I've been thinking a lot about the term shipping lately.
Shipping has become very popular when it comes to product launches, and I think the idea of shipping is a good one in principle.
It was through the work of Seth Godin that I first heard how shipping can relate to your work. I've spent some time re-reading what he meant by that because I've seen a lot of talk about shipping – and I've seen a lot of shipping done over the years of things that weren't necessarily ready to be shipped. Now Godin may have said that shipping is something you should do unabashedly, but I am certain he isn't saying to ship for the sake of shipping. He's said that it's key to focus on the goal of shipping, beating aside any resistance that you may come across along the way. He's said that it's fine to ship something that isn't 100%, but he's also said to work on making it better over time so that you can get closer to that mark. He's used the term to great effect and has made it matter more than ever before for creatives and entrepreneurs alike.
But I think that shipping as it is being executed isn't exactly how it was initially proposed.
Shipping vs. Delivering
The definition of ship, at its root, is to send. The definition of deliver, at its root, is to do. The goal should be to spend time and energy on the action – the doing – rather than the sending. The sending should only come after you've done the work, which is something Steven Pressfield has written about a great deal.
If you dive deeper into the definitions of both words, delivering is defined as to do what you say you will do or what people expect you to do : to produce the promised, wanted, or expected results. Shipping, when explored deeper, still means to send.
With those definitions in mind, would you rather ship or would you rather deliver?
Godin's definition of shipping ultimately means delivering. When I examined what he's written about closely, I believe the reason he uses shipping as a trigger as opposed to delivering is because shipping is quantitative and delivering is qualitative. You can measure what you ship far easier than what you deliver.
That's also why we tend to focus on time over task – time is measurable numerically while tasks are more subjective...and more challenging to measure as a result.
People Delivering the Goods
Godin's use of the word shipping has resonated with many people. Jeff Goins is one of them. But Jeff doesn't just ship, he delivers. And he delivers time and time again. He crafts quality and it shows in everything he puts out into the world. He doesn't focus on quantity first and quality second, which is what can tend to happen when you want to ship. He tackles it from the inverse, focusing on quality over quantity. That's why he delivers.
David Sparks is another friend of mine who puts out an enormous amount of work, and it is top notch stuff. His MacSparky Field Guides really make great use of the iBooks platform, and with every release he ups his game and takes iBooks publishing to a whole new level. His latest effort, Presentations, is another marvellous achievement. Not only does it stretch the limits of the iBooks platform, but it stretches David's work into new areas that I've not seen before. He's found a great balance between the tools and the tactics that only a human can implement. He's crafted an exquisite guide, one that extends his brand in both consistency and audience. With Presentations, David Sparks didn't just ship – he delivered.
Michael Schechter is another individual who would much rather deliver the goods than simply ship. My podcasting partner hasn't spent much time creating content for the Internet as of late because he'd rather deliver on other fronts. His online creative outlet is currently the podcast, and he delivers with every episode. He doesn't phone it in, which would be understandable considering his very full plate. But that's not how he's wired. So while Michael hasn't delivered the goods online elsewhere for quite some time, when he gets back to doing so it won't just be average...it'll be good.
The more I think about it, the more I realize I tend to follow the work of those who deliver far more than those who simply ship. Here are other people that I follow who deliver the goods:
- Chris Guillebeau: I wrote a bit about his free e-book The Tower here.)
- Brett Kelly: The author of the great guide to Evernote, Evernote Essentials)
- Julien Smith: I love his book The Flinch.
- Chris Johnson: He's one of the co-founders and driving forces behind Simplifilm, a firm that makes stellar videos (including some amazing book trailers).
- Brett Terpstra: His most recent work, Marked 2, is tremendous.
- Patrick Rhone: An amazing creative who consistently delivers with both intention and attention in mind.
- Shawn Blanc: Another person who builds with intention and attention, taking delight in the details every single time. - Scott Berkun: His talk at the World Domination Summit was, not surprisingly, one of the best I've ever seen.
- Steve Kamb: Steve has grown Nerd Fitness into an empire, and now he's taking things to a whole new level with Camp Nerd Fitness.
- Paul Jarvis: Paul delivers the goods at a pace that rivals (or even equals) David Sparks. His latest book, The Good Creative, is another great read.
- The Fizzle Team: The entire community at Fizzle is driven on the idea that delivering is what you should strive to do (fully understanding what Godin meant by shipping), and the main trio behind Fizzle – Corbett Barr, Caleb Wojcik, and Chase Reeves – epitomizes that philosophy.
Making the Shift
So...how do you shift your focus from shipping to delivering?
First off, you need to recognize that what Seth Godin was saying isn't that you should ship without care. Once you decide that you want to ship well and yet still ship (aka deliver), then you're well on your way.
The second thing that will help you really deliver instead of simply shipping – as I discuss in my TEDx talk How to Stop Time – is to focus on the task at hand over the time you have on hand. Let the task govern your effort as opposed to letting time rule your effort. When you allow yourself to think task over time, then quality will precede quantity.1
So the next time you're ready to ship something – whether it is something as simple as a blog post or as comprehensive as a product – ask yourself if you are simply getting something out the door or delivering something to the world that you're proud of creating. Once you start doing that, you'll start to build the reputation of someone who doesn't ship just anything. You'll start to be known as someone who delivers something special.
1 On an appearance of Erik Fisher's Beyond the To-Do List podcast, I coined the term taskocracy. The idea of allowing your tasks to govern is one that has been swirling around in my mind for some time. Like the ideal of a democracy, when you adopt a task-based approach to your work and your life you have a lot more freedom and flexibility. To be clear, I think that time does play a part, but it should be used as a guiding principle as opposed to a ruling principle. An example of where time plays a big role in workflow is Parkinson's Law, and I do think that work can expand beyond its scope if left unchecked. *(That said, Cal Newport has some thoughts on debunking that law that are well worth reading.)