Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Random observations – Part 4

Random observations – Part 4
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The past few months have been full of wild ups and downs. My wife has been privy to me coming home and looking like I’m going to fall down from exhaustion, freak-out completely, or dance on the ceiling. (Oh, what a feeling!) I’ve made note of some points for myself, and thought I’d share them with you (you can also read #1, #2, and #3). Here goes…

31. Keep going

There’s a trick to success; if you stop, you’ll never get there, and most people stop. You can do a lot of things if you keep going. Run a marathon? Keep running. Write a book? Keep writing. Play a guitar solo? Keep playing.

It might not turn out to be genius, but at least you’ll have done it once. As a result, the next one will be more manageable. Just keep going.

32. They don’t know

We like to think that some people have an innate ability to succeed. Having done it once, we expect it will happen again. We probe, ask questions, write articles and generally try to deconstruct how they did it.

Well then, why isn’t Joost a success? What happened to Pounce? And why can’t Hall & Oates put out another hit record?

Some people get lucky. It doesn’t mean that they inherently have a greater chance of repeating this than anyone else. Perhaps you’ll get lucky next time.

33. Wouldn’t it be nice to not succeed?

In my mind, child prodigies get a raw deal. They do something remarkable, get a pile of attention, and in most cases, it completely screws up the rest of their lives. It’s a lot of pressure, and few rebound.

I like the idea of 10 years of toil before any major awareness for one’s work. This affords time to experiment and grow–free of public scrutiny. Then, if you ever make it you’ll have a knowledge base to prop you up. If you don’t (odds are that most of us won’t), you’ll have probably learned to like work over that time.

34. Practice your scales

I’m often confronted by young people who believe that in order to become great designers they need to experience the world. This isn’t altogether untrue; one does need to live in order to understand others. At the same time, a night out with one’s pals doesn’t negate the need for deliberate practice.

Want to be a great designer? Spend your evenings at home, designing things. It’s really that simple.

35. Don’t hire

Most people want to hire others to help them get more work done. The problem is that adding people adds work: more training, more communication, more “make busy” tasks… you get where I’m going.

Instead of hiring, figure out what tasks don’t make you any money and eliminate those.

36. Be fearless

I’m scared of lots of things and this often keeps me from doing what I want.

Sometimes I let go of that and just act. It’s fun and it generally works out quite nicely.

Nike’s marketing department was close, but needed an editor. It should have read: “Just do.”

37. Simplicity

What you’re doing is too complicated. Step back for a moment and simplify it.

(You can thank me later.)

38. Quitting is easy

When I’m doing something and it starts to feel really difficult, I often find myself wanting to do something else… Anything else… Just something easier.

The reality, however, is that there is rarely an easy path. Instead, there’s a huge hump that’s really hard to get past. Quitting now relieves temporary pain, but ultimately leads to another equally large hump.

The nice part for you is that you’re already part way down this path, and all the others feel just as tired as you do. (And most of them are going to quit soon, making the competition a little less stiff for you.)

39. Everyone expects a rocket

…but they’re in limited supply. Instead, most of us get gardens. You choose whether you water, weed, fertilize and care; or, walk away before your sprouts see the light of day.

40. Ka-pow?

When I watch boxing I find myself wondering why they don’t just punch harder. (It looks so easy when I’m sitting on my ass.) The reality, however, is that even 60 seconds on a punching bag turns my arms into anchors that I can hardly budge.

Being an entrepreneur is like this. It’s not about delivering one great blast. It’s about standing up, over and over again, even when you feel like there’s nothing left. It’s a battle of attrition, and few recognize this when they sign-up.

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Comments & Trackbacks

  1. points 36 and 38 speak to me...can't tell all the times I've dragged feet on doing something b/c I knew it was going to be hard--like redoing my portfolio site with a CMS or starting a crafts project. Thanks for reminding me that everyone is in the same thicket and to keep on going. And yes, once I just decide to plunge in to "see what happens" mostly it turns out fine!

  2. Bryan Landaburu says:

    Man, we could be kindred spirits. I had a similar post this week on

    That's not a plug, it's full agreement with your sentimnt here. While mine is admittedly more on the personal side, your ideas are overaeching and certainly more actionable. I really enjoyed this post as I do most of the things you write.

    Keep fighting the good fight. I'll be taking action on a few of those myself.


  3. Thanks--glad to hear that these are resonating with the two of you. :-)

    I always hesitate in posting these things and worry that they come off as advice for others. They're really just notes that I write to myself. Something about working so many hours in such a small office leaves you with time to ponder these things.

    It's great if they connect with what you're thinking; in the meanwhile, I accept that I'm likely wrong on a lot of these points.

    I do, however, find it nice to record them and look back a few months later to see which ones still seem relevant.

  4. Gabe Lozano says:

    Great stuff Eric; keep kicking out great posts. Reminds me of a post Andreessen wrote awhile back called" Why not to do a startup...":

  5. Nina Miller says:

    Fearlessness definitely hits home, this one leaps out at me. I think fear is the driving force behind too many decisions made in the world on all levels, and that's why things don't end so well all the time.

  6. That's the second post in the last three putting into words many of the feelings I've had over the last five years or working in a startup. Inspiration to keep fighting the fight is always welcome!

  7. Gong Szeto says:

    i love these pieces so much. and i do not worry about you. i just want you to remember the "negative space" (which is also so lovingly evident in your work) - that space of nothingness that allows the something to be. i am certain that i need not explain this any further and that you get my drift, from one entrepreneur designer to another..

  8. Kyle says:

    Regarding #32 and the reference to H & O putting out another hit record, see this clip from the Daily Show: [ ]

    The lesson there? Use it or lose it.

    The other point the (really) hit home for me was #36. Be fearless — I would say something like, "embrace your fear". For better or worse, I often worry about being called out as a fraud, dropping balls or otherwise failing on projects. In reality, these fears are unfounded, but rather than let those fears immobilize me, I use them as a motivator to push myself a little harder and make the most of my time.

  9. Kumail.H.T says:

    Nice artice,

    I think its all about simplifying, in other words planning. You can plan your way into anything.

    In addition, your state of mind is all you have. Instead of quitting, take a break, have some fun, let the project rot for a while, when you come back, everything will seem simpler, questions will have answers and you will be back on track.

    Point is: Be happy :P, keep planning, and just do

  10. Wallen's says:

    37 is so true... and so hard which feeds into 38
    32 resonates: the context in which we are has very often more impact on success than our own actions

  11. This is great advice and I can relate to it so well on a personal level. I guess all of us have been there from time to time and it is hard and I am realizing more and more how life truly is difficult. Thanks for the words of wisdom and at least for giving me a better outlook on things. Much appreciated.

  12. Jamie McCue says:

    "Being an entrepreneur is like this. It’s not about delivering one great blast. It’s about standing up, over and over again, even when you feel like there’s nothing left. It’s a battle of attrition, and few recognize this when they sign-up."

    Thanks for this! It's nice to know we're not alone. :)

    Great post.

  13. Evan Meagher says:

    Great tips, Eric. I love these posts.

  14. Jen G says:

    Why isn't Joost a success? I see that they changed their model last October. I actually signed up a while ago but never used it because it took such a long time to get the app.

  15. I don't really know. It strikes me that they did enter a rather tricky and competitive market though.

    Perhaps we'd look at it differently if they hadn't already had a home-run with Skype?

  16. Amy R says:

    Thank you for posting this.

  17. Steph Walker says:

    Definitely like these!

  18. Hey, thanks for the great post, definitely a lot of points I can relate to on a personal level. Thanks for the great advice and sometimes we do just need to grin and bear certain things, but persistence is the key to success.

  19. Logan says:

    I think that 31 & 38 totally go hand in hand. Your right it is easy to want to quit sometimes when the going gets rough, but so many times when I have pressed through and finished a project, it makes you stronger the next time and gives you experience for future projects to be able to avoid certain mistakes which then will help you in the future.

    Your Random observations are great, keep um coming :)

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