Very useful diagnostic question here.
If you're in business for yourself, freelancing, or contracting, it's worth asking from time to time.
The gap between "#1" and anything else is tremendous... being #2, #3, or #4 is far worse.
Oftentimes, a product or service is totally sufficient, and loses out on being "#1" only because of a lack of polish and attention to detail. Oftentimes, you don't need a radical reinvention of what you're doing, but just by improving every area of your finishing touches, quality control, speed, and service -- just a tiny bit -- you can break through to parity with the best.
Then, you layer one or two extra fantastic features on top of it, and you're #1.
It's hard work. Sort of.
It's actually often not hard work, but it requires submitting your ego to the fact that you're not already the best, and getting over "not invented here" syndrome.
Which is a lot easier to say than it is to do.
We just had a client who we had just about wrapped up a job for, who incidentally, had also done very similar work around the same with a competitor. The competitor started before us, and was being paid higher fees than us (which we only learned later).
Towards the end of our project, our client -- a very savvy guy -- started to look for us to elevate our performance and do little tiny finishing touches that our competitor had put into action.
This is one of the best things to happen to us.
We were forced to study, concretely faithfully diligently intensely study, the little touches this competitor had created that we had not. We wound up implementing a number of them, improving our performance, and inventing some new technology and processes to look to exceed them going forwards.
It also required us to see a couple very creative things they did, and just straight-up make our own implementation of them... what's interesting is that duplicating a competitor's functionality led us to almost no psychological satisfaction, whereas inventing our own did.
...even though the duplicated functionality was probably more useful to our client.
There were no patents involved, no intellectual property, and we didn't even follow their exact methodology -- we implemented our own way. There were no barriers of that sort. But there was a huge psychological barrier, in that we wanted and preferred to "do our own thing" in some perhaps subconscious way, rather than just be committed to being the best for our clients, regardless of ego.
It's hard, very hard, to get over this. We got lucky in a way.
But this question is a useful start:
"Are we #1 in quality? Why not?"
Love it. I think a lot of people who go into business (or, even sadder, life) with the mindset of trying to catch up with someone else. Unless you're the first in the space, there's a tendency to idolize those with a head start - seeing them as a goal to be strived for rather than surpassed. That little frame shift makes a big difference. Thanks for the wise words as always.
Some activities pay huge dividends and insane gains, but don't feel satisfying. The flipside is that some activities feel incredibly satisfying, but pay no gains at all.
Take cleaning the house. If you clean the hell out of your house, you're going to likely feel great. You work up a little sweat, use your muscles, and you can get into the zone for four or five hours. Afterwards, you feel you really accomplished something.
But… even in the very most expensive countries, a solid cleaning can be purchased for $50. If you've got any skills and hustle at all, you could make more than that in four or five hours, and probably build up some long-term asset value or connections in the process.
Yet, after a good thorough clean, you'll typically feel great.
Whereas "sitting there frustrated and confused trying to figure something out" is typically not enjoyable at all. Yet, frequently six hours of sitting there frustrating and going over the same problem over and over again will lead to major breakthroughs.
Just this past Friday, on August 28, I celebrated my birthday. This year I decided upon a low-key affair that involved a couple of days of relaxing. I had lunch with my sister, brother-in-law, Oreo, and Buttercup. We ate at the yummy sushi buffet place 5 minutes from my house. Here are some photos . . . Thankfully enough, there will be further celebration with friends as this week progresses, and so, the fun is not over by any means. However, I did want to take a look back at the year that was . . . It was my year of audacity and one for the history books. Last August, I had assembled what would be the first full band I had EVER played in. It included Ben Wilson on base and David Sutton on drums. We had our first show together at The Rutledge on September 14. I spent much of August and September of 2008 putting the finishing touches on my first album of music "Seahorses". Fine-tuning the graphics and artwork, listening to the final mastered mixes, and lending my final approval to every last, nerve-wracking detail. It was, arguably, one of the most daunting projects I had ever taken on--throwing myself headfirst into something I had never ever done before. It all took about a year and a half, through various stops and starts, to finish. But, alas, it was done!!! I played several shows last fall and did heavy promotion for my first CD Release show that took place on December 2 at 3rd and Lindsley. I had built a seven piece ensemble, myself included, to perform at the event. It was insane, but we somehow pulled it all off . . . So, my album was manufactured and done. Digital versions were being sold online everywhere. I had finally accomplished all that I had set out to do. For the rest of my life, I have this album to share, sell, and enjoy. It is one of many monuments I am so proud of having built. In February, Oreo, Buttercup, and I got to visit Seattle. This was DEFINITELY a highlight for the year. I got to see some old friends and make some new ones. There was a ton of great food and lots of laughter. We had a blast . . . . I also had fun shows at some wonderful venues like Pura Vida's Gypsy Lounge, The Basement, Cafe Coco, Manifest Discs, The Rutledge, 3rd and Lindsley, and the Persacon Anime conference in Decatur, Alabama. I've met so many kind and wonderful people this past year and have been so blessed to have done all that I have. Other notable events: This was my first full year of blogging, and I really love it. I can look back on all of this many years from now and smile gleefully. Thanks to my sister Leth, I learned how to knit this year. Thus began a whole new obsession for me . . . Watched my niece and nephews grow up before my very eyes. It's been magical . . . So, now, I am thinking about the year to come. Have you ever been reading a book and you get to a new chapter with a feeling that something significant is about to happen? I have that feeling, and I am not sure why. Perhaps a new sequence of events will change me . . . Maybe it will be a sea change or a seemingly minor one whose monstrous tremors will be felt years from now . . . Maybe somewhere a cupid is taking aim at someone unsuspecting . . . Who knows? I'll be looking back this time next year, and I will know what happened. In any case, I have various plans nonetheless, and I hope to have another amazing year somehow. May the best be yet to come . . . -gordo