Over the past few days I have been really enthused by the prospect of making a great, simple, task management site. Ever since the engineering team at work became very task-and-deadline oriented, my co-workers and I have been using a shared Google Notebook containing a list of tasks with deadline dates to keep track of things.
The Google Notebook wasn't designed specifically for tasks, so naturally I started thinking of a different solution. I wanted something that would allow us to manage our tasks online, but that would also maintain the extreme simplicity of the way we used Google Notebook. So before even entertaining the idea of working on building such a site, I did some really quick Googling and concluded there was nothing out there even similar to what I wanted.
But in the following days I did some more research. Online task management seemed like such a obvious online tool and I couldn't believe there weren't any good sites out there doing it already. The first online task management site I came across was UseTasks.com. It has lots of nice features, but they charge a fee and after trying the demo I concluded there were simply too many features.
"Good," I thought to myself, "I have an opportunity to make a great, free task management site!" So I decided on a name and registered the domain TaskZen.com. Then almost by accident I discovered Toodledo.com, RememberTheMilk.com, HiTask.com... the list goes on! Tons of great, free task management sites that were relatively simple to use! I couldn't help but feel discouraged. Only a few days earlier I ran into a similar discouraged feeling when I discovered NoteSake.com.
Why was this happening?! I have great ideas, I register good looking domains, I start jotting down killer features that I believe will make the site popular, and then I discover someone else has already done it all and feel I will be wasting my time by "reinventing the wheel". I browse the sites and while using the very features I imagined I would be the first to develop and make popular, I can't help but feel discouraged when I realize how much time and effort I will need to put into creating my own version of the same feature. I was almost ready to throw in the towel and give up. Almost.
Then I realized something: It is the competitive mind that is making me feel discouraged about following through with my own ideas of a great online tool. Prior to learning of the existence of similar online tools, the creative mind was in full swing, dreaming of features which would make my online tool useful and helpful to the largest audience possible.
The only reason I was able to quickly make this distinction between the competitive and creative mind was because I recently read a great book about getting rich which talked about them (I won't tell you the name of the book yet; that's for another post). So I knew I needed to get back into the creative mind; I needed to stop thinking about the competition and focus on how my version of the online tool will be useful for me and helpful to others. I briefly made this conclusion when I discovered NoteSake a few days ago, but discovering dozens of online task sites really tested my ability to switch modes of thinking.
My ideas for TaskZen were similar but not exactly identical to the other sites. Oddly enough, when I registered TaskZen I wrote the domain on the whiteboard in my apartment and circled it. Then I wrote down the very first idea for the site that came to mind. It was one word: "Simple". When I started consciously changing my thinking from competitive to creative, I realized that one word is what makes my idea unique. All the other task management sites are full of features which made using them slow down productivity, with some of them plain frustrating (like the Toodledo not having a delete option available by default).
While reading the word "Simple" on the whiteboard and making these realizations about competitive and creative mind states, another domain I had written on the board, CORBAWeb.com, gave me a perfect example of non-competitive thinking. I registered that domain to eventually replace Akmai.net as the publicly visible domain for my web hosting company.
It was a few weeks ago that I realized my web hosting company, Akmai.net Web Hosting, was slowly but steadily growing. I started the little web hosting business with absolutely no intention of making money. I knew the Internet contained literally tens of thousands of web hosting companies and competition for best pricing/features was through the roof. After concluding that I would always need hosting for my own domains, I quickly realized the huge number of options available to others looking for web hosting would cause those who knew me to ask for my recommendation. What better way than to be able to recommend something I manage myself? So in late 2005, with myself as it's only customer, the hosting company was started.
Today, with 15 paying customers and over 45 domains, Akmai.net rents a full dedicated server and has an 85% profit margin. Am I worried about the competition? No. Are there better priced web hosting options out there? Yes. So what makes my web hosting so special that people host with me? They know me. They know they can pick up the phone and call me if there is a problem. With so many options out there, what is the natural choice? To go with what you know and trust; to choose that which is closest to you. When someone asks my customers for their web hosting recommendation, which web hosting company do you think comes to their mind first?
The whole point of the creative mind is to forget about how "mine is better than his". There is no problem with looking at other businesses to gain ideas or learn how they solved certain issues, but its important to never think negatively about another persons' work; to never put down someone else because you think you can do it better. If you can do it better, it's because something less exists. Without many different task sites in existence, my idea wouldn't be unique.
When we are in the competitive mind we often forget those we are competing with are directly responsible for our success, and not realizing this greatly inhibits our quality of life. Selfishness is the opposite of gratitude and to be discouraged about doing something is to be selfish and therefore ungrateful. Gratitude is an important part of being creative. If you are not thankful for what you possess, and content with the knowledge you hold, you will always feel incomplete and the creative energy will not flow. We all have a desire to be successful. Creativity leads to success. Discouragement leads to failure.