Monday, February 20, 2012

Passion Turns Failure Into Success (Lessons from 11 years of Blogging)

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across this post from Jason Cohen. In it, Jason uses a series of excellent graphs to demonstrate one of the uncomfortable facts about entrepreneurship:

Success feels like failure until it feels like success.

Here's how Jason put it:

"What was going on during those first six months? Was the future bright and shiny even when there was no impressive customer curve? When half the customers were just personal favors called in and new signups didn’t happen daily?

Or was it barely-controlled chaos, not able to sleep at 2:43am for worry about how to make payroll in seven months or whether the numbers would look good enough by next spring to raise another round? Unsure which products to double-down on and which to kill, and worried the wrong choice would tank the entire company? Staying bright and cheery on the outside for the press, customers, and even employees but with Damocles’ Sword hanging overhead?"

I've worked on companies that failed, and I've worked on companies that succeeded (as in IPO succeeded). I've never had the good fortune to work on a company which felt like an immediate and continual success. I suspect that no one has. Google nearly went under several times. Mark Zuckerberg just wanted to sell off Facebook so that he could focus on his idea for a file-sharing network.

The closest I came was probably with Ustream, where usage surged upward month after month, and even there, the growth was extremely lumpy, depended an awful lot on random dumb luck (who knew people would go nuts over a puppy cam?), and in the back of my mind, I kept wondering, "How the heck are we going to pay for all this bandwidth?"

That's where passion comes in.

Following your passion doesn't guarantee success. But if you're following your passion, you're far more likely to persevere through what Seth Godin called "The Dip."

Only passion can keep you going through when feels like months of failure. Take this blog for example. I've been blogging since 2001. When I started, I was an unknown failed entrepreneur (if you don't believe me, read my first blog post), blogging was the province of a limited number of crackpots, and there was no conceivable reason to believe that my writing would help my stalled career.

Exactly 11 years later (my first post was on 2/20/2001), I'm no household name, but I've achieved a modicum of success, most of which I can attribute to my blogging (both here and in guest posts in places like TechCrunch, Mashable, and Venturebeat). And the only reason I persisted through 11 years and 1,460 posts is the passion I have for writing and expressing myself.

In one sense, it's hard to calculate an ROI on the time I've spent blogging (since I average about 30 minutes per post, that's 750 hours I've invested--$375,000 at a $500/hour billing rate). On the other hand, the value it's brought me is priceless, both personally and professionally.

I couldn't have known that when I started. In fact, it took 20 blog posts before I even got my first comment! The only thing that kept me going was my love of writing.

The beauty of passion is that it keeps you going, even when you expect no reward for your effort. That persistence is what allows you to push past the feeling of failure and reach success.

2 comments:

Jackie Danicki said...

"Success feels like failure until it feels like success."

Chris, I almost fell over when I read this. THANK YOU!

Also, I'm so glad you started blogging, since otherwise I may not have met you, and you have improved my life immeasurably with your friendship, wise counsel, and beautiful family.

Edward Nickelson said...

The link to your first blog post doesnt go through because it repeats the domain name twice.