As a teenager I learned to program and it wasn't long before I had a directory filled with unfinished projects. Working on a large variety of projects is a great thing when you are first learning a language or framework. It helps you begin to recocognize patterns. Patterns that end up being useful when you start going deep on larger projects.
At first, switching context and working on multiple projects can be exciting. However, this desire to constantly start something new can interfere with bringing something truely useful into the world. You must finish what you start if it is ever going to become truely useful.
As I look back on 25 years and a graveyard of side projects that never saw the light of day, there is one common denominator of the successful ones: consistency. Somehow, I persevered through the grind in the middle of the project and managed to bring what I had wrought into the world.
Radiant CMS is a good example of this. It took me almost six months of full time work on the project before I was able to launch it. And it took many more months of work and collaboration with others to make it useful. A lot of what motivated me to work on Radiant was the belief that what I was doing was valuable. It hadn't been done before. The Ruby programming language did not have a good content managment system at the time. And beyond that I felt that other content management systems weren't quite getting the job done. There was something significant that I could add to the conversation.
This optimism about what I was doing motivated me to work on the project regularly and consistency led to something great.
Now, many years later, I've got the bug to do something significant again. I'm working on another side project. And while I don't have as much time as I did when I was single and in my twenties, I have experience on my side. What I'm bringing to this new project is an understanding that big things can be done by pushing the right things forward consistently over a long period of time.
The funny thing about this is how different it is from a lot of the advice you get in the startup world. There's a lot of emphasis on getting there first: moving fast and breaking things. And while I'm certainly not a fan of overengineering, the emphasis on speed and going big can sometimes make you think that significant things cannot be attempted by individuals and small teams working in their spare time.
Well, I'm here to tell you that this is simply not true. You can do something significant by simply plodding away with focus over a long period of time.
Focus and consisency can make the difference.