David Heinemeier Hansson

October 24, 2022

Move the needle or move on

Don’t continue to waste your attention on projects that can’t be deemed a success by the naked eye. The more sophisticated you have to be to tell whether there's a positive effect, the less likely it is to be worth the effort. Spend your energy where it’s plain as day when it works.

This doesn’t mean instantly bailing if immediate effects aren't forthcoming. Lots of things worth doing take a while before they pay off. It’s fine to grant analytical amnesty for weeks, months, or even longer still. But pick a proportionate time in the future when you'll make the call. Then stick to it.

Many businesses waste an inordinate amount of time chasing projects of improvement that require a statistical microscope to detect. These "improvements" then accumulate until you have a bag full of feathers that still weigh a ton. And the more such micro improvements you collect, the greater the odds that the big picture drifts away.

There's no shame in trying something, seeing that it doesn't make enough of a difference to continue, and then letting it go. In fact, it's a virtue of the scientific method that we don't nurture all our failed hypotheses until the end of days. 

The only way to make mental space for new ideas, new experiments, and new possibilities is to let go of mediocre ideas, unfulfilling experiments, and disappointing actualities.

Stop hoarding the insignificant.

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.