The first part is usually hard

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The first week of a new exercise routine is hard. You’re left feeling sore and confused on why you’re doing this in the first place. Four weeks in when the weight starts to come off, you have a new found enthusiasm for your date with the treadmill.

This cycle is easily depicted in the J curve. The graph typically is used for financial implications, but it can just as easily be tailored towards habit formation.


On the X axis, you have time. On the Y axis, you have happiness or well-being. Initially, you’re at some baseline level of happiness. As you attempt something new, you initially move down in happiness, not up. You might feel lost, frustrated, unsuccessful, and demotivated.

The trick is making it past the trough and onto the other side. That’s where you reap the benefits of the new workout plan or the hours of preparation for the big presentation.

I stumbled across this J curve in Thanks for the Feedback and started thinking about implications for customer experience and product development. Customers go through a similar cycle.

Initially, they sign up to accomplish a task. Despite how easy your product is to use, there is a learning curve. There are two pieces:

  1. Getting them to the other side of the curve as quickly as possible.
  2. Painting a clear picture of value that’s recognizable when they’re in the trough.

The first can be accomplished through creating a better onboarding experience, improving your signup flow, etc.

The second is more difficult. For Twitter, it could be getting a new user to their first @ mention as quickly as possible. For, maybe it’s getting the first like or comment on their blog post (related).

It’s worth thinking about both pieces as we build things and look to create value.

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