Do It Again

I was at a conference today doing Guerrilla marketing (we showed up
and were randomly approaching people on the expo floor), and I
realized one of the important principles of succeeding at a startup
and at life. I have been doing this for a while in other areas of my
life, but had never formalized it. I can simply sum it up as "do it
again." In short, whatever you are doing, do it one "bonus time"
before you give up. If you're going to call it a day, follow up with
one more customer. Build one more feature. Do one more thing.

In today's case, I was pitching a product. I would approach a
customer, do a short pitch, and hand them a sticker. A couple of times
during the day, I had to go to the bathroom or to get a snack. On the
way to the break, I had to find and pitch one more customer. Often
times, that pitch would go surprisingly well, and I could feel good
about taking a break. Even if it didn't, I had still accomplished my

The Theory
This tactic works well for a number of reasons. First of all, there is
a motivation to do that last pitch (getting to go home/to lunch/to the
bathroom), so you are inspired to do it. In addition, we seem to be
motivated to quit at a high note. To get optimal efficiency, you
always want to push yourself just a little farther than that high

I view any practice session as kind of a bell curve. The first few
times you do something in a day, you are rusty, or maybe you don't
have the skillset down. After you do it for a while, you start to
rapidly get into the zone, and your performance improves. Then you
peak, and it levels off. This is typically where you first want to
quit. You feel good about yourself (validated), and don't need to keep
going. If you keep pushing yourself, apathy and fatigue sets in, and
you start to fade slowly, and then quickly. Finally, it starts to
level off as your performance approaches zero.

So where do you want to quit? Most people quit at one of two places.
At the top or the bottom. I would argue that neither is the correct
place. if you quit at the top, you feel great about yourself, but you
have untapped potential (half of the bell curve). If you quit at the
bottom, you maximize your potential for that day, but you probably
damage your self-confidence. The next time you try, you will remember
the hard part at the end, and this will damage your performance.
Obviously it depends on what you are doing - if you are pitching at a
once-a-year conference, you might want to go all-out to fatigue. But
if you're going to do this again tomorrow or next week, this may be

My System
Here's my system for figuring out where to quit. You wait until you
hit the first point where your brain tells you it's time to quit. At
this point, you come up with a count. Typically not a high number (I
usually do one or two, although in some rare cases it will be five or
ten). You tell yourself that these are just bonuses, and that if they
don't come out as expected, who cares? At this point, you force
yourself to do that many more iterations of whatever you are doing. As
soon as these are finished, you quit (regardless of the outcome). If
you do this correctly, you should still feel good about yourself, and
you shouldn't feel burned out. The first iteration should be about as
good as the peak, and the second iteration should be slightly worse
(but still pretty good).