Avoid Doing What You Like

By Kevon Cheung in


June 19, 2021

I was chatting with a community builder friend and he asked me, "What's the thing that offers the most value in your community?"

It took me a good 10 seconds to think about Public Lab, the Building in Public community I run, and I said "So far, the AMA sessions!"

I went on to tell him that personally I almost never attended any AMA sessions myself, but because I can clearly see that my members enjoy them, I keep on inviting entrepreneurs who value authenticity and transparency to share with us.

We like to think others are like us

Whenever we come up with a new idea, we like to think it is a brilliant one.

Our excitement overshadows logic and validation, and at this point, first-time entrepreneurs would go all out to build it.

Internally we believe if we like this idea, other people would also like this idea.

But the truth is - everyone wants different things.

Everyone has different positions and priorities in their lives. And that changes how every person perceives the same idea.

I was reflecting on my example above. If I've made decisions of what to offer to the community members based on my own preference, then these community AMA sessions would have never happened.

To serve people, first we observe

This means we should always avoid using our own preferences to judge what we should be working on.

A real-life example I can think of is when someone wants to buy a house as an investment. First-time investors tend to think about whether they enjoy staying at the house, or whether the rental house is near their own place.

They're buying a house to rent it to others, yet they are making a critical investment decision based on what they like themselves.

This happens a lot!

Instead, what they should really do is to think about the ideal renter they want to get. With that picture in mind, they can easily figure out what the house should be like. For single young adults, convenience and facilities are keys. For married couples with young babies, safety, grocery store, and parking lot are keys.

Back to my example, for me to serve my community members well, I tend to pilot new ideas and observe how they like them. How many people participate? What's the reaction during the AMA sessions? Are they asking questions and learning?

Here is our latest AMA session with Ben Barbersmith, an amazing entrepreneur who values being his authentic self.

And of course, the feedback has been so great that I know how to continue serving them well.

Who should take this advice?

Quite simple. Any entrepreneurs.

If you want to build something people want, you must serve them well. What you like should be the last item on the list.

But, of course, if you dislike what you're doing in order to serve people well. This is not going to go far too.

For me, I actually really enjoy hosting the AMA sessions and hear the stories from the guests. And I get to pick which guests to invite over to have a community conversation? That's perfect.

This is why entrepreneurship is so hard. You have to identify what people need and serve them well while enjoying the work yourself. I'm sure you'll find it.

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