Last year I set out to take over the world with a tool I had developed. It seemed like a great idea. Hell, it still might be. I had written tools like it for three or four previous clients, it addressed a fairly mundane problem that most IT organizations have.
So I had written this tool, tested it, debugged it, created an installer for it. I even wrote some docs explaining how to use it. Back in the early 90s this things would have been killer! So I got the product together pretty well. I created a web-site.
And then I was completely lost. There’s a web-site, it’s right there. Customers are going to be showing up and this is going to rock. I don’t need no stinking investors. Investors, who needs them? Angles, VCs and other type of investors are just headaches and they take 90% of your work and in the end you get nothing.
Well….I got experience. I didn’t need investors for that. Overall, I’m pretty ticked about this. Not because I didn’t sell anything (didn’t sell 1 copy, in fact I couldn’t even give it away). I ticked because of the way in which I failed.
I failed because I was afraid of failure so I did not try as absolutely hard as I could have. I made a few lame attempts at marketing. I spammed some people. I did a half-assed ad-sense campaign. But that was about it. I didn’t blog regularly (never really have), I didn’t focus on technical forums where the people who influence the buying decisions are. I didn’t show it off at every opportunity. In fact, I didn’t a pretty damn good job of keeping it a secret.
I didn’t fail because I needed money. There are plenty of ways to advertise on the internet that don’t cost a dime. Just a little time. Ok, maybe a lot of time. I can’t really say for sure having not invested the time.
So yeah – failure sucks. And as I just schooled myself – fear of failure only brings about one thing: FAILURE. I’ll fess up: I really don’t want to be that guy. Which guy? You know, that guy, the one who did that thing that was so miserable it’s surprising his wrists didn’t slash themselves. So in trying to avoid being that guy, you become him. It is sort of like riding a motorcycle. People wreck on bikes because they look at the thing they are trying to avoid and they automatically steer themselves in to it. It is called target fixation. You don’t want to be known as a failure so you avoid doing anything that might cause failure so you do nothing and become known as a failure. That worked well.
Here is the thing: failure in this fashion, the go hide in a corner and quietly wither away type, doesn’t hurt right away. It nags at you, it bugs you. It calls you up late at night to remind you that you could have done something. Almost anything would have been better. It is not a sharp pain like you get when you nearly amputate the tip of your index finger. That type of pain guarantees that you’ll do things differently next time. This pain is subtler, trickier. It tries to convince you that it is ok, to just take it. It tries to convince you to just live with it. Don’t try too hard, just keep you head down and do you time.
Seriously – if you are going to fail; fail spectacularly. Make sure there is a mushroom cloud that covers at least the surrounding twelve counties when you go down. Make sure everybody knows about it. Make it worthy of a YouTube video. Be that guy. The one who went down in a screaming ball of fire that took out three city blocks. They had to call out FEMA to clean up the mess.
So here I sit having failed through not trying. Time to try it another way.
If you care to see the corpse it is over there. If you want a copy let me know and I’ll send it over (email jakew at this domain: guerillaprogrammer.com). I’m going to use the source code as part of a class I’m putting together on Windows Workflow Foundation. Figure that if it didn’t make a good product it ought to serve as a great classroom example of how to do workflows, write custom actions and do a few other neat workflow related tricks.
Oh – in NLP it isn’t failure. It is feedback. The universe’s way of saying “well that sucked”.