Overnight Success?

Posted on April 1, 2012 by Josh Linkner

As Chris Dixon pointed out in a recent blog postAngry Birds, the incredibly popular game, was software maker Rovio’s 52nd attempt. They spent eight years and nearly went bankrupt before finally creating their massive hit.

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites in history, but struggled for a long time. Pinterest’s CEO recently said that they had “catastrophically small numbers” in their first year after launch and that if he had listened to popular startup advice he probably would have quit.

James Dyson “failed” in over 5100 experiments before perfecting his revolutionary vacuum cleaner.  Groupon was put on life support and nearly shut down at one point in its meteoric rise.

When looking at the most successful people and organizations, we often imagine a smooth journey straight to the promised land.  But when you really examine nearly every success story, they are filled with crushing defeats, near-death experiences, and countless setbacks.

We often celebrate companies and individuals once they’ve achieved undeniable success, but shun their disruptive thinking before reaching such a pinnacle.  Before Oprah was Oprah, before Jobs was Jobs, they were labeled as misguided dreamers rather than future captains of industry.

In your life, you’ve probably had a setback or two.  When you stumble, it’s tempting the throw in the towel and accept defeat.  There’s always an attractive excuse waiting eagerly, hoping you’ll take the easy way out.  But the most successful people forge ahead.  They realize that mistakes are simply data, providing new information to adjust your approach going forward.

The ubiquitous WD-40 lubricant got its name because the first 39 experiments failed.  WD-40 literally stands for “Water Displacement – 40th Attempt.” If they gave up early on like most of us do, we’d sure have a lot more squeaky things in the world.

You have a mission to accomplish and an enormous impact to make on the world.  You will inevitably endure some “failures” along your journey but you must realize that persistence and determination have always been primary ingredients in accomplishment.

Don’t cave to your mistakes, embrace them.  In fact, mistakes are simply to the portals of discovery.  There’s an old saying that “every bull’s-eye is the result of a hundred misses.”  So the next time you feel the sting of failure, just realize you’re likely one shot closer to hitting your target.

And who knows?  Maybe after a few dozen failures and months or years of hard work, you might just be that next “overnight” success.

8 Responses to “Overnight Success?

  1. Josh,

    The timing of your article and the status of my start-up could not of been more perfect.A BIG THANKS. After a so-so review of my plan at GLEQ and other issues I put it on hold. Last night while looking over my plan for a VC/Entrepreneur class at MSU, I decided to make it happen.
    MLB here we come.

  2. Josh, you couldn’t have said it better. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. It’s easy to falter when my ducks start swimming out of line and feel tempted to retreat to the safety of the known… the comfort zone… rather than push forward. Thanks again!

  3. Robert Scoble just introduced me to Olivia Fox Cabane, Chief Charisma Coach at Spitfire Communications. Olivia’s new book is called “The Charisma Myth”. In this video she discusses how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, stop buying into inner criticism, and smash self-doubt. Really worth a watch for anyone on this journey! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KActy96aR9A Cheers!

  4. Hi Josh

    I work as a synthetic chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, and knowing how to deal with failure is the most important part of the job. I could spend my entire career working on molecules that will never make it as commercial drugs, but if we gave up every time something went wrong we’d never discover any new cures.

    For example viagra was a heart drug that failed, but someone looking at the side effects in a certain population of men in the trial thought it was worth investigating further, and the result is just as famous as the examples above.


  5. Good valuable advice Josh. I wrote this blog and I hope you and your readers enjoy it.

    Must We Fail Before We Succeed?

    We’ve all heard stories of entrepreneurs who achieved great financial success, but endured a litany of failures en route. Some people claim that it’s virtually impossible to build a successful business if you haven’t first had at least one business failure. They reason that we only know how much risk we can safely take when we know how much risk is too much. In short, is there some immutable law, which stipulates that failure is a prerequisite for success? As with questions raised by most popular maxims, the answer depends on circumstances. In this case, it depends on four factors.

    More here:

  6. Believe it or not… this article came at a significant moment and pushed me over the edge… to step up to the plate and try again. My fav… mistakes are data! Great perspecive to have.