David Heinemeier Hansson

July 20, 2023

Don't lose your unreasonable sense of urgency

Getting anything new off the ground usually requires a tremendous amount of urgency. It's hard to launch something  from nothing into reality without being incredibly impatient for progress. Thus most founders begin đŸŽ¶Their JourneyđŸŽ¶ sprinting from one pressing problem to the next in rapid succession to achieve their lift off. But reaching escape velocity doesn't guarantee you'll keep going, unless you retain the propulsion from an unreasonable sense of urgency.

Yet the irony of being successful in business is that it'll invariably attract smart people who can tell you all the good reasons for why you can no longer go as quickly as you once did. Why it's actually natural, perhaps even good, that a company ten or a hundred times the size of what it was when it first became successful now has to travel at half the pace to be prudent.

Don't listen too closely. Not because they'll be wrong in any narrow technical sense, but because they're wrong in the broad directional sense. The risk of succumbing to the rigor mortis of success is usually far greater than the risk of making a mistake by not considering and mitigating all possible bad outcomes up front.

It's the risk of mandating everyone put on a bike helmet, only to realize that doing so means fewer people will bike, leading to worse health outcomes for all. Being obsessive about specific, short-term risks often sits in opposition to worrying about fuzzy, long-term risks.

And nobody will be as motivated as a founder to inject risk into the business. Sticking with an unreasonable sense of urgency undoubtedly comes with clear and immediate risks. But giving up on it with even worse, less defined ones.

So don't give up. Every company needs to have someone asking why we can't launch next Monday instead of next month. Willing to accept and underwrite the risks needed to make it happen. And with a stomach for occasionally being wrong, eating the loss, but keep playing.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.