Seth Godin’s Akimbo: The Right Size Project

In his Akimbo podcast, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses the ideas behind big projects, changing the world, resilience, and perfectionism.

We transform the world, big or small, by doing things or projects. Our career is nothing but a series of projects. When we dedicate our effort to one project, we cannot work on something else simultaneously. Not able to work on something else is the opportunity cost of what we choose to do.

The size of a project is a choice. The complexity of a project is another choice. The decisions we make about projects are all choices, and these choices have an opportunity cost. The best way to make an impact is not to spread our resources too thin to accomplish anything.

When we try to do too many things simultaneously, we will not be doing much of anything. If we pick the right project and allocate the right resources to it, we are more likely to accomplish our goal.

How do we determine what the right size for a project is? It depends on who we are seeking to change, to reach, or to serve. Suppose we can identify the smallest, viable audience for a project. In that case, we have much better odds at succeeding in helping our audience. Helping the smallest viable audience is a much better approach than trying to reaching the mass and hoping someone will respond to our desire to make the change.

The size of a project also depends on our predictions because every project is a bet on how we perceive the future will turn out. We predict that our project will work, but the world will be the same when it is finished. The world, however, as we know, does not standstill. The longer it takes to bring our project to the world, the more likely the world does not need the product or the project the way we thought it did.

To counter the on-going changing world, we will need to build resilience in everything we do. One way to build resilience is to take on right-sized projects. Right-sized projects do not spread our resources too thin. We can take on several smaller but right-sized projects instead of one giant project. When we bet on several smaller projects, rather than one large one, we have opportunities to pivot when the world changes quicker than we could finish the projects.

Along with the project size and resilience, we also need to be aware of perfectionism. Perfectionism does not mean excellence or quality. Perfectionism is polishing something where people do not care about the polish. Perfectionism is trying to consider every single possible objection and addressing it.

We erroneously believe that we never get a second chance to make a first impression. We erroneously believe that if what we ship is not perfect, we will be shamed forever. We ignore the simple reality that whatever we ship will not be perfect when it comes time to change the world.

What we can do is engage the market early and often. Figure out what is essential and get the crucial areas correct. We then ship our work and learn from the feedback. We also adjust and evolve our approach by bringing resilience to the fore. We will choose not to hide behind perfectionism.

Some people may view the concepts of right-size, resilience, and quality work as constraints. We should view them as the boundaries that help define our projects. Carefully choose the number of projects as we need options to be resilient. On the other hand, do not commit to too many options because we also need concentration and focus on getting through the dip. And most of all, strive for high-quality work and excellence but do not be a perfectionist.