A Walk in The Land of Never Was: Lessons That Led to Green-Lighting Our Most Popular Feature

There are so many reasons not to do a thing. Fear, laziness, lack of skill or resources, and stubbornness all come to mind. But this year, I found a reason more dangerous than all of them, worse because its lackluster sound gives it the camouflage of dullness among a deluge of new shiny things.

The danger is in finding a great idea, but thinking it doesn’t matter and tossing it aside. “No, obviously we won’t do that,” is the catch phrase. Spoken with enough confidence, especially by someone powerful and respected who uses logic well, and that idea enters the Land of Never Was.

The Land of Never Was is the place where discarded ideas go to hang out. It’s the bottom of the backlog, the coldest corner of the icebox, the bottom right hand corner of the kanban board. It’s a mostly dull gray place; dusty, creased, redolent with the smell of crumpled and slowly disintegrating notebook pages and post-it notes that long ago lost their stick.

Around this time of year I like to take a vacation there, and walk along the shore of the Sea of Could Have Been with my little metal detector skimming the dunes for something shiny that I might have missed. Whenever I do this I keep my expectations low, so I’m not necessarily expecting to unearth any treasures, but it gives me an excuse to stare out at the horizon.

I’ve been working on my startup for nearly 5 years, and on startups overall for 10 years, so the sea has had a lot of time to break down and turn over the remnants. You’d think after all that time, walking the same stretch of beach, I’d find fewer and fewer items of interest, but it isn’t so. I keep finding new ways to circle back on old ideas, as my little detector beeps and I dig up some shiny scrap that I didn’t notice last time I wandered here.

“No, obviously we won’t do that.”

Self-help books are abuzz with find the life-changing magic of tidying up, saying ‘no’ more often, giving fewer fucks, and startup culture rewards being stubborn in a “Jobsian” ideal of the creative genius persona. For those of us who already drank all this Kool Aid and are tough stubborn self-directed intensely independent motherfuckers, I have a suggestion: take a walk on the shore of your own imagination, along your Sea of Could Have Been.

Find something you said “No” to that should have been a yes, and make it right.


It took us awhile to find this particular treasure, but we’re so happy that Mattermark now offers the ability to look up contact email addresses!

Also posted on Medium