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You can't replicate the success of other people

Published Nov 10 2021

In the past I’ve consumed a lot of material about the topic of entrepreneurship. I’m especially interested in small, solo ventures working on digital products, powered by the Internet.

Since I finished University, that’s what I wanted to do: become an entrepreneur, working solo on digital products.

Live where I want, how I want, work for how long I want.

I knew zero people living this kind of life, in the real world. I knew a couple people back in school that had maybe an Adsense website and that was it.

I learned all through the Internet.

Podcasts, interviews, videos, blog posts, books.

I’ve been doing this for a very long time, probably the first one I remember was The 4-Hour Work Week book. Since then, I’ve become passionate about this topic.

There are a few stories that I really studied deeply. One was definitely Adam Wathan, because of how much he shared in podcasts and blog posts of his launches.

Another one was Nathan Barry in the pre-ConvertKit days Another one was Pieter Levels. Another one, more recently, was Daniel Vassallo.

And there are many more. You can just search for those names on Google and you’ll find lots of stuff about what they created.

Today I was reading Twitter and Pieter shared that he tried ~70 different ventures and only 4 actually got any traction.

And this made me think. I have a similar ratio, perhaps 50 to 3.

I can’t write all the ideas I had in the past. Too many, and I forgot them. But I can count the ones on which I acted for some time, until I stopped working on them. And the number is quite big.

In another tweet, Pieter basically said that statistically, you can fail so many times until something works.

And this is spot on. I’ve never “got” the classic mantra “fail fast so you can learn from your mistakes” that Silicon Valley wants us to believe. It’s more a VC thinking, “fail fast so we can move on to other bets”.

Let’s say I’ve failed 50 times. There’s little to be learned from failures. You learn from the small wins, and over time you figure out what works.

Some people are so lucky that they get a big success the first time they try something. You probably know some of those stories. I know a few.

But in most cases, it’s not like that. You try something, and it doesn’t work. And typically, you try something after you’ve been inspired by someone else’s story.

This is one of the reasons I share what I think or do on the Internet: so I can inspire others to take action.

But one thing I’ve got to understand lately is this. You can’t replicate someone else’s success story.

You can read 1000 times the story of how Adam Wathan sold $61k with his first ebook.

When you’ll sell your first ebook, you’ll get radically different results.

You can read 1000 times the story of how Pieter Levels built Nomad List.

When you’ll launch your startup/project, you’ll get radically different results.

You can read 1000 times the story of how Ali Abdaal became a YouTuber with 1M subscribers.

When you’ll create your YouTube channel, you’ll get radically different results.

They are the success stories you hear about. You don’t get to hear about the other 10000 that tried the same things and got nowhere.

They had a unique combination of timing, being in the right place at the right time, reaching the right people, having that person retweet that then caused all the other events to follow, and so on.

Trying to replicate what they did will not work.

Even people doing the same kind of work at the same time will not get the same results.

In the past year alone, I’ve seen people explode on “programming YouTube” and others still there putting out 2 videos a week with 50 views. The same for Twitter. It’s quite random.

You can put on the table hard work, quality, effort, and all, but still not be picked up by the algorithm.

It’s quite random.

I think it can be summarized like being the right person in the right place at the right time working on the right thing and presenting it in the right way.

What you can do, however, is try.

Get in motion.

Start working on something, you can not anticipate what that thing will bring to your table.

Planning in advance is also highly overrated. I have a collection of plans I make in mind maps, just to remind me how stupid those plans where, and also making those plans in the first place. It’s entertaining work, and procrastination.

Work on multiple things at once. Open multiple doors.

It’s a matter of exposing yourself to multiple possibilities.

One of them will get more initial traction, focus on that.

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