Without magic, you can't reach PM-fit

Understanding how our actions link to outcome is key for reaching goals

Welcome to all the new subscribers, great to have you on board!

Idea: a product-market fit jar. Every time someone mentions PM-fit out of place, money should go into the jar.

PM-fit is an important milestone for startups. There are plenty of sources that define PM-fit, such as here, here and here. They explain to you how to see if you are there.

What I see in practice often feels like jargon-poker. Yelling PM-fit often doesn’t get you closer to your goal.

I believe understanding how you are going to reach your goal is more important than overstating your goal. How do our actions link to any goal? I want to zoom out.

I see three elements when it comes to how we approach goals:

  • Action: the things we do

  • Outcome: the result of our action

  • Magic: how the actions contribute to our outcome.

Action is copyable

We can take action and we can look at others and mimic. Actions are copyable. Online you can find millions of recipes for meals or wiki-hows for everything, such as 'How to Safely Swim with Piranhas'.

On Twitter I see countless threads on '10 steps for a good landing page' or 'this is how I reached $10k monthly recurring revenue'. Recipes and instructions are codifiable and copyable, to a certain extent. We try to copy what people who reached PM-fit did.

Outcome is not copyable

But, we can't copy the outcome. We can't copy a prepared meal. We can only copy the recipe and execute the steps.

If the outcome would be a bed, we can't copy the bed. We can follow instructions to assemble a bed. And swear a couple of times because IKEA instructions were unclear.

Similarly, we can't copy product-market fit.

The outcome can be abstract and hard to measure. I mean, we can intuitively judge whether the bed looks like a bed.

But can we also intuitively judge whether a startup is going in the right direction? Especially in the early stages if you don’t have any metrics, this is tricky.

We can’t copy the outcome. We can only aim for a similar outcome and let the actions of others inform our plan.

Magic is mastery

Magic is how the actions make the outcome. For that, we need a deep understanding. Most importantly, we can't copy the magic.

That understanding is not always explicit. It could be intuition, experience, something that we can't explain or easily put into words.

It’s why some startup mentors are better at guiding you than others. People with first-hand startup experience are seen as better mentors by entrepreneurs. They got magic.

“I can explain it to you, but I can't comprehend it for you.” - Edward Koch

We can't copy the magic of how actions contribute to product-market fit.

You will need to execute the steps and develop an understanding yourself: grow your own magic. That's what entrepreneurship is about.

Jeroen's take

When I started writing this piece, I wanted to make a point about how everyone is focusing on actions too much. People often are not focused on grasping the abstract outcomes.

But I realised, without performing the actions, you will not link it with the outcome. You need to understand the magic.

This is a draft mental model that I drew. I wonder if it holds up to your perception of how we do things. It is up for discussion. Let me know what you think.

I separate action and outcome. People from some philosophical backgrounds could disagree with me. Can you really separate the action from the outcome? Is it not all one?

Lastly, I hate to say it: There is no easy recipe for reaching product-market fit. Zoom out. Ask yourself what are we doing to reach which outcome. Give words to it.

How was this one?

Great - Good - Meh

If you click that button, I will grin like a big happy baby!

You can also respond by replying to this email.