The Old Wise Man And The Eager Young Chap

“….But I thought it would be easier than this. It’s really hard.  It’s tough and I don’t know what I am doing.  What am I supposed to do?”

A long time ago in a far away land an old wise man and an eager young chap were taking a walk and talking about life.  The young chap was eager to do great things in the world but seemed to stumble each time he pushed forward.  Desperate and in despair, he sought out the wisdom of the old village elder in hopes to find his answer.

SadhuThe elder – being the oldest and wisest man in the village – had heard such worries before and was no stranger to these youthful cries.

“Young chap, I sense you need to understand something very important about this life.”

“Huh, what’s that?” The eager boy snuffed and wiped his head to push his hair out of his face.

“What you don’t realize is your most pressing and worrisome issues are everyone else’s least pressing and worrisome issues.  They are yours and yours alone to figure out.  No one can tell you what to do, you need to discover the answers yourself.”

“Wait, what do you mean?  You don’t care about me and my problems?”

“I didn’t say that, young man, but I do think you need to look deeper.”

Confused, the young boy lowered his head and looked down towards the ground.

“Do you know what I am struggling with right now, just as you have come to me with your hardships?”

“No I don’t, what?” the young chap whispered.

“I have lived a long time, many years more than you have.  I fear my time on this earth is coming to an end very quickly, and although I have lived a blessed life I am having a hard time letting go of life.  I love my family, my community and all the great experiences I have encountered.  Even as you notice me struggling to walk up this path, my heart is as young as yours and desires exactly what your young heart does.  I cannot let go of life but will be forced to very soon and this troubles me.  And because of that I live each minute as if it is my last – just as this moment is the most important thing to me right now – and I choose to not have a care in the world.  I put my entire heart and youthful energy into experiencing everything about this moment so as to take in as much as I can before I go.  I turn my biggest fear into my greatest strength.  And in that way, I fully live and discover things I would normally have not.”

“I sense you aren’t doing that, are you my young chap?”

A long silence fell over the old wise man and the young chap.

After a while, the young chap responded.  “No… ummm, I’m not.  I think I’m scared.  I think I’m scared of what others would think about me if I lived without any limits or cares as to what they thought.  What if I fail?  What will they think then?”

The old wise man stopped, turned and looked the young chap in the face with his piercing blue eyes and said “Son, never forget this lesson, it is you who cares the most about if you succeed or not.  It is you who is holding yourself back.  And if this is true for you it is true for the rest of the world.   No one cares but only about themselves.  You must go forth and do everything you dare dream of with little worry about what the rest of the world thinks.  They are too busy searching for their own village elder to help them figure out why they are struggling…  just like you.”

And with that, the wise old man vanished through a small path between two trees and was gone.

Smiling and a bit fazed the young chap scratched his chin, thought about the wise words for a moment and with a renewed look of determination walked the other way.

Determining Which Problems to Solve Requires Wisdom

An important first step when building a product/business is determining what problem you are actually solving.  Pick the wrong problem and you will waste precious time, resources and energy running in the wrong direction.  Pick the right one and you just might have a billion dollar business on your hands.

The key is to be wise in how you pick the problems you will ultimately solve.

thinkingSean Ellis said it best.

Surprisingly, founders’ instincts to solve problems can also cause us to fail. Many startups miss success signals because they are too busy solving problems. Our instincts tell us to be responsive to customer feedback – especially negative feedback. These problems are so actionable that we feel good solving them. But over time a startup that chases problem after problem creates a bloated, fragmented solution that isn’t really needed by anyone.

 Think about that statement for a minute.  Basically, what Sean is saying is you cannot run around and fix everything that people complain about in your product.  It takes wisdom to decipher which feedback from customers – positive or negative – you should listen to and act upon.

He goes further.

Ultimately the goal of any startup should be to create a “must have” product experience. The signal that tells you that you have created a “must have” product is your true north to build a successful business. You should understand everything you can about the “must have” experience so you can cultivate and protect it. Who considers it a must have, how are they using it, why do they love it, why did they need it, where do they come from…?

A “must have” user experience.  Perfect.  That’s exactly what you need to be striving for and what customer discovery is all about.  He lists of a few questions that need to be asked about the target user.  I can think of hundreds more which need to be written down and answered through interviews, user testing and the customer validation process.

The goal = listen to the positive reinforcements from customers, follow where they are leading and create the best product possible.  All the while not listening to all the negative feedback and not building X, Y and Z feature just because one random customer emailed you and suggested you need to include it.

Be wise my friends.