Action Produces Information

I listened to an interview given by the CEO and co-founder of Coinbase. This cryptocurrency marketplace is publicly traded and, as of this post, has a market cap (i.e., valuation) of almost $14 billion. Brian Armstrong co-founded the company in 2012 and has been the CEO from zero to $14 billion public company, so I was curious to hear what he had to say.

It’s a lengthy interview with lots of great nuggets, but one especially stuck with me. Asked for advice on surviving the early days (when you have a team of five or fewer), Armstrong said, “If you’re pre-product–market fit, the best advice from that period is action produces information. Just keep doing stuff.”

Armstrong elaborated: doing something, even if it’s wrong, will produce information. Whatever you do will be proved to be either a good move or a failure. If it’s a failure, you’ll learn from it and get a better idea of what you need to do to achieve success—the right next step or solution to the problem. If you do nothing, though, you get no information and make no progress.

Some people are hesitant to act because the path to success is unknown. Armstrong addresses this with an analogy. Trying to do something great is like being at the base of a mountain shrouded in fog. You look up to the top and ask yourself how you can get there. You can see only three or four steps ahead because of the fog—the path to the top is hidden. When you take a few steps into the fog, you can see another three or four steps ahead but no more, because the fog is still there. The only way to uncover the path to the top is by taking steps into the unknown, which reveals the path a few steps at a time.

I enjoyed Brian’s thoughts, and I agree. If you want to hear this part of the interview, take a listen here.