Jason Fried

August 25, 2022

Tossing a key

This weekend I was riding my stationary exercise bike when I noticed a sharp poke in my pocket.

I reached in, pulled out a house key, and looked for a place to put it. But since I was on a bike, there's really no where for it to go other than not here.

So I tossed it on the ground, broadly aiming — without accuracy or expectations of precision — towards a small pile of personal affects on the ground a few feet from the bike. It bounced once, and miraculously stuck the landing on top of my Airpods case. A perfect 10.

For a second there I was proud of myself. Look what I did! But a moment later, that glow flickered out and reality set in — it was just luck, pure chance. And there's no fucking way I could do that again. And, further, even contemplating that I could do it again would be delusional.

In fact, had I tried again, I'd try too hard. Any trying would be too hard. You've probably had a similar experience with something else. You don't even think about it and it works out. You try, it doesn't. You try harder, it really doesn't.

I had no expectations of that key landing comfortably on that Airpod case. And it's because I had no expectations that it was possible.

Then I jump cut to another thought... This is just like business.

We land where we land. Trying too hard narrows the desirable outcomes.

Expectations are the enemy here — they limit the number of great landing spots, and make the idealized one impossibly hard. Relax your expectations, and hundreds of positive possibilities open up.

When you don't go in with expectations, you almost always come out ahead. It's better to have a wide gaze, point in a general direction, do your best, and just see what happens.

The distinction is subtle, but it's there nonetheless. Don't try to run a business, just run a business.

About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.