Having trouble starting? Limit yourself.

3 min read

May 17, 2022

Pocket operator 33

I have been talking about starting to mess around with making music for a long time. Typically me "prepping" for getting started would be watching tutorials online of FL studio, cool synthesizers, etc. and then going to Amazon to checkout what I could buy.

Eventually I would get a bit of sticker shock at the souped up synthesizer I would have no idea how to use and my music career would end there. Maybe I would add it to my cart, but never really farther than that. It all felt a bit daunting and a lot to learn.

This is before I stumbled on some of the pocket operators from Teenage Engineering. They are credit card sized tools that you can actually make music on. The form factor is super small and there are just buttons and 2 knobs on the front. It even takes just 2 AAA batteries so you can just throw a couple batteries in it and get started. It's the fastest way of going from nothing to something even if it sucks. I opened up the package of my PO-33 and in less than 5 seconds I was hitting buttons and making different sounds.

It took limiting my form factor for me to actually start making something. Sure I'm probably not going to make stadium quality house anthems on the thing but it provides me a launching pad to learn, mess around, and more importantly have fun.

There is a lot of similarities here with getting started on any type of project. Let's take an app for example. If you write down everything you want the final stage of your app to be the list is going to be huge. So big in fact it might stop you from getting started.

This is why most people talk about just starting with an "MVP", or minimum viable product. Essentially this means the minimum amount of features it takes to launch your tool or app. I love this approach but even then you can often be adding too much for a full MVP. Features like authentication, teams, or a fully fleshed out user interface feel required but actually aren't. You can launch something without all of these things and immediately get feedback or just get your idea out there.

I forget this mantra all of the time. I tend to always overbuild and want to have just that one extra feature that will really "set my app apart" from the others. In reality it leads to me not shipping anything or losing my motivation and stalling a project.

Try to limit your form factor in whatever you are getting started with. If it's code maybe go no code or use discipline to only go for the absolute basics. Hell, maybe even don't allow yourself to do any CSS as a challenge to ship. If it's a new hobby or something you want to learn, find the fastest way to dive headfirst into what you want to do. A lot of times diving in can feel scary, but it's better than never even getting started.