would have pronounced it dead on arrival. Why would people want another messaging app? Nobody will use it, it's a terrible idea. And yet, it flourished. Their idea wasn't original. Their execution was fantastic.

Unfortunately, it get's worse for us idea people. If we have a great idea, something truly fantastic, it doesn't matter. Because unless that idea actually is worked on and created, it will remain an idea. Your product will never be created and your customers never reached. An idea has unlimited potential. So many possible features. So many customers you can please. A billion dollars just waiting to be made. But nobody is going to buy your idea. They will, however, buy your execution. And you can bet it'll be messy; execution always is. It's hard, grueling, painful work. But it's what matters.

Good execution will beat out good ideas. This is why the team is so important. It's why pivoting has become such a big idea recently. It allows a fantastic team to start with a mediocre idea and learn from it, slowly turning their idea into a great product. But that only works if you have a great team.

I'm not that good at execution. Coming up with ideas is fun, and I'll start working on them in the following few days (the honeymoon period). But then it gets hard, and I'll stop, because the idea wasn't that good to start with (or so I tell myself). I'll start working on the next idea, because it's more exciting.

The Creative Process

But I'm going to get better. Like willpower, I believe I can get better at execution by practicing it. I'll post my updates here, to hold myself accountable.

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