How to Stop Sucking and Be Awesome Instead

I've been fortunate to have some measure of success in my life, primarily through this very blog over the last eight years, and in creating Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange over the last four years. With the birth of our twin girls, I've had a few months to pause and reflect on those experiences. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? How would I do things differently next time? What advice should I give other people based on my own life experiences?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

You can use this link to view the slide withoud downloading it.

Wow. I’ve been getting this message A LOT lately, since I’ve started watching the videos on TED. It’s like every successful person out there started with 200 failures, before he got to the one attempt that made him famous. And those 200 failures were also valuable and necessary lessons that allowed the 201st to succeed.

If I can suggest, watch the two videos by Brené Brown: There are links to the videos on the right, and I recommend watching them in chronological order, because in the second talk she refers to the first one.

You should try Neuro-Linguistic-Programming NLP, in my own experience it is very efficient to stop sucking with others and with yourself:

Feel the fear, and do it anyway.

Is the talk recorded anywhere? Seems like it could have been a great talk.

Also, please please please host the stuff on another site.

Today’s Dilbert (1st of June) says something about Feng Shui ways of being awesome…

Your presentation reminds me of…

Merlin Mann - Scared Shitless:

Douglas Merrill - Do dumb things:

…but with less personal or business history. These stories are touching and interesting, but keeping it succinct is what makes your presentation really stick for me. It’s more of a practical summary; like a cheat sheet for daily life, with a few good examples and quotes added.

I printed the three points and stuck it to my closet door. Thank you! :smiley:

I’m far from a Steve Jobs fanatic, but he gave an excellent commencement address years back that talks about failures and complements very well what Jeff has just said.

I encourage all of you to read it (even people like me who are normally turned off by the cult of Jobs):

I love the slide with nothing but a photo of the horrific Pontiac Aztek.

1 Like

The problem is the difference between:

  1. Successful people have failed a lot

  2. If you fail a lot, you will be successful

Statement #1 DOES NOT imply statement #2.

The problem is survivorship bias - the people who have failed a lot yet never succeeded, and a completely miserable as a result, don’t get held up as examples. Yet there probably many more of them than others.

@SethF - True. Still, (1) implies, that if you avoid failing altogether, then you most certainly won’t be successful (well, there are exceptions as always, but they’re a minority).

“How does one know if they’ve succeeded, without experiencing failure?”

@SethF I would categorize people who risk nothing and fail never as aggressively pursuing averageness. Nothing lost. Nothing gained. This is where most people exist (hence “average”).

However, in a guide on being AWESOME, much must be risked and potentially lost. And by definition of risk, often the investment doesn’t pay off. But when it does: bam! Awesomeness.

Ah, but just as half of a group is average or below, it’s a mathematical fact that most people will never have more than the median level of success.

If you buy a lot of lottery tickets, and one pays off big - AWESOME. But there’s not an unlimited budget for buying those lottery tickets (taking risk). Much of the recent financial crisis has been driving by traders taking big risks in pursuit of the AWESOME, and then sticking someone else, especially the taxpayer, with the losses. Risk-management, personal and global, is very important.

You know what would have been awesome ? Giving credit where credit is due. Stealing catchphrases ? Not awesome.

@SethF If you improve your state you bring up the average for everyone.

Those kids from Fame?

@SethF: The point isn’t to keep taking dumb risks and waiting for luck to pay off. The point is to keep taking informed risks and drawing on the experience of your past failures.

If you lose on the lottery 100 times, you’ve learnt nothing. In any other area of life, 100 failures means you’ve learnt 100 things to avoid doing again.

@Cryptnotic - Yes, but still, everyone can’t be vastly above average, even if the average is rising on a historical scale. People don’t consider themselves great successes nowadays because they type in an office cubicle rather than doing back-breaking physical agriculture labor from dawn to dusk.

@Btdsys - The issue is basically whether you can “learn” to be in the right place at the right time, or whether that is purely luck akin to hitting the lottery. Note, I didn’t say success is purely luck, don’t rush to knock that down. Rather, if a crucial aspect is low-probability luck, then that’s a hard limit to the results. Consider this - if drawing on past experience, you can raise your chance of getting AWESOME by a factor of 100 times - from one in a million to one in ten thousand - that’s still going to be a loss almost all the time.