I think looking at accomplishment is a good angle, but there is more to it than just the choice of whether to ship. There is also whether you even get something ship-worthy made. Some people are able to create useful or complete things in new fields quickly, for a variety of reasons. Most people are not.
Good strategy here is very important – identifying low hanging fruit, picking projects big enough to be useful but small enough to complete, which use your relative strengths in the field. Identifying the summary that needs writing, the experiment that needs doing, the other field that hasn’t heard about this one but would benefit from it. Someone good at this will contribute more with the same amount of learning.
That whole comment is brilliant. Re-read it if you're skimming.
Identify low-hanging fruit, work on those, and that will aid in making something ship-worthy. Very good stuff.
I just posted a new article at Less Wrong - "Steps to Achievement: The Pitfalls, Costs, Requirements, and Timelines." This is a little bit longer and more dry than I write for my blog, but I think there's some very important things in here.
If you're interested in goals and achievement, there's quite a lot of meat here. I'm putting the full version up here and please feel very welcome to comment here on this topic, but also consider heading over to Less Wrong, grab a free account, and start participating there. As I described in "You Should Probably Study Rationality," it's a wonderful community.
Reply to: Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic
In "Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic," Anna Salamon outlined some ways that people could take action to be more successful and achieve goals, but do not:
Something I wrestle with from time to time is whether to focus on my strengths or my weaknesses. On one hand, weaknesses often represent the lowest hanging fruit. If I'm really bad at, say, programming, a small amount of effort can radically increase my abilities. If I was excellent at programming, that same amount of effort would produce negligible results. On the other hand, time spent by a skilled programmer will create usable work, whereas time spent as a poor programmer probably won't produce anything useful.
An interesting thing to consider is that where you spend your time will define who you are as a person. A person who spends all of his time on his strengths will be a very narrowly focused person. He gets good at something and keeps hammering away at it until he's an expert. He who spends time focusing on his weaknesses will have a very broad focus. He'll be fairly good at lots of little things, but not a true expert in any.
So which is better? Well, despite the impression I give in a lot of my writing, not everything has to be extreme. This is one of those cases where an optimal path may lie somewhere in the middle.
For most of my life I've been way on the side of working on my weaknesses. I was terrible with girls, so I became a pickup artist (but quit before I got as good as people like Mystery, Style, Tyler, etc.). I made no money, so I became a professional gambler. Even though I spoke passable Spanish and Chinese, I switched to learning Japanese. I had never traveled, so I spent a year going everywhere. Whenever I saw a big weakness, I would dive into it head on. Once I cross that "decent" threshhold, I'd back off and start something new.