"I could do better"

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“I could do better.”

One of my pet peeves. Full disclosure, this is me ranting for an entire blog post.

I was having a conversation with my family members after dinner. The conversation drifted towards (for some reason) Mexican drug cartels. Mostly in the technical sense, where they are able to smuggle drugs across the border in a bunch of novel fashions. Including, but not limited to, submarines, drones, inside of vehicles, etc. A fascinating case in engineering ingenuity. But then he said:

“I could do better.”

I said, could you? Could you really?

Because with unlimited time and resources, sure, I’m sure anyone could “do better”. In this case, however, it’s a cat and mouse game. Better techniques of detecting where the drugs are hiding are used, and the cartels have to come up with another way to smuggle drugs. But could you really, “do better”? If your goal (as a cartel) is to make as much money as possible, your solution doesn’t need to be 90% good. It doesn’t even need to be 50% good. It just needs to work enough to move enough volume to make a profit. Sometimes that’s a fast and dirty solution, and sometimes you burn ever being able to use that solution ever again. But what is “your” solution? How would you perform this task, or any task for that matter, given the constraints? And why haven’t you done it yet? (also, drugs are bad and this is not an endorsement k thanks)

The point of this post is not to talk about drug cartels, but about “doing better”.

You always hear people say they can do better, but where are the results?

Another example. When Facebook first came out, I remember a bunch of people on the internet saying, “oh, I could build that”. Okay, and? Where is your Facebook? People are STILL trying to build new social networks today! And failing, might I add. Facebook, nowadays, has a 15 year head start, so it’s a little harder. But, at least they did it (even if it’s not good). What about all the people who claim that they can do it, and have nothing to show for it?

I see this all the time at work as well. People in meetings all day. I don’t know what they do. They talk and talk and talk. Nothing comes out. Where are the results? What exactly is it you do all day?

My pet peeve is when people complain about something rather than doing something about it. YOU say you can build a better Facebook. Cool. Show me that you can do it. You don’t need to prove anything to me. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, actually. But saying “yeah, I could do it” without actually doing it is a waste of everyone’s time. Who are you kidding?

Complaints are in the same vein. And I get it, sometimes you just need to complain to complain. And it’s healthy to get it out. But actionable complaints, like this door always squeaks (lubricate hinges or replace parts) or this room is too hot (turn on the A/C or get a fan) always kind of get on my nerves a bit. There is a solution here? Just do it? Nobody said it would be cheap, easy, or quick…but there is a solution. If you just sit there and complain, and do nothing about it then nothing will be accomplished, and you’ll just be upset.

This goes without saying of course (but I’m going to say it anyway) that this applies to me as well. I’m staring at my ever growing list of project ideas and, I want to get to all of them, but there is not nearly enough time in the world to do them all. There’s one on there that has existed for about 7 years…and it’s still not done. And I know this. But it frustrates me to not have any progress to show for these projects. So, I try to do something about it. Every now and then I’ll pick up a project and do something about it. Learn a new tech stack. Refresh design patterns. Redesign a layout. Write some documentation. Do SOMETHING to show some progress. And you should too.

I increasingly find myself looking at my project list and going, yeah, I could do a little prototype this weekend. And I end up enjoying the time I spent doing it. Getting some progress done on the project is a bonus! It’s much easier to stomach a large project if you can bite off a little bit at a time, well, at some point it’ll start to look like something, and maybe that’ll motivate you to keep going. I’ve found that the closer it looks like to an actual “thing” the more motivated I am to work on it.

Saying things is good, it gets the idea verbalized and on it’s way to a full on result. And, it’s an easy way to get a sanity check. Do an elevator pitch. Whatever it is. But the important follow up step that a lot of people or companies seem to forget is the actual part where you follow up on what you said you would do. So many companies push out some boilerplate statement when big events happen. But do we really need Gatorade telling us that racism is bad? And, ok, yes, Gatorade, I agree with you - but what are you going to do about it? (according to their tweet, they donated money - good!) But what about all of the other brands? Why are you, The Brand, making this statement? To get kudos? If you don’t actually back your words with actions, you will forever be remembered as the company who made a big deal out of something only to use it as a marketing opportunity. The same goes for pride month when every single brand turns their logo into a rainbow. Cool. That does nothing. (In fact, in some cases they still contribute against those causes because it helps their bottom line) In fact, a bigger marketing opportunity would be to NOT change your avatar, and then putting out a statement with proof that you donated some amount of money to organizations that help the cause. People are tired of hearing about it, but if you actually did something about it, they’ll go, oh! Great! Not every moment has to be a good marketing opportunity. Just sayin'.

YOU SAY you’re going to build the next big thing. And you keep saying it but nothing to show for it. Cool. Show us something. Anything. A sketch, a roadmap, something.

YOU SAY you’re going to clean your room eventually. Same. Let us know when it’s done.

YOU SAY you’re going to increase moderation and help your users. Cool. Show us that you did it.

YOU SAY you’re going to support your creators. Cool. Show us when you’ve done it.

YOU SAY you’re going to push diversity and inclusion. Cool. Do it.

YOU SAY you support racial equality and justice. Great. Show us what you did to help.

Actions speak louder than words.

Don’t tell. Show results.

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