July 9, 2012 by Speakers' Spotlight

Overnight Success?

Guest blog from Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner is the New York Times Bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming – A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named a top 10 business book of 2011. He is CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners. Together with Magic Johnson and NBA team owner Dan Gilbert, he is actively rebuilding urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship. Josh is also the Founder and Chairman of ePrize, the largest interactive promotion agency in the world. Prior to ePrize, he was the founder and CEO of three other successful technology companies. Among writing for The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today and The New York Times, Josh is a regular columnist for Fast Company, Inc. Magazine and Forbes.

As Chris Dixon pointed out in a recent blog post, Angry 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 – 40thAttempt.” 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.