How does anything in the world get started? Simply, it takes an idea plus execution. Of course the gap between idea and execution can be wider than the Ganges, which is why the majority of our ideas never make it off the cutting room floor. If you’re like me then you may be guilty of being a serial dreamer, of both the day and night persuasion, with ideas ranging from the absurdly ludicrous to the potentially lucrative (often simultaneously depending on the number of drinks in your system). These flit but for a moment before getting tossed unceremoniously into the ‘don’t quit your day job’ bin.
But sometimes an idea, more akin to an itch, refuses to go away despite our most valiant efforts to move on. I’ve had my own itch for what feels like a lifetime, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I actually allowed myself to scratch it (granted that imagery is a little disturbing). It started innocuously, I’d always wanted to start a website but it had seemed like a youthful fancy – something that would go away once I got a job and started focusing on the adult side of life. Well adult side is here and the itch has only gotten stronger over time. However the problem lay in not knowing exactly what I wanted the website to be about. A hodgepodge of ideas would coalesce into a mosaic that took the simple idea of: “I want to build a website” into: “I want to change the world”, a little more idealistic and harder to do.
That changed about a year ago when I had a moment of clarity – disparate ideas that had been forming over time were starting to make sense when linked together by a common thread. I had always loved to read, write, and learn about peoples’ paths and personal journeys – the how in ‘how did you end up this way?‘ I also realized particular stories stood out to me, ones that shone a light on the hard places and gave hope where none seemed left; stories of struggle, conquest, triumph, and sometimes failure – the prince doesn’t always win the princess, or the wonderland really is just a dream. More importantly, these stories told by incredible friends, especially women, were sources of personal transformation and strength.
This ultimately became the raison d’être for a website: a storytelling platform that would speak truth and provide hope for those seeking to find a light in the dark. And as a woman I wanted to share stories that are not necessarily unique to women, but would resonate with different groups of people and shed a unique perspective on our common values and struggles.
Perhaps a simple premise, but trust me, it took a lifetime to figure this out.
Now for the hard part: Execution
An idea is meaningless if not backed by execution. I spent months refining the concept and vocalizing my ideas with trusted friends to gauge receptivity and demand for the kind of content I wanted to publish. This not only gave me feedback but held me accountable, because knowing myself, I could talk up an empty storm with nothing to show for it. I immediately assembled a core team of men and women (the avengers) who I trust and respect because it’s more important to get the right people on the bus, even before knowing your destination.
Now my background is in economics, music, and a panoply of oddities, and as such I have no idea how to build a website. Thus I spent hours poring over blogs, asking the recommendations of peers, and looking at forums debating the virtues of this host and that. I signed up for test trials with multiple services, created faux websites, labored over design elements with no design acumen and finally pulled the trigger on a platform. I also started writing a lot more, building a discipline and soliciting constructive criticism for practice and refinement. All that to say that things were moving at a snail’s pace but they were finally moving.
More recently I listened to a start-up founder discuss their humble beginnings. At one point she said that if you aren’t embarrassed by your MVP (minimum viable product – aka the thing you build when you have no idea what you’re doing) then you’ve done something wrong. And while I didn’t want to insult people with our website, I fully recognized that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
All that to say, we finally pulled the trigger on That’s What She and it’s now something more than an idea that catalyzed at 4 AM on a random Saturday a year ago. And while it’s in very early stages, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I’m excited for where we’re going. I hope to use this space to share thoughts around progress, again to keep me accountable, but to also track the process from genesis to execution.
At this point what have I learned?
- Start small – By that I mean dream big but start small because execution is all about getting from 0 to 1. My dream is for TWS to become an international, multi-media platform for voices around the world to participate in constructive, fruitful dialogue. But that’s not going to happen until we create a website with content that grows over time. Getting from 1 to 10 or 10 to 100 is easy, but getting from 0 to 1 — that’s the most crucial, most difficult step. At the same time never ignore grandiose ideas because it’s far better (and more fun) to spend your life on making the impossible possible.
- Be observant – I’ve realized that all my experiences, relationships, investments and opportunities over time have been crucial to the genesis of That’s What She. The more I paid attention to my surroundings and absorbed what I was learning, the more those ideas would solidify over time and form patterns of retention. Those ideas and themes are ultimately the ones being used for TWS. Some of these are years old but it’s often the most valuable ideas that stay with you.
- Be (humbly) shameless – I’m Asian and it’s weird to talk about myself. But over the last year I’ve been more shameless about sharing the conviction and passion I have around That’s What She to friends and random strangers. But it’s not being boastful in my abilities, for I really have none, but in being humble, willing to receive feedback, and willing to share vulnerably and shamelessly about what I don’t know and where I’d like to improve. More importantly if you can’t shamelessly communicate why you believe in an idea there’s absolutely no way anyone else will believe in it.
I wrote on the idea of “living the bold life“, setting out on paths that may be unknown but absolutely necessary to living the life we were meant to lead. Having recently embarked on a new personal journey, I find myself staring down many unfamiliar paths with no defined endings. However, all I can say is that if I don’t start down one of them, it’s no one’s fault but my very own.
Curious about That’s What She? Check out our foundational letter and join the journey!