A friend pointed out that not everyone is quite as indoctrinated in Godin-isms and that it might be wise to define what it means to “ship”.
It’s been said the term has roots in a Steve Jobs quote, “real artists ship”, and the term was used heavily in Seth Godin’s book Linchpin.
The real depth of the term is a bit nuanced, and in a literal sense, it means to publish and put a project out in the world.
The importance of shipping stems from the experience creatives have as they approach a deadline, the growing fear of failure as a project nears completion.
It’s related to that resistance we feel. The part where our primitive survival brain tries to protect us by saying “this might not work”, “this might not be good enough” and other limiting beliefs.
This is what Seth calls “the lizard brain”, and what Steven Pressfield calls ‘the resistance” in his book The War of Art. It’s all about how to overcome resistance to putting your work in the world and just shipping it.
Here Seth describes the lizard brain and why it so energetically works to keep us from shipping:
“…the lizard brain, your prehistoric brain stem, the part of your brain that is responsible for revenge, fear, and anger. The lizard brain is eternally vigilant, trying to keep people from noticing you (which is dangerous). The lizard brain hates failure, and thus it hates creativity or the launch of anything that might make a fuss (which can lead to failure).”
Amazing ideas and incredible projects die at the hands of people who think just one more tweak, one more proofread, one more change is needed before putting that project out into the world. These people are paralyzed by the resistance and can’t ship.
You aren’t an artist until you can actually finish a project and publish it. Starting isn’t enough. It’s that follow through to the end that matters.
Creating and doing the work is hard, yes, but nothing compares to the difficulty many people have actually shipping. Actually publishing and deciding something is complete enough to share. Even if it sucks, which it might.
I have a folder full of unpublished blogs from the last year. I would have an idea, jot it down in a google doc and that was it. Never published, never shared. I told myself I would go back to it, fix it up, polish the idea to get it ready to ship. I never did. I never published them. I never shipped. The resistance won.
That’s why this project, I Shipped Today, is important. It’s about training yourself to be the kind of person who does the emotional labor required to ship. This ability to ship is the difference between success and failure. It very much is emotional labor, it’s not easy to get out of your own way and to silence your limiting self-talk.
It’s not easy to silence the lizard brain, the flight or fight part of the brain, the part that pushes back when we get close to shipping. When you ship, you silence the lizard brain. You beat the resistance and your ideas get out in the world. It’s not easy, but it’s very important.
I am shipping because I don’t want to create art for art’s sake; I want to do work that matters, that makes a difference in people’s lives. Not tomorrow, today.
I don’t want to let a project sit on the shelf, constantly tweaking and re-tweaking, vainly attempting to reach perfection.
I want to fall in love with “good enough.”
I want to stop giving in to the fear of failure.
I want to put something out there –even if it’s not “perfect”.
So, I am. I’m shipping.
p.s. here’s a great free asset to help you ship your project, Seth’s ShipIt Journal.