why you should ignore the past

I love the “success literature” space – it’s actually pretty humorous. I think of all of the books I’ve read; there are maybe three that I can say actually “tell it like it is” when describing the reality of success.

The literature does give you a prescription for success – follow my lead, says the successful author – and you can be a success, just like me.

But this is a fallacy. Do you know why?

Because that author is actually living a completely different reality from you, your reality and their reality are completely different things – they were successful when the right combination of time and place and space and people came together in just the right way. That moment in time when they tipped over into success from pre-success can never be repeated.

Just think of that as a parallel reality to your own – the conditions which lined up so smoothly for them can never be repeated for you. Now, it’s not to say that what they did had no merit; it’s entirely possible that some of what they did to be successful you can use on your own journey to success – but you can’t expect it to happen the same way.

This is one reason why investment companies and funds always state the disclaimer that “past performance is no guarantee of future results”.

This is true of EVERYTHING, and not just investments.

Just think – if we could replicate the results of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs, we’d all be walking around as billionaires. No, they live in a completely different reality (we all do), and it is a magic combination of events all occurring at the right time and place which may tip you into success.

It is unpredictable. You may never know when it can happen.

You can, however, improve your luck that it will. There are a few tenets that will make it more likely for you to succeed, no matter what your endeavor is.

First, you need to know people and be known. I’ve written before that traction is maybe much more important than product – anyone can build something – but nowadays, getting people’s attention for something new and different is almost impossible – your go-to-market strategy is almost more important than your product itself.

Secondly, your ability to quickly get your product into your potential customer’s hands, monitor their reaction to your product, and respond to their feedback is also key. As I’ve written before on the Popsockets story, it is important not to be too wedded to your idea – if your customers want you to pivot – then do it – don’t be the pigheaded startup founder who wants to build their vision at all costs – that is a recipe for startup disaster.

Finally, you need the three keys to line up – one – you need demand – it has to be something that people will willingly pay for – secondly, you need to have the skill to execute and re-execute as much as you need to deliver what your customer wants and finally you need to have the passion for seeing it through and not give up until you’ve pivoted to something that customers want (even if they aren’t the same customers that you were shooting for at the start.

Recall the story of Viagra, which started as a treatment for a heart condition – when it started triggering erections, Pfizer pivoted fast.

The keys to success are not in someone else’s story – everyone lives in their own reality, and you must succeed on your own terms and in your own time – you can make it more likely when you practice these tactics.


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