✍️ Letters to an Aspiring PM

Sorry I'm late, I had to find myself first

August 31, 2022

Dear reader,

I’m sorry I’m late writing to you.

I should have brought this project to life years ago.

What held me back? I thought it was a bunch of things - not enough time in the day, or not having the right skills to build the site, not knowing what to write about, not having the network to share it with.

Turns out it was actually myself.

You see, I have trouble getting out of my own way. I’ve not shipped a side project in nearly a decade, and I’d been using this one as a catch-all for wanting to become a ‘maker’ again. That meant putting all the pressure on myself to re-learn modern programming for the web, as well as implement a beautiful design I loved, as well as becoming a domain expert, content author, and social media strategist - all at once.

Because I felt there was so much to learn, I only focused on consuming information. I lost myself in endless input, never moving to the output stage. And so, this project never got off the ground.

But why did I impose all those constraints on myself?

Well, I brought some baggage with me to this project. I have a degree in computer science, and I thought I should be capable of refreshing my technical skills on my own. In light of the ‘solopreneur’ movement, I thought I should be able to do the whole thing completely independently. But I was embarrassed to talk about the project when I had no results to show for it.

And what right do I even have to share advice about product management? I thought I would be judged, laughed at or ridiculed.

Ironically, keeping it all to myself meant nobody could help me get out of my own way, because they had no idea what I was up to. So I hid in a corner, comfortable that I didn’t have to start until I felt fully ready.

I wonder if you’ve ever gotten stuck like this before?

Maybe you’re just starting on your own product journey. Maybe you’re thinking about a change, but haven’t taken the first step to act on it yet. Maybe you don’t feel ready either.

Truth is, I’m still not ready. Part of me is still afraid of everything I just mentioned. But I’m learning to dance with that fear instead of letting it stop me in my tracks.

I took some steps to de-emotionalize the decision to start. What is this project really for? I’m not writing letters to myself - I’m writing them for you, dear reader. And the longer I sat on them, the longer I delayed any chance of making a connection with you.

Me ‘feeling like a maker’ again was always a secondary objective. And yet, the quickest way to feel like a maker again is to ship something! What I had to figure out was how to get a ‘minimum viable product’ out the door. Of all the things I thought I needed to do myself, what really needed to be done before launch?

Turns out, not that much:

Image of a decision tree

Mapping it out rationally, I realized that the content of these letters mattered the most. I didn’t want to keep you waiting any longer than you already have been. Everything else could come eventually if I started there.

If you have a product you’re trying to bring to life, don’t sit on that idea watching the world pass you by. It’ll fill you with disappointment, and envy, when you see others doing what you wish you already had.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

Us product people can get in our own heads, or feel like we’re in over our heads. Embarrassed by how little we know. Worried that the quality of our work will expose us.

I can tell you now, by the fact that you’re reading this letter, it’s possible to overcome those demons. This site is far from perfect, but you’re finally reading it, and that’s what matters. My hope is that in reading these letters, you’ll realize, like I did, that you already have everything you need inside of you to get started and take the lead.

Remember, late is better than never. Good enough is better than perfect. Today is better than someday. We code these simple ideas in the jargon of product management - lean, iterative, minimum viable - and they become opaque to us over time.

I’m guessing you already know what needs to be done. And I say you’re already more than capable. You just have to get out of your own way.

Summon the courage to start. Move from input to output, and put your work out there. Even if it’s unfinished, even if it’s not ready. Trust me, it’s a liberating feeling once you do. Your demons will rest at bay. You’ll stand taller. And you’ll start becoming the kind of person you want to become.

Let me know if you need a hand getting started. Don’t make my mistake, thinking you shouldn’t reach out. I want to help you make the leap. On behalf of all the people out there you’re about to help.



Sean K. Gabriel
Thanks for the read 👋
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