The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

The differences between success and failure are very, very close — especially when you’re competing at a high level. Many people stop three feet from gold. 

Sometimes you can get 98% of the way there and stop. In your mind you’ll say, “I failed.” 

You don’t know how close you were to success. 

The reality of it is, sometimes success is one more phone call, one more email, or one more meeting — after 98 failures in a row. When you look at the start of Crisp, I sat down trying to pitch our services for 21 meetings and 21 proposals. I was told no 21 times in a row. 

On the 22nd, we got our first yes. 

It’s interesting thinking about it. I didn’t know it would take 22 of those to get our first client. If I stopped when I got my first no, or my fifth no, or my 11th no, or my 16th now, or my 18th no, or even my 21st no, this company wouldn’t exist today. 

I think it’s a very thin line between success and failure. You just don’t know how close you are to success when you’re doing something.

I believe that if you believe in something and you’re committed to it, you persist in spite of that. This has played out across so many great companies. 

Airbnb is a great example — how many times that they were told no, how many times different investors and VCs rejected their idea. It was over a hundred times. People told them, “This is a horrible idea.” 

A lot of that is just necessary resilience. 

Now, on the other hand, how do you know when whatever you’re trying to do is just a bad idea?  You can only beat your head against the wall so many times. 

I think a lot of that comes down to understanding your market and understanding your consumer, your client, and their needs. 

When I was talking about digital video in 2012, YouTube and Facebook weren’t what they are today. I saw this stuff emerging and this movement from traditional media to digital media. 

I said, “There’s something here. I truly, truly believe it.” 

If you see how consumer behavior is changing and understand a market, industry, or medium, and you do a lot of research and start to see consumer behavior changing, then stick with it. You could be early. 

On the other hand, if it’s just something you really haven’t thought through and researched and you just have a hunch, that may be a little bit irresponsible. You may need to be more diligent in the research before really betting heavily on it.

But again — it’s about not stopping three feet from gold.

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