The meaning of a Personal Project

Sandro Maglione

Sandro Maglione

Free thinking

It is an odd feeling. There is not much to rationalize about it. No real metrics of success. No recognition. No money.

What this is all about is learning. Satisfaction. A sense of inner reward that pushes you hours and hours on it. When it is done, you know you made it. You know you are different from when you started. Nothing really changes. Nonetheless, you sense you changed; a sense of accomplishment, reward, and victory.

I am talking about working on a personal project. A real personal project. The kind of project that hooks you real bad.

How was it born, really?

You usually does not know. You don't know when it's started, you don't really know why.

One day you decide that spending 1-2 hours exploring something new would be worthwhile. As time passes, you discover more and more exciting ideas. You know what, I will take a look at it also tomorrow.

And then that feeling starts to creep in. You start fidgeting. What was that I read? How could I solve that problem? Can I really wait until tomorrow, what if I forgot the answer or I lose interest?

Going deeper

The cycle is started. No more consideration goes along with it. You simply start spending more and more hours on it. No planning, no requirements, just a vision.

You wake up thinking about the time you are going to spend on it. You already know what's the next move, the next step, the next problem to fix, the next challenge to solve.

As time goes by, the project starts taking shape. It is no more an embryo, it is alive and it has potential. The initial setup is over. Now it comes the fun part, the one you cannot escape.

Vision

You can already feel that something changed. Hours have gone by and you have learned a ton. You achieved feats you could not believe possible on the onset. You start asking yourself, where could this thing arrive? Could it be the next great thing?

You fall even more deeply into the funnel. Now it is no more about you. The project can evolve, grow, it can be shared. This means that some changes are required. It must be adapted to the big world. More hours. More thoughts. More learning.

Complexity

In this step, the line reaches a plateau. The project is growing in complexity, it becomes more difficult to manage and expand. You realize how much you learned when you start looking back at the beginning and think: "Oh man, I could have done this thing so much better if only I knew what I know now".

The excitement is losing ground. This is the most crucial moment in the lifecycle of the project. Is it really something that you are going to complete? Do I really want to make this thing work?

This is were the greats arise. This is were you get things done. Are you going to quit?

It is not perfect, but it works

As time passes, you fall down even more in the curve of excitement. The slope is different from person to person. It is all about keeping up your motivation.

Unfortunately, this is were many projects stops. Many of this bright ideas will never see the light.

In order to reach the end, you must start to compromise. You realize that not all the details can be fixed, and there is no such thing as perfection.

So you start patching the most important features. You want this thing to be complete. You want to see it walk on its own legs. Success does not matter anymore, it is all about getting it done.

Completion

And finally, as brisk as it started, it finishes. You do not know why. You just sense that the project became good enough to be labeled as 'completed'.

You made it. Sadly not many projects reach this step. It does not matter how good it is. It works, it can be used, it can be shared.

So you do share it. Someone will look at it. Maybe someone will enjoy it. After some time it will fade away gracefully.

Anyhow, you are satisfied with yourself. You can look yourself in the mirror and say "I made it".

Looking back

The very last phase is reflection. You look back and think about what has happened. You just spent many hours working on this project. You were able to complete it and release it. It was not the great gamechanger that you envisioned. And yet.

What this project was really about has nothing to do with anyone else. You suddenly and subtly realize that what really changed is you. You learned, you experimented, you practiced. You were happy and excited. You woke up every day with purpose, with a goal to look for.

That is the meaning of personal projects. There is simply no better wait to learn. Learn fast and thoroughly. Learn to manage things on your own. Learn all the mistakes you made at the beginning that you would not have made at the end.

Does it make sense? Have you ever experienced a real personal project? You should try it.

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