I have no regrets,” Melancon said. “I never do. This game is built on failure and I feel like what I went through will make me a better _______. I know it made me a better person.
Fill in the blank. This is a quote about baseball but it’s applicable to anything including startups and bands.
Former Red Sox pitcher Mark Melancon in the Boston Globe.
Some people find every decision difficult to make. Others with very busy lives find even the most simple decisions taxing. In a recent Vanity Fair piece, President Obama described why he only wears blue or grey suits:
“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,”
The President of the United States should not be spending his time thinking about what suit to wear when there is so much to be considered. There are likely things you can do to remove unimportant decision-making from your life.
But sometimes you need to make a decision.
There will be moments in life that force you to choose between what you were doing and what you could be doing. There will be times where you cannot choose to do it all.
The above Facebook comments were in response to a sophomore’s status about feeling like he was stretching himself too thin at Berklee College of Music. They were made tongue-in-cheek but both were serious. My comment meant that you should always be prepared for change.
I don’t know the young man very well but I do know how involved he is with many activities both in school and out. There is nothing wrong with huge ambition and I respect him greatly for that. Outside of classes and 3 (THREE!) ensembles he has done an internship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, works at the Box Office for the Berklee Performance Center, and is the Musical Theatre Orchestra Assistant Manager.
College is a place to experiment both academically and, for some, in other ways as well. It’s a time to discover what you really care about. There’s a good reason so many college students transfer, take time off, etc; curious individuals seek to use this time to learn about themselves and what they want to be.
After you find out what that is, it becomes the time to focus. That doesn’t mean you cannot change your mind later. Be completely open to pivoting because you probably will need or want to at some point in life.
The great grow rapidly. They find a brilliant idea and execute on it. They iterate and build intelligently. They are wildly ambitious with their idea but they are reigned-in when it comes to shipping new features.
The terrible die slowly. They drag it out. They hold onto an idea that either they cannot execute well or is just not viable.
Only the good die fast. They rapidly test out a radical idea. If it doesn’t work they are running back to the drawing board; figuring out how to pivot or if they should completely change their product.
There is nothing wrong with failure. The vast majority of startups do. Just try to fail quickly.
There is nothing more desirable than fast growth. It takes less time which means less energy and resources are spent on a long, drawn-out campaign for the affection of your target audience.
Startups call this hockey stick growth:
Do you see the resemblance?
There are months of slow growth and then in the span of one month there is an enormous explosion.
The reasons for this explosion in the startup world can vary greatly:
- You were covered in TechCrunch or had a popular post on HN.
- A new hardware device was released that allowed many more people to benefit from your software.
- You released a new version of your application with a feature that many people were looking for.
Bands and other types of creators (filmmakers, comics, etc) would benefit from working towards ambitious inflections points for their endeavors. Hockey stick growth is a common occurrence for some of the most popular new bands. An example is the Alabama Shakes, whose NPR article in October 2011 set off a perfect storm of events that generated the exact type of hockey stick growth startups aspire to.
Some “triggers” for explosive growth in the music industry:
- Positive coverage on respected websites and blogs (NPR, Pitchfork)
- Placement on a well-viewed TV show
- A remarkable music video that people cannot help but share
The harder and smarter you work in the beginning the more likely you will be able to make it to hockey stick growth. The longer you exist, the less likely this will ever happen. Avoid becoming stagnant. Move fast and make big things happen.