Do You Ship or Fulfill?

From Tamsen McMahon:

When you focus only on shipping, you deliver what’s required, but not what’s expected. You follow the script precisely, and miss the point completely. You satisfy the order, but not the need.

See, there’s a huge difference between “shipping” and “fulfilling.” “Shipping” is about getting something out the door, but “fulfilling” is about realizing potential — about meeting (and maximizing) expectations, about eliminating the gap between what is and what could be.

One’s a transaction, the other’s a relationship — with your customers, your partner, yourself.

Anyone familiar with Seth Godin will instantly connect with the term “shipping,” but I happen to love Tamsen’s addition of the idea of “fulfilling.” For example, I strive to post on this site five days a week. When I meet that goal, I’ve shipped. It’s within every post that there it the potential to fulfill, that there is the opportunity to make something that matters rather than simply managing to make something.

Both are equally important, but at the beginning you are always going to start with shipping1; you are always going to suck at first. But after you get an idea of what you can ship, you start to get a feel for what you may be able to fulfill.

Tamsen hits on this when she points out that, “There are often times when getting pebbles out of the way allows you to move boulders,” but I still worry that if you start out with the idea of fulfilling, you may be setting the bar too high. You may put too much pressure on yourself and end up unable to even ship. Take the time to identify the pebbles that interest you and make sure when you really commit you end up you moving the right boulder.

This isn’t really a post for those who have been at it for awhile. There I agree with Tamsen wholeheartedly; if all you’ve been doing is shipping, aim higher. If you are just starting out and all you are trying to do is fulfill, yet you ship nothing, you need to aim lower (but only at first). This is a process; start with the shipping and once you do, you can begin to figure out what you might fulfill.

Regardless of where you are, take the time to read Tamsen’s post. She is a hell of a lot smarter than I am (she’s a hell of a lot smarter than most I’ve met).

Where do you stand? Are you shipping or fulfilling? Are you still at the start and moving pebbles or is it time to start looking for your boulder?


  1. At least the mere mortals such as myself will.  

10 Responses to Do You Ship or Fulfill?

  1. The line about pebbles and boulders reminds me of my childhood and of living on a farm. When we would get ready to plant the fields, we always had to go through the fields first and get rid of the “pebbles” so that we’d be prepared for the planting and the harvesting. Those preparatory steps were essential to success (Rain helped, too, but we couldn’t control the weather.).

  2. Both are equally important, but at the beginning you are always going to start with shipping1; you are always going to suck at first. But after you get an idea of what you can ship, you start to get a feel for what you may be able to fulfill.

    Amen to that brother. I laugh to myself today when I look at what I thought blogging was to me 2 years ago. Sure, thinking we know who we are when we start a blog, or a business, is a good thing. But the only way one really figures that out is by doing. Writing. Producing. Pushing hard.

    That’s just the way it is. No way around that.

    Even better, the clay never stops being molded….or at least, let’s hope it doesn’t. đŸ˜‰

    Good stuff brother.

    Marcus

    • And I figure it won’t be too long until we look back at the things we are writing now and throw up in our mouths a bit :) That’s kind of the fun part of this. We play in public. We mess up in public. We grow in public. Strange way to go about it, but seems to be working (he probably lied to himself). “Writing. Producing. Pushing Hard” hell of a mantra.

      If I ever really know exactly who I am, I did something wrong. Hopefully the pie will never quite cook, the clay never quite mold…

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