SETT, the new blogging platform that Todd and I are building, which this blog is running on, is going really well. With every project comes this fantasy that as soon as the world catches the briefest glimpse of your work, it will respond by showering you with praise and instantly recognizing that what you have created is important and the best possible solution to an significant problem. That's not actually what happens, though. Ever. For anyone.
Being at the beginning of the success curve is more like being a puppy dog. People like you and are interested in what you're doing, but you're not necessarily taken seriously and you stumble from time to time. That's where we are.
According to the recent SETT survey I did, most readers prefer SETT to Wordpress. Not everyone will like it better, but I've been really thrilled with how people are embracing some of the new features we've built. It confirms my belief that blogging is currently broken fundamentally, and that we're building the next version of blogging, and not just sprinkling some glitter an an existing solution.
Since releasing, we've rebuilt a lot of stuff to make it easier to use, more consistent, and accessible on a number of devices. We've introduced bugs in the process, but we are also working hard to fix them. Readers have contributed a lot of great content in the community side of the site, and two of the posts were so good that I promoted them to the front page.
But at the same time, we're still vulnerable like a puppy. We might fail, and that's something worth talking about.
I've started previous projects without much thought or commitment. In some ways, that's a good thing, because it means that I'm willing to jump right in and make stuff happen. That's an important skill. But at the same time, I go in without really knowing what it would take to succeed, or what it would take to fail. I have that vision of instant overnight success, and when reality doesn't quite match that, I lose motivation. Not with SETT. For over a year and a half, SETT has been my primary focus, and for the last year, I can objectively say that I've been killing it.
Part of what fuels my motivation for SETT is that I've thought about how I might fail, and which of those possibilities are acceptabele to me, and which aren't.
If we launched SETT and everyone basically said, "No, Wordpress and Tumblr are everything we want for blogging, what you've created is superfluous," I would accept that. I thought that SETT was a good idea worth pursuing, but if, after creating it, the blogging community told me "no thanks" I could accept that.
If a competitor decided to focus all of its resources to copying us and managed to beat us at our own game, it would hurt, but I would accept it. I would fight and try to win, but if I ultimately lost, that would be okay.
If someone else came out with a way better way to blog-- something I hadn't thought of, I could accept that as well. I would never try to encourage people to use something I built if I didn't feel like it was the best possible solution.
So there are ways that I could fail that would be acceptable to me. I would fight them and do my best, but if I ultimately lost, I wouldn't have regret. On the other hand, there's one way I won't fail, and that's for lack of effort.
If SETT fails because I didn't try hard enough, that's an embarrassment. There are a lot of factors in the creative process that can be coaxed or manipulated, but the one clear factor that is never beyond our own control is our own effort. My secret weapon is that I will give everything to SETT. I work every day of the year, including weekends and holidays. When I come across code I've written that isn't clean or efficient, I rewrite it. When I'm on a flight and my laptop battery dies, I stare out the window and daydream about SETT, about how I can make it better.
It's not just SETT, though. I will never allow lack of effort to cause me to fail in anything again.
My last girlfriend and I dated for some amount of time, maybe six or nine months. It was a long distance relationship, which was difficult, and we ultimately broke up. For the first time ever, I had regrets about breaking up, because I realized that I didn't try hard enough. Our situation was difficult, but it wasn't impossible. If I wasn't willing to put in the work to make it successful, then could I really count on myself to put in the work in my next relationship? If she wasn't worth my full effort, then who would be?
We got back together some amount of months later, and I decided that although we might break up again, this time forever, it wouldn't be because I hadn't tried hard enough. And so I tried. I certainly made my fair share of mistakes, and consistent with my policy of assuming responsibility for everything, I shoulder the blame for it not working. But I didn't regret breaking up the second time, because I knew that, in my own imperfect human way, I tried my best.
It was some time during that second shot at the relationship that I decided I would never fail for lack of effort in anything. It's the cowards way, giving up because one is either afraid of success, afraid of failure, or afraid of sacrifice. Should I encounter those fears, I resolved, I would push through them, placing my faith in the power of effort.
I'll fail again in business, I fail again in relationships, and I'll fail again with other personal goals. I know and accept this. But it won't be because I didn't try as hard as I possibly could. That would be unacceptable.
Photo is a picture I took in Norway of a Viking ship. Tough to come up with any credible reason for it to be at the top of today's post. The Vikings failed, but not for lack of effort? Maybe?
I can't believe that Full Responsibility post that I linked to is five years old! I may revisit the subject in a newer blog post because I have a lot more to say about it now.