Avoiding Half-Built Bridges: The Power of Completing

Wed, Apr 17, 2024

There’s a graveyard in every entrepreneur’s life. 

It’s full of everything we’ve ever started but failed to finish, small and large. From that tweet you wrote but never posted to that software you started wireframing but never built, my friend Ryan Deiss calls these half-built bridges.

Entrepreneurs, by definition, are outstanding at seizing opportunities. It’s what we do, and it can cause many problems. Half-built bridges might be the biggest problem entrepreneurs must contend with when learning to control and harness their superpowers.

The story of half-built bridges is a simple one that should already be familiar to you:

During your travels, you identify something that needs to be done. For example, at a conference you hear a speaker discussing the importance of tracking and analytics. You’re sold. It’s time to act.

You set off on the mission of improving your tracking and analytics. You buy a course, invest in software, and work on implementing it. However, as you dive deeper into the nuts and bolts, you realize how flawed your website is and how much improvement it needs. 

Why spend so much time on tracking and analytics for a website that needs a full rebuild? That’s just pouring water into a leaky bucket. So, you put the tracking endeavor on hold and start working on a complete website rebuild. You’re going to re-tool everything, top to bottom.

You start thinking about your sitemap and begin to plan the reorganization of your content. This is a pretty intense project; you dive deeply into everything you’ve created over the years and where it should all live. But, as you do, you realize how outdated your content is.

Why would you build a new website only to host antiquated content? The first job that needs to be tackled is updating this outdated content. 

You see where I’m going with this…

A half-built bridge is something we’ve started working on but never finished. 

The problem with half-built bridges is that they’re worthless. 

They’re total losses. There’s no redeeming value in them at all. A bridge can accomplish absolutely nothing until it’s complete. Until then, it’s a trap that will send whoever attempts to cross it crashing into the abyss.

In fact, just about anything is superior to a half-built bridge. Even a rickety bridge made of big gulp straws and held together by bubblegum and duct tape at least stands the chance of allowing something to get from one side to the other. It’s not perfect but it’s not a total loss. 

Obviously, that doesn’t mean we should run around building rickety bridges. The point just stresses the real tragedy of half-built bridges that everything invested in them is a complete waste unless they’re complete. 

So, how do you protect yourself from half-built bridges?

The answer isn’t as simple as “Finish what you start!” 

Back to my example, there was some merit each time we chose to switch tasks. We don’t want a quixotic dedication to finishing things even after discovering our flawed approach. That’s equally as dangerous as a half-built bridge.

The key lies in starting with much smaller, much simpler bridges. 

When inspiration strikes, and we see the need for a bridge, our first instinct is to build the biggest, worst, most comprehensive, and most vital bridge ever built; we should do the opposite. 

Find the narrowest chasm between the two points and build your bridge there. 

And build the simplest, most basic bridge you possibly can. No frills, no bells and whistles. The absolute most basic thing will get you from point A to point B with the lowest resource expenditure.

A couple of things happen: You’ll finish the quick and easy bridge. When you do, you’ll learn much about that particular bridge and what the other side looks like. And now, you’re well equipped to see how (or if) you should start strengthening that bridge. 

Using the original example, instead of going all out on tracking, you recognize the importance but decide to build a small bridge first. You install simple and free analytics software just to get a handle on the process. Once done, you use the basic features to establish some benchmarks.

With your small bridge in place, you find out that 90% of your traffic is going to three key pages (which is true for most websites, by the way). 

You don’t need to rebuild your website; you just need to optimize those three pages. This is a simple lesson from a simple bridge.

I’m straw-manning this a little bit for the sake of a clean and effective story. 

That said, I hope you can see my point and that it resonates. I can’t count the number of half-built bridges I’ve erected in my entrepreneurial life, but I know it’s a lot. 

It’s time to start building smaller bridges!

What about you? What’s a half-built bridge that costs you dearly? What smaller bridge could you have built instead?