Eric Reiss came up with the idea of the MVP with regards to approaching your startup’s product or service. MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. It’s the most basic version of your product or service, developed with the least effort, that allows you to get feedback on it from your customers. The idea is, you have no idea what you are actually creating, so you want feedback as soon as possible. This provides you with quick lessons and minimizes risk. You don’t have to put in tons of time and money and hope that you’ve created the product or service that everyone wants. You build it step by step and the quick feedback you get helps ensure you stay close to what the market wants.
I’ve adapted this concept to the product that is your life. We are all creating something with our lives, and that means we need to have goals and do things that lead to those goals. Sounds simple, but I have found it to be pretty tricky, especially when that goal seems far away. We humans are used to doing things for the short-term. We come from hunter gatherers whose actions were not too far away from the results they wanted. Long-term planning is not in the genes. For the individual plant or animal, the long-term takes a back seat to surviving the short-term. And so we are built.
The answer is the MVA – Minimum Viable Action. With an MVA you take small steps in the direction of your goals. Do something small related to your goal each day and this will do several things for you:
1. You’ll get closer to your goal – duh!
2. You won’t freak out your brain with lofty goals like “I want to be a millionaire” or “I want to lose 40 pounds”. If you keep it small, you’ll get your subconscious on board and experience less resistance.
3. You’ll be able to see if it’s working and change easily if it’s not.
4. You have no excuse for not doing little things.
My theory is that if you want to have an easier, more stable time in life, you need to align yourself and your actions with nature. It’s the friggin’ force that rules us. No where was an animal designed somewhere from scratch – it was made bit by bit, adaptation by adaptation, and so it must be with your life. To do otherwise is to go against nature.
Willful change is not natural for people. How many people have you heard say “I’m gonna do this or that” in complete contrast to what they are now? How many succeed? We’re used to adapting to the change the environment brings, not initiating change. That means we need to keep it small and not look too far ahead.
When you make your to-do list, make sure the items are small ones – things you could spend 5 minutes on and still accomplish something related to your goal. If you want to spend more than 5 minutes, fine, but the point is, you need to spend at least 5 minutes. I do this when it comes to writing, working out, reading, learning something new, whatever. I get my kids to do it to learn English. How can they say no to “5 minutes of English lessons”? It usually goes over 5 minutes and no one even notices, but we did it and even if it were 5 minutes, we’d still consider it a win.
What things are you looking to do? What steps can you take to get there that require the least bit of effort?