Anyone Can Be A Lucky Squirrel

by on 04/30/2009 • 31 Comments | Online Marketing

This morning Seth Godin told me and his swarms of loyal readers that we’re blind squirrels and shouldn’t bother trying to hit it big. We’re the rule, not the exception. We should expect to fail and accept that we’ll never grow up to be shiny, lucky squirrels. Seth should meet my father. They seem to share the same impression of my worth.

But they’re both wrong.

I usually find Seth pretty right on the money. He has a way of using his words to make people think. I envy that about him. However, today it seems we’re living in two different worlds.

Here’s what I think.

  • I think big ideas take a hell of a lot more than just luck
  • I think there’s value in examining the successful business strategies of others
  • I think anyone can be a lucky squirrel

Seth’s post gave you a reason not to try. If 9,999 of every 10,000 goofy Web sites fade away, then why even bother? Why get off the couch or put in any effort? Because maybe you’re the Matt Inman of the group. Maybe you’re the exception to the rule and the one that will stand out. Maybe you have what everyone else wishes they did. And if you don’t have it naturally, maybe you can get it by working for it. Maybe you can earn your luck.

Big ideas are more than just luck. Any of us could have thought up ShamWow. It takes alcohol, not genius, to think up a cloth/towel hybrid that can be marketed via a 4am infomercial. But until the ShamWow guy, it didn’t exist. Because there are a million steps between having a good idea and actually doing something with it. Most of us get stuck somewhere between the initial idea and the turning off American Idol and getting off the couch part. Luck may have helped sparked the idea light bulb, but it takes work and smarts to create it, to market it and to turn that idea into the weird phenomenon it’s become.

And unlike Seth, I think there is a lot of value in studying that process. I don’t think most people’s success is built on fairy dust. Sure, some people get lucky and hit it out of the park right out of the gate. But most don’t. Most people have a string of failures under their belt or a decade worth of steady work and trying to get invited to the party. Most people have a calculated method that got them where they are. I believe there are patterns of behavior common to successful people. That’s why we all run out and buy their biographies when they’re written. Because there’s a story there and if you can spot and mimic the traits found within it, then maybe you can learn something. Sometime that will help you in the future. That’s how you create “luck” and stop being a “blind squirrel”.

Maybe it’s my youth showing, but I think anyone can be a lucky squirrel. I think “luck” is really just research and planning. If you want to be that blogger in Seth’s post that gets a book deal, then you have to understand how the people who came before you accomplished it and find a similar path. Yeah, it’s going to be harder for me to score a book deal now because Dooce has already done it, but there’s still something to be learned from her strategy. Mine won’t be the same but if mimic the common marketing traits of successful bloggers, then maybe I’ll find the patterns and I’ll learn something. Maybe I’ll then be able to take that knowledge and become the exception.

If you want to be as successful as the leading florist in your area and take their customers, then you need to study what they did, see what worked and what didn’t, and create your own path to surpass them. They probably didn’t wake up with the stronghold on the market. There was probably research and planning involved. They probably have a story that’s worth learning about. As Bruce Clay often says, find a way to be equal and then be better.

Whatever you want to do, you have to find a way to be better. You don’t just luck upon it.

Don’t get me wrong, I get what Seth is saying. Most ideas fail. Most blogs fail. Most new ventures fail. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still aim for the stars or work your butt off to try. Or that the ones that don’t fail were simply lucky. I don’t like when people tell me I can’t do things or that I shouldn’t expect to be successful. I think we can all be lucky squirrels if we want to and I think it’s outrageous for someone like Seth Godin to take that chance and your luck away from you.  Don’t let him.

If I spend most days thinking I’m a superhero, who are you to tell me otherwise?

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

31 thoughts on “Anyone Can Be A Lucky Squirrel

  1. I love this post, Lisa. I spend far too much time convincing myself why I can’t do something, why my ideas won’t work, or why the “data” shows that I’m destined to fail. It’s only recently that I’ve started to try and quell that voice and convince start to convince myself that maybe it is time to take some risks and try to be that “lucky squirrel.”

    Thanks for (yet another) good kick in the pants.

    @amymengel

  2. Hey Lisa:

    You’re a superhero on steroids girl! I’m with you on this one.

    “Aim for the stars and even though you don’t make it at least you’ll hit the moon”…or something like that. And since I’ve no doubt botched that saying, I’ll botch another one. “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”. And to make a perfect Trifecta of mutilated quotes, “Luck happens a lot more to people who work hard than to dreamers”

  3. 1. The ShamWow has been around for 20 years, it just wasn’t marketed properly until the last 5 – see divers toweling off after every dive in the Olympics. So it’s actually more important to market to the right audience than it is to invent something. It’s ALMOST not worth inventing/creating from scratch when you can just do things better than someone else. This concept is consistent with creating your own luck.

    2. Once you become a lucky squirrel, don’t blow it! This guy was just the pitch man, but still, pretty crazy.

  4. I really like Jim Cramer’s take on luck. Said he created his own luck through lots of hard work. Now I’m no Jim Cramer but I’m not doing too bad in life. Was I lucky enough to work with some very high profile clients very early in my career? Yep I was, but I had to relocate myself how many times and live in poverty the first few years to get the experience. And I won’t even mention the amount of debt I paid in other areas of my life. But where am I now? I’m in the land of opportunity.

    I guess I’m just lucky!

  5. Damn Lisa, your attitude fucking rocks! And then you put these posts together like it’s nothing (but I know it’s not). People may disagree with you, and I don’t know how you take that, but you get us thinking inwards and asking questions, and that’s what I find most important.

  6. Interesting stuff…

    It may be because I read him every day and am extrapolating based on things I’ve read from him in the past, but I didn’t walk away from that post this AM thinking he was advising readers not to aim big. My interpretation was that you shouldn’t expect to be successful based on the fact that someone else was. Facebook’s success is not a promise of riches from a social networking site, kind of thing.

    That said I’d lean more towards your view re: “modeling someone else’s success”. I’d liken it to PPC/Search/Other analytical endeavors: you need a significant sample size. I think the real right answer here is to look at the success of others, in aggregate, and to try to observe patterns and “broader truths” rather than drilling down to a single example and trying to model everything you do after a single source. Then, those “broader insights” are applied with your own twist/voice (not unlike the most important marketing lesson you’ll ever learn).

  7. A great post Lisa. I like that you express your point of view with such articulate strength. I like too the povocative tweet promoting this blog. Seth Godin is wrong? WTF? Instant link click…nice, very nice. I am new to the business world, trying to grow my business from a part time home based hobby into something much more productive and meaningful. I have been using social media to network in my own field, to see what others are doing, find mentors, deepen my knowledge and hone my skills. But the applications of this Social Media just keep growing. Every corner turned brings a new insight. Your business is so different from mine but what you do, or more likely, the way you do it, is so inspiring to me. Not to mention, extremely useful. You offer, not just opinion and insight, but real, meaningful and applicable tools. Thank you.

    You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman!

  8. Yeah!! Kudos to you! I read Seth’s post this morning and I found it to be a bit of a downer. Not characteristic of his typical posts. I love your response. Who is anyone to tell you, you can’t be a rock star?

    BTW – I think you’re a rock star. Love this blog!

  9. Go Lisa! Seriously, I’ve been a fan of Seth for a good while but his attitude smacks of an Old General getting tired of the game. It’s so negative.

    Look, so what I’m a thirty-nine-year old still in search of my big break Yes, ten years ago a British newspaper proclaimed I was talent of the week but I blew it and ended up a one minor-hit-wonder. But I refuse to lie down and accept it’s over. Otherwise I might as well not bother getting up in the morning.

    Words are power, Lisa. A word plus a word changes things. And this post is powerful stuff. Don’t let the Seth G’s of this world tell anyone otherwise.

  10. Yes, anyone CAN be a lucky squirrel. Most won’t. For most of them it will not be because they didn’t have a good idea. People who try and fail dust themselves off and try again. They keep trying until they succeed, then they reinvent themselves. The people who fail are the ones who don’t try. Sadly, most people never try. And no, there is nothing original in this comment. That’s what makes this so sad. We know this and we still watch from the sidelines. So don’t be a Patsy, be a Lisa. Grab life by the dangling modifiers!

  11. Lisa,

    Awesome!!! I have not read all of the comments yet but I would like to add some opinion of my own.

    FOCUS and PASSION. It’s not enough to have a great idea and even a strong work ethic. Passion and a laser beam focus are integral to success. Without either of these, you’re bound to fail. What’s the motivating factor in your new venture…money or are doing something you really believe in?

    It’s a fact most ventures will fail. If fear of failure is going to prevent you from trying, then step aside and work for someone else the rest of your life….always wondering “what if I had tried….”. I can’t fail unless I try and I sure as hell can’t succeed unless I try.

    Challenges excite me and I assume most entrepreneurs love going against the odds. Could you imagine waking up without a challenge or mountain to climb each day? Life would kind of suck and be pretty damn boring – at least for me.

    Keep up these great posts. This is one of your best and I am slowly becoming a fan.

  12. I took Seth’s entry slightly differently.
    I took it as ‘don’t copy the other guy – his success may have been a fluke. Find *your* concept and work on that.’
    But its all in what we take out of his words, not what he put in :)

  13. “Kids — you tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”

    — Homer Simpson

    I think both Seth and Lisa have solid points. Yes, the odds are stacked against you. Not everyone hits it big, and there is something of a conspiracy of circumstance that brings the right climate for your ideas to launch. Countless “good ideas” have still sunk because it wasn’t the right time to take the leap. Tempering your expectations can help you avoid tripping over the weight of your own ideas.

    So how do you tip the scales more in your favor? How do you know when the timing is right to take chances or not? What can you do to give yourself the best shot at finding the acorn? Work hard, dedicate your time, and ultimately be receptive to learning — from mistakes, from successes, and (your ego be damned) from others. Mind you, learn — not imitate.

  14. I’m sorry but the picture of that is squirrel is just too damn cute, what did you say about success? Just kidding. We all need an uplifting message these days. Thanks for givin’ us one!

  15. I’m in agreement with you 100% percent, Lisa. Anyone can be a lucky squirrel. But most of us lead lives of quiet desperation. And while we try to keep on looking up at the stars while our feet remain in the gutter, I think many people do give up and quit. I know this has happened to me. And maybe this makes me weaker. After a while, you get sick of the no’s and you decide to move on to something else.

  16. Lisa, your youth is not a negative getting in the way of you seeing truth. In fact, your youth allows you to believe in a better way to live than the sheep to slaughter older majority of Americans.

    If Seth really believed some of what he wrote this morning, he wouldn’t be where he is today either. He’s an author. He writes about subjects he’s passionate about. He’s doing what he loves. He’s a marketer. He’s marketing his message.

    In fact every successful thing he’s doing is based on the fact that those are the very same things other successful people do.

    Business success is not about picking one “end product” to focus on creating so that you end up striking it rich in an infomercial. It is about identifying what you are passionate about. Then finding a business model around that. Then applying proven business principles to that business.

    The fact is that there are a plethora of books on the market that speak about the common factors of most insanely successful people. And while just reading a book is not going to make anyone successful, it shows that there are common traits and common processes to the success process.

    So anyone who wants to be successful in their own right CAN actually learn what goes into the success stew. And in fact, IGNORING or DISREGARDING what successful people have done would actually be really dumb.

  17. Heck with a book deal…I’m ready for an Outspoken Media Lucky Squirrel T-shirt! Thank you for an uplifting post at the end of a very long week.

  18. Ive been reading Seth for a long time now and I love that someone else felt the same way about this as I did. I’ve been in business for coming up on 4 years and have had some nasty bumps in my way but I didn’t let those things be an excuse for failure. Every time I read something like this or get a negative from somebody it pushes me even harder to read more, work more, study more, and overall be better in every possible way I can find. Kudos on a great article just found ya and am already lovin it.

  19. Hey Lisa –

    Good stuff.

    Regardless of what Seth actually meant, I tend to agree with Lea on this.

    Your (our) interpretation of his message is a reflection of something within.

    If “you” hear it as “don’t even try, you’ll fail” then that is really nothing more than an echo of something within “you” that limits what you believe is possible for “yourself”.

    If on the other hand “you” hear it as you did, as an invitation to step forward into the generative creation of the life and success you desire, then what Seth is showing you is that anything is possible.

    Steve

  20. I love everything about this post, great post and very true. I have not read Seth’s post yet, so I am not sure what my take will be on his post, but I agree with everything you have wrote. We are our own worst enemy when we doubt ourselves and nothing is too big if you work hard enough.

    Love it!

    @tpompa

  21. I’m normally also a big fan of Seths but I’m with you on this. We are definitely able to build our own successes and nothing can stop us unless we let it. Unfortunately we’re the ones stopping ourselves most of the time.

  22. Well, maybe he is statistically right, but I sure wouldn’t want to live in a world where none of us even try just because the odds are against us.

    Shoot, isn’t one of the main tenants of existence that we learn from failure?

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