MVPs work for business. Why couldn’t they work for your life?
The brilliance of MVPs is the philosophy behind them: build something, release a tiny piece of it, and see what happens. Why build the whole idea when you have no clue if it even matters?
I had an idea for an online course a few years ago. I released the course and not many people bought it. Then a year after I partnered with a friend and released another online course. That one flopped too and I gave everybody’s money back. One dude cracked it at me, but it was all over with one email.
I then decided to release another course this year. This time I did one thing differently: I crowdsourced a person to work with. They were nicknamed in different circles “the A/B King.” Their testing approach to life was too tempting to avoid.
“ So dude, you want to test an idea for an online course? This isn’t my first time.”
A week later we asked people what their problems were (not what course they would buy). Then we put up a sales page with a course outline that took 30 minutes to write and addressed the exact problems from the survey. We literally copy and pasted bits and pieces from the questions we asked and the responses we collected.
The MVP of the course got released and it did better than expected. We quickly got together and put the course together. Nobody has an issue with waiting 2 weeks to get the product. We didn’t release all the lessons either.
We drip-fed the lessons to the students so we could get more feedback in realtime. The highlight? People loved the dog sitting next to my co-teacher. People also loved it when I went blank while filming the course.
I was then at home doing my 9–5 work. Something hit me: everything I do is an MVP. What if you treat every area of your life like an MVP?
Your life is a series of experiments.
When you have an idea you don’t know right away whether it has any value. An MVP is an experiment.
The point of the philosophy is you test ideas, release them, and get feedback before you’re finished. If you build up one area of your life and then take the time to look back, you might be shocked. The outcome you think you’ll get is rarely the one that’s delivered. You might think this is bad. It’s not.
Getting the outcome you didn’t ask for can lead to beautiful results.
I never intended to be a writer until a random person asked me to write, and I transcribed podcast episodes that were too crap to publish on iTunes. Writing was an experiment.
The first blog post was an MVP. After several blog posts on different topics, I settled for personal development, and later, entrepreneurship and personal finance. Experiments are best when they’re tiny.
The goal isn’t to get what you think you want. It’s to test an idea and see where it leads.
Getting started unlocks momentum.
Treating different areas of your life like an MVP helps you build momentum. You get focused on starting, releasing, and re-developing rather than getting stuck in thought.
Thoughts only have power when they turn into something.
A thought kept in your head that has value is selfish. Release it and see what happens. Most of your thoughts will go nowhere. A few thoughts will go somewhere and change how you view your life.
MVP = action-first thinking.
Don’t go all-in. Go in just far enough.
An MVP approach to your life is about going far enough to measure a result, as opposed to going all-in and struggling to get out again.
If you want to change your line of work you can experiment with doing it for free as an MVP. If you want to fall in love then you can treat a new relationship as an MVP. If you want to travel the world, but have never left your hometown, then you can travel a short distance first to see if you like it.
When I was terribly afraid of flying I treated the fear like an MVP. I flew one hour to Sydney first to see what would happen. Then I flew to the Gold Coast to see if anything changed. Then I left the country and flew to New Zealand. Then I went all the way to China, and even rural China.
Before I knew it my hypothesis about my fear of flying was validated: it was incorrect. If I’d flown straight from Melbourne to China then everything would have collapsed. I needed the MVPs in-between to validate my goal.
Far enough is good enough until you have tested your idea as an MVP and received feedback.
Your life as an MVP vs MLP.
Silicon valley had to ruin MVP. They created MLP: Minimum Loveable Product. MVP means you tolerate the result. MLP means you seek passion immediately from the first version.
I find MVP easier to utilize. If I demand passion from an outcome right away, I usually set expectations that are way too high and end up disappointed. Tolerating an idea is a more helpful way to start.
If you can live with an idea, you can learn to love it over time as you keep working towards your goal.
If you demand idea sex on the first date you’ll probably walk away completely shot to pieces.
It pays not to be romantic when you experiment with your life. Test out ideas and see where they lead. Like my online course, your first attempt will probably be terrible. It’s the subsequent attempts that lead you towards your goal. The beauty of an MVP is the surprise results you get.
Your life is more spontaneous and interesting when you treat each area of your life as a Minimum Viable Product you’re seeking to release, gain feedback, and re-release, over and over.
Thinking about your life like a software engineer building an app can be a useful way to detach from seeking perfection.
Each area of your life is never complete, and that’s spectacular.