I hate wasting time. I hate that feeling that the thing I’m spending lots, and lots, and lots of time and energy on might bring me absolutely no results.
Examples: Job hunting (so many resumes sent and so little response!). A side project that goes nowhere fast. Budgeting when your expenses exceed your income (no matter how many times you rejigger your spreadsheet, the total is still minus!). Talking to potential cofounders, clients, customers, or creatives—and then…silence.
There are dead ends in innovation as well. We hear all the time about people who kept trying to invent, kept trying to push the state of the art forward, and kept seeing their efforts come to naught. How many times did Edison attempt to construct a working lightbulb?
It’s kind of fun to do the impossible. –Walt Disney
I’ve had to change my thinking. I still don’t like wasting time, but I’m more at peace with the idea of hustle, experimentation, and, in the words of Guy Kawasaki, “let a hundred flowers blossom.”
Creating great product ideas, pursuing excellence in UX, and fostering passionate communities of users is not something you can just will into existence. It takes patience, courage, and just a little bit of insanity. Yes, doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result…the last 49 iterations of this screen just didn’t work for anybody. Let’s go for 50!
Try new things. Write about different topics. Play in different markets. Build different kinds of businesses. Chase different types of customers. Engage in different styles of work environment. Create different varieties of product.
Some experiments will work. Others will fail. But instead of seeing every failure, every dead end as a setback, see them as opportunites.
I’m starting to build up a habit where every time I see a dead end in my pursuit of something more, I tell myself it’s not a setback, it’s an opportunity! That client ran out of money and dropped you from the project? Opportunity! That product didn’t find market fit in time and now you have to pull the plug? Opportunity! That blog you’ve been publishing for over two years just isn’t getting much traffic? Opportunity!
It’s feels crazy, I know, to think that way sometimes. Especially when you feel awful about letting other people down (or yourself down!) and when you’re simply trying to figure out how to make payroll, or pay your rent, or eat another meal. Life has a funny way of closing in on us until our brains are processing everything on a minute-level timescale. Yet, if you can force yourself to “zoom out” and start thinking in year-level timescales (or longer!), you will begin to see how your goals, values, and priorities have the power to reshape the landscape of your daily life and make room for opportunities (and even setbacks) to reap real and lasting rewards.
Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.