I fail rather a lot. More often, I suspect, than you do. If there’s anything I could be said to excel at, it’s failure.
Now, I don’t say that in a self-deprecating way. To me, that’s a positive thing. Because I start an awful lot of things. I would explode if all of them went well. Mostly I like to draw people’s attention to the successes, but generally, I don’t mind if they know about the misfires.
Now, I guess I could be accused of not having the stickability to see things through to the bitter end in the face of adversity – but my philosophy in these matters is both ‘why make things hard for yourself?’ and ‘why should I not get to do the interesting, exciting and potentially successful thing just because the thing I’m working on has turned into a no-reward slog?’.
I’d rather be considered lazy and interesting, than a dull workhorse bashing away at the same unsuccessful project because of some misplaced sense of duty. You don’t have to finish everything you start – and I’d argue you should start far more things than you possibly have a hope of ever finishing.
Some things I start seem like really good ideas at the time. There was the 100 Questions project – of which I got about 50 through, then realised they were better as blog posts than as part of a massive tome. Especially in the light of the sheer volume of comments a lot of those posts elicited.
Then there’s the Wiki book that I offered to set up, contribute to, and invite submissions to. Great idea, right? I mean, the sheer scope of experience and expertise amongst the thousands of NMS readers in the world is completely staggering. How can I, as one commentator, hope to contribute anything that would compete with that body of knowledge?
And yet – it appears that’s not what NMS readers want. I’ve had emails from people saying they’d prefer to just hear what I think in this context – and comments from others demanding I sort out the ownership issues before they’ll reveal any of their knowledge. Fair enough. I can stop doing it far more easily than I can start.
So I’m sort of pulling the plug on the Wiki book, just as I pulled the plug on the 100 Questions project – with no sentimentality and no hesitation. I do the same elsewhere too. I have started at least a dozen new websites in the past 18 months – a couple of which are looking promising and successful. The others I’m happy to let lie.
They may kick off again – they may not. I’m not particularly attached to it either way. My only question is – what shall I try next?
And I guess the lesson to draw here, if there is one, is that you don’t have to stay the course. There are so many tools, techniques and services to try – and really no way to know for sure which are the correct ones for you to use and rely upon. But likewise – fortunately, there’s no real downside with a lot of internet strategies to trying something and walking away from it if it’s not working for you.
If it’s free, simple or worth a shot – start it. If it works for you – great. If it doesn’t, do something else. And that might change from day to day, or it might snowball and turn into something really positive and powerful.
Trying and failing is a far more productive strategy than not trying something in case it doesn’t work. In fact, if you want to be successful – fail early and fail often.
So if you had high hopes for something in particular that I was working on and I seem to have abandoned it in favour of something shiny and new, feel free to pick it up and run with it. If you can make a success of something I’ve botched – be my guest. Get in touch and let me know.
But don’t be afraid to go and make as many of your own mistakes as you can. It’s really the only way to succeed.
Incidentally, you can buy those fabulous FAIL stickers pictured above. I think they’re pretty cool.