What you think is important vs what is important

I am currently reading American Creation by Joseph Ellis on the founding of the US. I am big proponent of the maxim that history constantly repeats itself. Building consumer-based internet companies parallels a key event in our history — the writing and release of the Declaration of Independence.

The founders spent gads of time making sure that all of Britain’s “crimes” against the colonies were very well documented. (later sections). They did not want any errors in this section and went to extraordinary lengths to make sure it appealed to the people. They spent almost no time or edits on the first section “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. They breezed right by it, not caring to edit or change anything. Granted one could say that they all agreed on the text. But Ellis contends that the founders really did not care. All of their time was focused on the specific violations.

So what did/do we all remember 50, 100 or 200+ years later?? Certainly not the specifics, but the eternal truths — the grand, sweeping language that has inspired countless numbers of independent countries to form.

Fast forward to building internet applications —

The latest buzz in building apps is that you never can know in advance what will be a killer app. You take a chance, build some stuff, throw it out there and let the users tell you what is really important. There are scads of stories about products that became wildly successful for all of the reasons NOT thought of by the founders. We are told to Don’t try to overengineer or out-think the customer. Let them tell you what’s important and what isn’t.

If our founding fathers could not figure what was important, why can we?

History always repeats itself.

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