Hi friends (and new readers 👋🏼), Steven here. This is Product Matters, a semi-regular newsletter on Products and Strategy. Each issue I try to share something I’ve written – usually on the topics of products, digital strategy, and design.
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I’m going to start off pretty geeky this week but please bear with me. This past weekend I was catching up on my favourite anime, One Piece, when a line in the episode caught my attention. The episode is a flashback to when the Roger Pirates, a pirate crew led by Gol D. Roger, are on one of their many adventures. They are driven by their captain’s vision: to be the first pirate crew to circulate the world and find the “island at the end of the world”. While exploring an island in the sky, they come across a gold monument featuring a massive golden bell. “How are we going to take this bell?” one of the junior pirates asked.
“When it’s your time, you can come back and get it,” the captain replied.
I paused. Why did that resonate so much?
It triggered two different thoughts in my mind.
Founders and leaders recruit team members to help them achieve their dream. They build a team by selling their vision and bringing people along for the ride. Those who excel at this excite and inspire you as they share what they are trying to accomplish. This level of clarity and ambition from a leader is often enough to push you through the hard times to accomplish something truly great. Leaders also recognize that one day, it will be time for members of their team to set out and chase their own dreams. It’s rare for a team’s true ambitions to align with the founder. So when the time comes, great founders and leaders support the alumni who choose to chase their own adventure. Their own mission. How can I become this type of leader?
Roger had a very clear mission in his mind and he wasn’t about to get distracted by a tempting detour. Though some of his crew were junior and still learning, he reminded them they were on his ship, without shattering their dreams. Now was their time to learn and help Roger achieve his dreams. Their time to chase their dreams would come.
When you leave your current path, will you feel supported?
The bigger more existential thought for me was what is it I’m after and how will I know when it’s my time?
As of this moment, I have no idea. I tried thinking about some big goals I want to accomplish but in my mind those need to be in service of something. There is often something bigger guiding each of your goals. If you’re trying to write a book on a topic, it makes sense to set goals for a variety of things such as practicing writing, learning deeply about a topic, building an audience, etc. Each of these are components and pieces that ladder up to something more.
I considered my desire to write a book, play piano in front of someone, learn to sing (lol). I want to build great products with friends. Design games that people enjoy, lose themselves in, and learn from. I want to finally do that Ironman. These are things that excite but terrify me. In my first edit of this letter, they were all solo. Maybe I just want to pursue challenging things that stretch my comfort zone. But is that really a mission?
I’m all for the pursuit mastery and the continuous improvement that entails, but my problem with unbounded goals is they feel like they go on forever. Life may be a marathon, but even races have a finish line. Without a concrete end in sight, it’s tough to push yourself through the rough times. What’s the point of doing something really challenging if all you’re after is “getting better”? An ambiguous, open goal like this has many paths to success and there will always be something easy to make progress.
What’s going to push me when I’m wanting to give up?
What is that big thing that keeps me going?
What’s going to make it all worth it?
Right now I’m coming up empty. Maybe I’ll figure it out one day and hopefully I’ll be able to corral together some friends to help me out.
If you’ve thought about this at all, what’s your mission? What do you consider to be your life’s work? Please hit reply, I’d love to hear more about it.
Me: All this talk and anxiety about ambition and big goals.
This was the final piece I wrote for my course. Yes, I’m milking it. I finished this a couple of weeks ago. A couple of weeks late. It’s an elaboration and re-write of another munny.club piece. I’m toying with the idea of rewriting each issue into a mini-book at some point.
“In a world where most people spend days working long and thankless hours, genuine appreciation stands out like a bonfire on a dark horizon.” - Sebastian Marshall and Kai Zau, Gateless
I’m continuing to fiddle with the format of this area.
That’s all for this time. I’m always looking for feedback on both my writing and my ideas. Have something on your mind? Just reply to this email.
I would love to hear from you. I read every response.