October 3

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Real Artists Ship: Steve Jobs’ remarkable advice is the kick in the ass you need

“Real artists ship.” If you want to be insanely productive and successful, these are three words you should take to heart.  

Let’s explore this in more detail: a while ago, I was talking to a coaching client, let’s call her Taylor (not her real name). Taylor was working on a number of different projects. When I asked her what was holding her back, she mentioned that she usually got her projects almost done and then abandoned them.

As Taylor was talking about how she usually handled projects, it reminded me of a runner who would enter a marathon, cover almost the complete distance, and then drop out a few meters (or a dozen feet) before the finish line.  

While almost nobody would do that during a marathon, when it comes to projects, people do this all the time. They give up just before reaching the finish line. They don’t ship.

And that’s where Steve Job’s powerful advice comes in: “Real artists ship.” According to Wikiquote, the phrase means that it is important to actually deliver. But let’s look at this in more detail. 

What does the saying “real artists ship” mean?

The phrase describes the difference between “real artists” who finish their projects and deliver on their ideas and “wannabe artists” who just tinker around.

Basically, it reminds us that it’s not just enough to have an idea… you also have to follow through on it and get it out into the world.

Why is it important to "ship" (get your project out into the world)? 

Before completion, the power of a project remains dormant. It is only through completion that that power gets unlocked.

Also, none of us has forever. That's why it's important to share your gifts as soon as possible.

I talk more about the importance of completing things in this brief video: 

(Side note: here's the book I'm referring to in the video.)

Let's explore how you can put this into practice: 

How to start "shipping" in 5 steps

Make a list of all your unfinished projects. 

Decide which of these you will complete and which you will let go of. 

Pick one project to finish first. If in doubt, pick the one that would make the biggest difference for your business or your life. If you're unsure what that is, just start with the first one on your list. (Here's how to overcome analysis paralysis.)

Finish the project and celebrate your accomplishment. 

Move on to the next project on the list. Don't start any new projects before finishing old ones. 

Be a real artist: stop playing around and start shipping

In his book, “West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer,” author Frank Rose includes a powerful description of a 1983 speech when Steve Jobs used that phrase:

“…real artists don’t hang on to their creations. Real artists ship. Matisse shipped. Picasso shipped. They were going to ship too.”–Frank Rose describing a speech by Steve Jobs

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As we all know, the people at Apple Computer shipped. In fact, you might be using products from them right now.

And while I’m not the biggest fan of Apple products, they definitely had follow-through. They were real artists.

The question is: are you? Leave me a comment below!

Want more support to get things done?

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