Last year, I launched a little website called Kikulacho. Goodness, I was in love with this site – I wanted to do everything just right with it. I read all the books on successful websites and learnt all the tricks that the “gurus” out there had published. I had done my homework and I was determined to make the site work. So on a cold October morning, I launched my baby and got ready to watch it grow into an absolute authority of a site.
I was doing everything that I was supposed to do so it was a big shock to learn that I was not getting the success that all the books and gurus had promised. What was I doing wrong? Nothing. Yet, a few months later I abandoned the project for other things. It was really really painful to let my baby die and I still haven’t gotten over it ( :p ). I think about Kikulacho now and then. What went wrong? I was being a zombie.
Many times, we do the same things everyone else does and expect to find success doing them. In fact, we expect to do be more successful than those other people.
How many people do you know who play it “safe”? After high school, they go to college and take a safe, easy college that lots of other people take too. Afterwards, they strive to find a nice job somewhere and strive to blend in to the company’s culture. They do what they’re told and try maintain a low profile – it feels safe. They just want to keep their jobs and get that regular salary. Month after month. Year after year.
Admittedly, not all people lack ambition. Some people start out with these BIG ideas and amazing energy but life knocks all that out of them, slowly. StartupKenya puts it best in this story of law school:
“You see when you join law school, you feel like you are on top of the world. Heck, you must be one of the brightest minds in the land to get admitted, and law is usually chosen by pretty ambitious students. It is not uncommon to find 99% of the 1st year law school class with dreams of grandeur. Speaker of the National Assembly, Special-Rapporteur at the UN, President of the Republic, Chief Justice, Attorney General, Celebrated Trial Lawyer. The list is endless and only limited by the effort taken to actually establish the seniority of the position. As the semester progresses and you ferociously consume case law, volumes of law books, and professors’ lectures, your ambitions are even more amplified. You gauge your progress by the number of questions you ask, and how many cases you can remember, sometimes how many House of Lords quotes you can recite verbatim.
However by the time your first year results are in, and for the first time in your life you get a C or worse, you realize that your goals might be a tad bit ambitious. Instead of the best lawyer in the world, you mentally settle for best lawyer in Kenya. A few more grades and your expectations of achievement drop to best lawyer in your firm. The curve which had only been going up now starts leveling off. By mid of second year after a string of horrifyingly bad grades you are looking at being best lawyer in your office… “
Success is difficult to achieve. How do you do it?
Since you were in class 2, schools and society have been teaching you to be just another cog in the machine that is out economy; to do what you are told, to stand in straight lines; to get the work done. We have been trained to be cogs in a vast system, workers in a finely tuned factory. Just look at our robot-making 844 system, or our universities. Universities are supposed to be places of research & innovation but ours are just an extension of high school.
The problem is that someone changed the rules and being a cog is no longer an option. It is essentially impossible to be successful by doing something that is described and measured by someone else.
Kikulacho did not succeed because I was trying to do it exactly how people elsewhere had done their own sites. The road to success is different for every one. Do your own thing; be different; make your own rules.
Photo by Eric Ingrum.