People are given titles. Our titles give us an identity, a way to introduce ourselves to the world, a sense of security. If you are in a well-respected position, you feel powerful when stating your title. “I am the CFO of Billshut Financials.” See there, instant power shot. It validates your skills and your accomplishments. It confirms your importance professionally.
“Bond, James Bond, and I am a spy.”
But what happens when you want a different title? What if this thing you want to build requires people with different hats than the one you currently wear? “I have a great idea but I am not a programmer.” “I am a programmer but I can’t design for shit!” Many people stop here. These thoughts have prevented some of the most brilliant ideas from being executed.
If you find yourself in this position, you have two options.
1. Find someone with the right hat to work with you.
If you have the resources (money, network, contacts, power, persuasion skills…etc.), you can hire or partner with people with relevant skills to help with your projects. The challenge is finding the right people who share your value and motivation. This is a topic for another day.
2. Do it yourself!
If you are like most people who are just starting out, you may not have the resources to hire help. But don’t let that stop you, and Just (learn to) Do It!
When I first started Studio Pepwuper, I wanted to go with option 1 and hire people to help me build my games. I spent a few weeks looking at candidates, outsourcing studios, partnering development houses, and eventually found a great candidate that has all the experience needed for the project. But very soon I realized that with the money I had saved up, I could only hire them for 6 months. And if at the end of that 6-month period I didn’t have a game out, or if the game didn’t sell, it would be GAME OVER for the studio. It was too risky of a position to be in and I had to re-evaluate my approach. Instead of hiring out the development, I decided to put my head down and learn to do it myself – learning to code, to make art, and to design. (more on this here & here)
To be frank, it wasn’t easy. It was an 8-month exercise of banging my head against the wall constantly. It was like being back in school, except instead of knowing when the exam is, I had to fight against time – every month in prolonged development was another month of living expenses gone from my savings.
But I did it. I wrote all the codes and got all the art work and music/sound into the project. The game was released. It was done.
That isn’t the end of the story. The real benefit of doing it yourself is not in getting it done. It’s in all the the side-effects that happen while you are making it happen. I got to learn the in’s and out’s of game development on a tight budget. I understand how to write codes, and more importantly, how to read them, so when I looked for help I knew what to ask for and knew what my team was talking about. I learned to know how long things take so I knew how to better evaluate opportunities and partners. I learned to really appreciate artists and designers and learned that good design and good art takes time.
And I got to share my experience, through which I got to know many talented, motivated, encouraging, and inspiring individuals. Without this experience I wouldn’t have my current team, and who knows where the studio would be if I hadn’t gone through this 8-month marathon.
So next time when you think you can’t do something because you are not a programmer, not an artist, not a writer, not a marketer, not a networker, not a public speaker, not a journalist, not a photographer…etc, STOP. Don’t let your title limit what you can do. You are what you do. And don’t be afraid to spend time learning. There’s rarely any downside to be more skilled, especially in what you want to do.
Note: I was lucky enough to quit my job with savings that would allow me to survive on pot noodles for at least a few months, but I know that many people don’t have this “luxury”. To you I point you in the direction of Gary Vaynerchuck‘s presentation at the Web 2.0 Expo NY (http://youtu.be/EhqZ0RU95d4).
“If you want this, if you’re miserable, or if you don’t like it or you want to do something else and you have a passion somewhere else. Work nine to five. Spend a couple hours with your family. Seven to two in the morning is plenty of time to do damage. But that’s it. It’s not going to happen any other way. …Everybody has time. Stop watching fucking Lost!…”
p.s. I never look good in hats. I spent 20 years looking for a hat that fits me across the world wherever I go, but I can never find one. Maybe I am just not meant to be wearing any particular hat.