Is 2016 the year you finally ship your side project?

The year is coming to a close and that means a couple things:

  1. You’re getting invites for holiday and year end parties
  2. Friends and coworkers are coming down with terrible colds, flus and other debilitating illnesses
  3. Your brain starts pondering how the year has gone and what next year will hold

I don’t have much advice for you around the first two issues, except, try not to eat too many gingerbread cookies, and wash your hands frequently.

But perhaps I can say something useful about the third.

Reflecting at the End of the Year

I’ve written before about New Year’s resolutions. Many people make them, and often they don’t get followed through.

One study found that 46% of resolvers were still doing well with their resolution 6 months after – so while certainly not 100%, it’s not lottery odds either. And I would wager that their level of starting commitment had a huge effect on the outcome.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably have things in your life you’re not satisfied with: your career, your level of energy, your social life, your sense of purpose or adventure. It’s natural to want to take some (or all) of these areas to the next level.

Consider: The Side Project

One really powerful way to do that is to start, and finish, a side project. One that explores an area you find interesting, gets you out of your comfort zone, forces you to learn new skills and competencies, and gives you something you can show off and talk about.

Side projects have been a huge part of my life, from high school, when I was messing with Photoshop and making websites on Geocities, to the nonprofit I cofounded in college, to the books, blogs, podcasts, and apps I’ve launched in my professional life.

But for many people, shipping a side project is hard.

Samantha Zhang points out two challenges with these elusive beasts:

  1. The Paradox of Choice, where the fact that we have so many ideas prevents us from going all in on anything
  2. The Lack of Deadlines, where the absence of external accountability means you can always wait until next weekend to really get started with your project.

The folks at Contrast outline another issue, which they deem “The Cycle of Doom“, where our project plans gets more and more ambitious in our mind, until we are fed up with the whole thing and just quit all together.


Breaking Through the Obstacles

So you’re thinking a side project is just what you need in 2016, but wondering how you can make it work with your busy schedule?

Well, you’ve got some options.

Samantha wants you to commit to launching just one project this year. Meanwhile, the Contrast team limited themselves to one month to build and launch their side projects.

A third option, for those who want to get more structured about it, is to do Ship Your Side Project.

Ship Your Side Project is a six week online bootcamp for mid career tech and creative professionals who want to get serious about their side project. I’ve been working on the program with my partner Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, an Art Director at Primacy since September, and it’s going to be dope.

We’re putting together a community of 30 amazing people to plan, build, and ship their side projects over the first two months of 2016. Already, dozens of people from four continents and companies like LinkedIn, Squarespace, R/GA and others have applied to join the program, which kicks off Jan 18th.

If you’re interested, you can learn more apply by Dec 10th to be reviewed in the early round of applicants.

Whatever path you take, I think that 2016 is a good year for you to try launching a side project. It might just be the start of something amazing.



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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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