Wednesday, September 20, 2006
the wrong kind of success will kill you
I've been thinking about how Tom Peters has been saying that success is what ruins companies, not failure. Too much failure destroys any entity, human or company, we know. But too much success also defiles a person or business.
Too much success is a curse. Continued, "smooth-sailing", seemingly eternalized success is a curse. Because it institutionalizes a structure of resistance to change. It becomes a boat everyone is privately warned not to rock. It becomes toes that are easily stepped on by a brash and brilliant overachiever.
You get disinformation from success. By the time you identify what you think caused the success, the real cause (right place, right time, okay product, media attention, tolerable novelty) has vanished, because the technology, media, and consumers have moved on past you.
What caused yesterday's success, still seems fairly reasonable today, but is what will prevent your survival tomorrow.
You need a few, perhaps a long series of failures, colossal mistakes, looking like an idiot, all these things we fear, are things we all need. I said NEED.
Since Edison did not set out to improve the candle, but envisioned a whole new reality of switched-on artificially lit workstations and homes, he had to fail repeatedly, until nature yielded up the secret of incandesence.
There's a wrong kind of everything. A wrong kind of work ethic (laziness). A wrong kind of financial transaction (con artist). And there's a wrong kind of success.
Wrong Success is based on past results, tradition, and "what the customers want now".
Wrong Success is also succeeding in spite of.
It's the "in spite of" that will eventually gather critical mass and then kill your company or personhood. Success in spite of exploitation, in spite of ethics violations, in spite of bad diet, in spite of an inactive lifestyle, in spite of everybody hating you, in spite of lazy clerical help, in spite of aetc.
We all have our "in spite ofs". And they're poised to some day strike you down.
Right Success is based on innovation, customer dialogue, altruism, and "what the customers are starting to want, and will probably want in the future".
If your success is based on meeting the needs of your current customers, I pity you. Look at what happened to Ford and GM. Arrogance, says Tom Peters and Seth Godin. Basing strategy on "what worked in the past".
What worked in the past, what's working right now, is NOT going to work tomorrow. Each day we must think "what shall I destroy in my personality, my belief system, my ideology, my business today?"
If you identify the dysfunctional, or soon to be outmoded, aspects, and surgically remove them yourself, it's a lot easier than life doing it to you. Trust me. Attack yourself before life becomes aware that you have a problem.
Success makes us complacent, smug, arrogant, selfish, greedy, and reckless. Success is a delusion. All you can ever "succeed" at is maintaining your pursuit of success. Success is not a state of being, it's an prismatic attitude and a directioned motivation.
You're not obtaining the results you want, or need, as a person or a company?
Ramp up the failures.
Take bigger risks.
Start falling flat on your face more often.
Look idiotic more often.
Expose yourself to massive amounts of extremely hostile attack.
Be a pest. Be a thorn in the side of something that's evil or stupid.
Do something totally bizarre.
Smash the damn box, don't just timidly attempt to "think outside" it. How can you think outside the box, if you live inside that box. That box of comfort zones, familiar reality, tried-and-true routines, and effective traditions? All of which are doomed in our Accelerated Society.
Whoever dominates your industry, market, artform, audience, or cause today? They're the Losers to avoid imitating. You can learn nothing from the current business leaders. Why? Because, with few exceptions, they're already dying and declining. No market leader is surging forward ferociously or future-triumphantly. All flash-in-the-pans.
Shun the leaders. Avoid successful people like the plague.
But don't go to the opposite extreme, and hang around with mediocre losers and apathetic whiners.
No! You must move Beyond Success, not retreat to the Wrong, the Evil, or the Foolish. You must rush, right now, headlong and heartstrong, into the Future Made By the New.
The future is easy to predict: it will be A:L:L new. Completely different than what you see around you today. Almost nothing of the old will remain. And the New will do it's usurpation at hitherto unimaginable velocities, leaving the terrain literally strewn with rotting corpses, both businesses and individuals.
Why? Technology is exploding faster than anything human can keep up with, the information/manipulation tech field is racing like crazy toward some mysterious, unknown goal, fueled by the faux, discredited, detrimental Technological Imperative ("what can be made, must be made, and humans will just have to adjust to it").
Flock to the up-and-comers, the perpetual failures, and the neo-hopeless.
Go to where people are fighting hard, struggling heroically, and making tons of mistakes.
That's where innovation is happening. They have to innovate in order to be unique, to be where we will all be once they get the ball rolling.
Computers > Internet > Web > Blogosphere/RSS > Podcasts > Videocasting > Haptic Immersive/Digital Surrogate Embodiment Telepresencing > Total Teleportation > Remote Control Reality
Communication > File Sharing > Object Multiplication-Relocation-Proliferation
Whatever is emerging with promise and persecution, sabotage and setbacks: THIS is where the laws and models for the Next Reality are hidden.
Eventually, abruptly, unexpectedly, some shooting star will come screaming out of the mess: a Google, a Vint Cerf, a YouTube, a Post Secret, a Doc Searls, a Cluetrain Manifesto, a Bob Dylan, a Digg, a Weblogsinc, a Tim Berners-Lee, a Firefox, an eBay...who knows what the next Big Big Thing will be, or where it will come from?
Oh, we know where the Next Big Thing will come from.
Information, Communications, Transactions, and Object Manipulation Technology. That's where it's all coming from. Products that enable, empower us to do things remotely and interact with others digitally.
The deeply human need to share, belong, socialize, learn, and be entertained.
Posted by steven edward streight at 9/20/2006 02:56:00 PM