I’ve been thinking a lot about the term shipping lately.
Shipping has become very popular when it comes to product launches, and I think the idea of shipping is a good one in principle.
It was through the work of Seth Godin that I first heard how shipping can relate to your work. I’ve spent some time re-reading what he meant by that because I’ve seen a lot of talk about shipping – and I’ve seen a lot of shipping done over the years of things that weren’t necessarily ready to be shipped. Now Godin may have said that shipping is something you should do unabashedly, but I am certain he isn’t saying to ship for the sake of shipping. He’s said that it’s key to focus on the goal of shipping, beating aside any resistance that you may come across along the way. He’s said that it’s fine to ship something that isn’t 100%, but he’s also said to work on making it better over time so that you can get closer to that mark. He’s used the term to great effect and has made it matter more than ever before for creatives and entrepreneurs alike.
But I think that shipping as it is being executed isn’t exactly how it was initially proposed.
Shipping vs. Delivering
The definition of ship, at its root, is to send. The definition of deliver, at its root, is to do. The goal should be to spend time and energy on the action – the doing – rather than the sending. The sending should only come after you’ve done the work, which is something Steven Pressfield has written about a great deal.
If you dive deeper into the definitions of both words, delivering is defined as to do what you say you will do or what people expect you to do : to produce the promised, wanted, or expected results. Shipping, when explored deeper, still means to send.
With those definitions in mind, would you rather ship or would you rather deliver?
Godin’s definition of shipping ultimately means delivering. When I examined what he’s written about closely, I believe the reason he uses shipping as a trigger as opposed to delivering is because shipping is quantitative and delivering is qualitative. You can measure what you ship far easier than what you deliver.
That’s also why we tend to focus on time over task – time is measurable numerically while tasks are more subjective…and more challenging to measure as a result.
People Delivering the Goods
Godin’s use of the word shipping has resonated with many people. Jeff Goins is one of them. But Jeff doesn’t just ship, he delivers. And he delivers time and time again. He crafts quality and it shows in everything he puts out into the world. He doesn’t focus on quantity first and quality second, which is what can tend to happen when you want to ship. He tackles it from the inverse, focusing on quality over quantity. That’s why he delivers.
Gretchen Rubin is an author who is best known for her book The Happiness Project, but it's her sixth book that I think is the one that will stand the test of time. It's called The Four Tendencies and her work within its pages seems to reflect a deeper understanding of the human condition in a way that's never been as accessible before. Gretchen really dwelled on this book for a long time before delivering it... and it shows. And while she has continued to write on new topics and returning to the topics of her previous books, there's just something about The Four Tendencies that has staying power above all else. And that's a good thing because I've found the "all else" to be excellent work as well.
David Sparks is another friend of mine who puts out an enormous amount of work, and it is top notch stuff. His MacSparky Field Guides really make great use of the iBooks platform, and with every release he ups his game and takes iBooks publishing to a whole new level. One particular effort, Presentations, is another marvellous achievement. Not only does it stretch the limits of the iBooks platform, but it stretches David’s work into new areas that I’ve not seen before. He’s found a great balance between the tools and the tactics that only a human can implement. He’s crafted an exquisite guide, one that extends his brand in both consistency and audience. With Presentations, David Sparks didn’t just ship – he delivered.
Maria Popova has been delivering the goods at Brain Pickings since 2006. Through a midweek email, thoughtful articles that propel readers (like me) to dig deeper into the topics that the subjects of her posts explore, Brain Pickings somehow slows down my day and gently guides me into a state of reading flow. The writing is high quality and the consistency is unreal across the board. Whenever a Brain Pickings articles infiltrates my Facebook News Feed I immediately gravitate towards it. I'm never disappointed when that happens, either.
Making the Shift
So…how do you shift your focus from shipping to delivering?
First off, you need to recognize that what Seth Godin was saying isn’t that you should ship without care. Once you decide that you want to ship well and yet still ship (aka deliver), then you’re well on your way.
The second thing that will help you really deliver instead of simply shipping – as I discuss in my TEDx talk How to Stop Time – is to focus on the task at hand over the time you have on hand. Let the task govern your effort as opposed to letting time rule your effort. When you allow yourself to think task over time, then quality will precede quantity.
So the next time you’re ready to ship something – whether it is something as simple as a blog post or as comprehensive as a product – ask yourself if you are simply getting something out the door or delivering something to the world that you’re proud of creating. Once you start doing that, you’ll start to build the reputation of someone who doesn’t ship just anything. You’ll start to be known as someone who delivers something special.