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?