Where do you start work on a new project? At your desk, ha! But what do you work on first?
The obvious answer is to start at the beginning.
Build the foundation, write a placeholder page, make a hello world, then add the rest. This works. Easy task, gets the juices flowing, sets you up for future work.
But what if you aren't sure? What if there's a risk your project can't be done? What if you're training monkeys?
Start with that. Eat the frog as they say.
My favorite approach is to build a quick and dirty prototype of the hardest part of the project. Like when I started exploring OpenAI and ChatGPT – I didn't start with the routing navigation, beautiful styling, or even a webpage at all.
The first experiments looked like this:
Can OpenAI do what I want? What do API calls look like?
Then I tried out what Async React with NextJS 13 feels like. Can the new approach work for this? Do I like it? What happens when you summarize a whole bunch of papers at once?
Looks like shit but answers my question: this can work.
Starting easy builds momentum and that's fantastic productivity advice that works. Ask anyone.
Where it breaks down is training monkeys in a circus.
You know you can build a platform for monkeys to stand on. Plenty exist. You know you can build a flaming hoop for them to jump through. Plenty exist. You even know you can get a monkey.
But can you train the monkey to jump through the hoop? 🤔
Without the trained monkey, you have no spectacle. Nobody's gonna come watch a bunch of monkeys standing around a fire.
All that time spent building the platforms and the flames – wasted. Wouldn't you rather do the hard thing first?
PS: this analogy comes from the CEO of Google X, a research lab, via Quit, a great book by Annie Duke
I didn't even realize that was my approach until she spelled it out across 3 chapters 😆
Continue reading about Start coding at the point of least certainty
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