Social Media and Simplicity, Part 9: Failure
Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
This post is part 9 of 10 in our groundbreaking series on how freelancers can use social media and the principles of simplicity to build their businesses.
Day 9 – The Ninth Law of Simplicity: Failure
Some things can never be made simple.
This whole series has been about succeeding at what you do — in fact, being the best at what you do — and taking advantage of new technologies to take that success even further. Why all of a sudden talk about failure? Because failure is one of the most important experiences you will have. Just like there is a return on every good investment you make, there is an equally important return on every wrong decision you make. Remember the fourth law? Learn. Here’s how to make the best of your failures.
You May Fail At First
There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, who never pursue their dreams because they believe their dreams are fundamentally unattainable or unrealistic. Their mistake, of course, is that they violate the eighth law — trusting yourself. Yes, online media has matured over the years and it isn’t as easy to break in and break through as it was a few years ago. The bloggers who started industries (such as TechCrunch for industry news, Mashable for social networking news, Problogger for making money by blogging, etc.) have incredibly comfortable positions at the top of the ladder, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot join their ranks through sheer hard work and determination.
I recently discussed the Matthew Effect — the idea that the rich and famous get richer and more famous — at Problogger recently, and came up with the following 5 ways to beat the Matthew Effect:
- Work harder
- 3. Collaborate
- 4.Use your network
- Don’t get discouraged
Similarly, many people refuse to participate in socially driven communities because they feel that their voice will be lost or muffled by the voices of the “power users” or “social connectors”. The fact of the matter is, though, that with the exception of a select few (who had the luxury/foresight/luck to join from the onset), we all start from the bottom and work our way to the top.
For example, before I was even ranked in the top 1000 community members on Digg, I got to know a few users who were in the top 50. Today, some of these users are ranked much lower (and some aren’t even on the top 100 list) but I am now ranked at number 2. The people who were ranked in the top 20 back then are no longer around and have been replaced by others who worked hard, participated passionately, and rose to the top. This could easily be your story.
Here’s another example, up until a little while ago, there were less than 100 people following me on Twitter. However, in the last 3 months, the number of people following my lifestream has increased by 350%. Sure, you cannot compare this to the number of followers Robert Scoble or Jason Calcanis have, but this does show that if you are putting information out there, the people who find it relevant will find their way to it. Though this may take a while, it’s not impossible.
Success doesn’t come easy. I submitted dozens of stories to Digg before getting a substantial number of votes on any of them, and it took even more time before a submission I thought was interesting actually made it to the home page. The same is the case with my blog. I had to deal with months upon months of virtually insignificant traffic before I had any audience to speak of. Make your life simpler by acknowledging and embracing the fact that there will be times when life isn’t fair and there will be times when you simply fail.
Failing is OK — Even A Good Thing
I honestly believe that people have “failing” all backwards. Yes, it isn’t a good feeling to work hard to write/design something only to find out that it just doesn’t work. And many mistakes are certainly avoidable as long as you pay attention and learn from the experiences of those who have made the same mistakes before you. However, you’re bound to slip-up every once in a while, and as long as you take a long-term view of things, while every misstep seems a step in the wrong direction in the short run, overall, even the mistakes you make are steps forward.
As long as you learn from the mistakes you make, don’t think of them as failure, think of them as education. As you learn from the mistakes of others, take it upon yourself to help others learn from your mistakes.
Every time I write a piece on my blog, I measure the reaction of my audience by looking at the traffic stats as well as the number of people who link to it or comment on it. Now if I write something and my audience doesn’t like it, I can either mark that as a waste of time, or I can learn from it and over time get a better idea of what exactly my audience is interested in. As long as I pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, I am learning daily how to keep my audience happiest. Similarly, every time you participate in a socially driven community, you can see what works and what doesn’t work, and over time increase the success rate on your participation. Furthermore, based on how well your content is received by the social media audience, you can find out what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.
Ultimately, the more successful you are, the more comfortable you’re bound to get and the more you risk losing your drive. Your mistakes and your failures are what force you to strive to better yourself everyday, and nothing is more valuable than that. Make your life simpler by not worrying about what you’re doing wrong. Instead, appreciate the value of your failures.
For simplifying the rest of your life, check out John Maeda’s Blog.