:: I am embarrassed by my last post. It is vague and tightly wound. I alluded to thoughts that I don't have the skill to fully express. This is another attempt at the same subject ::
Setting expectations for any a project is something I tend to avoid or to overlook. This is because:
1) Defining success means that I am also defining failure. That can be frightening.
2) Setting realistic goals makes me think realistically. Which is a bummer.
3) I often think that the mechanisms of success are out of my control.
4) It is easier not to care, or at least to pretend not to care.
Defining success means that I am also defining failure. That can be frightening.
This is a challenge I face in all aspects of my life. I avoid setting personal goals for myself, and I am sure it is because I am terrified of failure. I don’t think that I will overcome the fear of failing. But I am learning to think of it as the price I pay for the best moments of living.
Setting realistic goals makes me think realistically. Which is a bummer.
Projects have this strange glow before they are released, even the bad ones. It isn’t based on anything rational; it is a secret wish. I think it is a feeling of unlimited possibility. I imagine that it is the same sort of feeling that people get when they buy lottery tickets. Thinking reasonably about what will happen to the project, and what would be “good enough”, pulls me away from that glow.
I could set my expectation for each project at “wild success”. But this would leave me perpetually disappointed. I could avoid setting a goal altogether and hope that I would be surprised by and appreciative of anything that happened. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. Without concrete goals, any success feels like a wasted opportunity to have achieved the next level of success. In other words I kick myself for not having spent the time trying to anticipate what happened - so that I could be in a better position to take advantage of it, or at least feel like I had accomplished something.
I often think that the mechanisms of success are out of my control.
This is particularly true when success is defined by popularity, as so many online projects are. There are certain things that are in my control, and there are certain things that are out of my control. Ideally I would like to set my expectations based on the things that are in my control, but it is sometimes hard to tell which is which. In terms of popularity, true exponential growth is the ultimate prize (I don’t use the term “viral” because it has lost its original connection to exponential growth, and therefore has become meaningless). Being a witness to this sort of growth is stunning, and it warps one’s expectations of all future projects. It is easy to confuse exponential growth with the logical extension of linear growth – things get bigger and bigger and then they become REALLY big. But it is a different force. The mechanisms that lead to exponential growth are vexing. More vexing is the tendency for people who have experienced it to rationalize in hindsight, attributing success to conveniently human attributes (desire, hard work, vision). This is true not only online, but in all spheres where success is measured by popularity – music, film, tele-evangelism. There is wisdom to be gotten from these people, but it has more to do with how to deal with the event when it happens… not how to cause the event itself.
But some things are under my control. And setting expectations means asking myself which things are, and which things aren’t,. This can be difficult and even sad.
It is easier not to care, or at least to pretend not to care.
This is a sad truth. Hope makes you both inwardly and outwardly vulnerable. It is exhausting to fail. It is exhausting not to know if you are going to fail. But I think the tension that hope brings is the key to vitality.