As I move from employee to self-employed software developer and attempt to build a company around my ideas, one central point sticks in my mind that I read from Paul Graham: if one is to succeed one has to make failure more costly. Not just in terms of wasted time or in terms of lost money–no, one has to make failure personal.
Making failure personal is actually rather easy: first, make what you’re doing part of your identity. When we introduce ourselves we often introduce ourselves with our status or our position: “Hi, I’m Joe, and I’m a sophomore student at cool college.” “Hi, Joe; I’m Jeff and I’m a senior developer at awesome corporation.”
So, in two weeks, I’d like to introduce myself as Bill Woody, sole proprietor and principal software developer of Chaos In Motion, a startup corporation specializing in business communications and management software. It’s now part of my identity–it is now part of who I am. Which means this must be a single-focused part of my identity: I cannot be “a part-time student and chief programmer” because if the chief programmer fails, well, hell–I was always just a part-time student anyway. Who cares about the fact that my company fails.
But if I’m not anything else, well, who wants to go through life being a personal failure?
The second step is equally easy: announce it to the world. Announce it to your friends, to your family, to your wife and kids–make your personal success or failure as public as possible. Join social groups or alumni luncheons and make it part of your identity. It is who you are. It is what you are all about.
And as soon as everyone else around you has bought into your own identity, and as soon as you have bought into your own identity–well, now you have no choice but to succeed regardless of what hell you must put yourself through.
Because it’s either that or acknowledging the most hateful thing we can possibly do: that we haven’t just failed to start up something–but that we are in fact a failure. We’ve failed our friends, our families, the people in our social circles. We’ve failed ourselves.
So you’ll excuse me if I make blogging about my own startup a core element of this blog. Because it’s my intention to be about as public as humanly possible, in order to make the price of my failure as expensive as humanly possible.