First? Or best?
I fell asleep last night around 3 a.m. I'd been up late working on the web design book I'm writing. This book has kicked my butt and is easily one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do.
When I wrote the proposal for the book last fall, I laid out the unique niche my book would target, and how no other books had targeted that particular niche.
This morning, after 3.5 hours of sleep, I woke up, and like usual, checked Twitter. There I discovered that another publisher had just published a book targeting the same niche as mine, six months or so before mine will likely be released.
I did buy the book and took a look through it. It covers similar topics that I'm writing about. There are differences and similarities to the book I'm writing.
I've had a lot of late stressful nights of writing the last two months, so I didn't take this news well initially. Despair isn't the right word, but certainly severe disappointment.
I have a long commute, so I've had an hour or so to think this over.
Ultimately how I respond to this news is a choice. I can be crushed by this, or I can soldier on.
It's no secret that I'm a big Apple fan, so the analogy that gives me hope is this:
Apple didn't release the first smartphone. Others had created phones that had apps or that played music or that took pictures. That didn't stop Apple. They didn't worry about being first.They focused on being best. And they didn't just settle with their first effort. They kept at it, and year after year, they've made the iPhone better.
If you like another phone besides the iPhone, that's great. I happen to think my iPhone 5 is one of the best pieces of technology I've ever owned. The way it feels in my hand, its ease of use, the amazing things I can accomplish without a lot of hassle.
Certainly a lot of other people agree. Well over 100 million people per year buy an iPhone.
Apple wasn't the first to release a tablet. They just released the best one, and the iPad dominates the tablet market even more than the iPhone is a leader in the smartphone market.
Now there are rumors that Apple might release a smartwatch or redefine the way we interact with TVs. Other technology companies are rushing their products to market, with the belief that if they're first, they can beat Apple.
I don't know if Apple will release a watch or a wrist computer or a TV or a revised Apple TV. I do believe that when they do, their product will likely offer an easier to use product than others on the market, with an incredibly high degree of quality. They'll focus on being best, not first.
Not everybody will agree with what's best. Apple has their idea of what constitutes best. They have a pretty good history of making products that others consider the best as well.
When Apple focuses on best, I don't believe that means "doing their best," or just trying as hard as they can. The effort they expend isn't what's relevant. Being best also doesn't mean matching and exceeding the features of every other product on the market.
Focusing on what's best means a relentless winnowing, saying no to what's complicated and difficult, making the very best expression of the idea that Apple's product encapsulates.
I am not Apple. The other book just published may well be excellent, and a great choice for people. I know what my take is on the niche that I'm targeting, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to provide the best explanation for how to tackle the challenges in that space.
I won't be the first, but I will release the best book I can, and hopefully others will find it useful.
Relying on being first in order to succeed isn't a strategy. If you're tackling a problem worth solving, a problem that others want solved, there's a good chance somebody else will recognize that problem and work to solve it.
Wasting your time comparing your solution to others already out there or worrying who released first isn't terribly productive. Being first has an impact, but it's not the only thing and probably not the primary thing that determines success.
All you can do, all I can do is to do our darndest, to focus on making what's best, to the limit of our knowledge and abilities, then let the chips fall where they may.
Telling myself that is how I'm getting through today.