I was invited to spend a weekend in upstate New York at a hunting and fishing camp. It’s quite possibly the coolest place on earth if you’re into that sort of thing. Having built many forts in the woods as a kid, I was completely fascinated by the story of how this all came together. The more I heard, the more I kept thinking the same thing…
Building Camp is exactly like building a startup
When my friend purchased this land 5 years ago, they had one hut, some swampy land and a lot of trees. It was their blank canvas.
Most people would balk this muddy site as a waste of time. It’s not worth the effort. Why even bother?
None of that mattered though. Nick and his friends knew the secret from the very beginning.
Five years and still building
Nick and the crew were not camp-building experts. They had never done something like this before, but they were committed to putting in all the effort and hard work to come. Camp was built mostly on weekends in between hunting, fishing, full-time jobs and part-time jobs.
One step at a time.
For the entire first year, they slept in tents around a fire pit. Camp was being built on their own terms. They didn’t wait for everything to be perfect. They didn’t make excuses. They knew that there is always more work to be done.
The only way to stay dedicated to the vision was to enjoy the process.
I finally made it up there after 5 years of them building Camp, and everyone was still fixing or improving something. Work just happened in between riding four-wheelers, hunting, fishing, lighting big campfires and beers.
Going Broke at Home Depot
I went with Nick to Home Depot to pick up a bunch of things he needed. The nearest Home Depot was not close, so I made the naive comment that we should just get everything he needed while we were there. He laughed and said that if he got everything he needed, he would be broke.
That’s when the bigger picture Camp-building process started to kick in for me. He told me the secret. Pick the most important thing that you need to work on next. Then do that. It’s not about getting everything done right now. It’s about enjoying the process. Winter is coming and it’s starting to get cold. He has to make sure the pipes don’t freeze. That’s pretty damn important, so let’s focus on that.
Even though he had a to-do list 18 miles long, it was about focusing on the most important thing. Everything else will still be there next weekend, but if the pipes freeze, well that’s sort of a deal breaker.
Enjoying the process
Camp exists because it’s something they want to see in the world. They didn’t buy this property to flip it and make money. It’s not some side project or experiment that they could easily abandon. They don’t throw in the towel when something unexpectedly breaks (and something always breaks). They fix it and move on.
I was so far beyond impressed to see what they’ve built. There were so many cool little details and random decorations that could almost go unnoticed. Every one of them adds character and has a story. This level of detail doesn’t happen over night; it’s been accumulating for years. It’s those little things that can’t be rushed that make all the difference in the world.
It makes me think about the software products we build. We are able to create incredibly powerful stuff in a very short amount of time. It’s an amazing start but it takes years of focusing on the most important thing and assembling those little details. That’s when the real magic happens.
I’m working on those details and making sure to enjoy the process. The ups, the downs, when things break, all of it.
The only way to remain focused and have the staying power for years to come is to enjoy the process. I greatly appreciate the hospitality and the reminder Nick.