I just stumbled upon a very interesting article by Ramit Sethi: Why Successful People Take 10 Years to ‘Succeed Overnight’. Here are some essential quotes from the article:
The strategy that works over and over for successful people is the Domino Strategy. The Domino Strategy is simple:
First, start so small that you can easily knock over the first domino. Second, put the dominoes in just the right sequence so that each small step makes the next, bigger step possible.
He then explains that starting a business require one customer. Having thousands or millions of customers can come later (as a later domino). In other words, every successful company started small and took a lot of time (10 years) to become successful. They did that by doing one thing at a time, each subsequent thing larger than the previous one.
Those who dream too big (and waste years and years building their dream product or service) tend to fail spectacularly. In a certain way, this is related to the Lean Startup philosophy as exemplified by Eric Ries. He argues that companies tend to fail because of lack of validation from customers.
Ramit then asks why, given that the domino strategy is so compelling, only a few people use it (and, those who don’t, tend to fail)? He writes:
One of the biggest obstacles is invisible scripts, assumptions so deeply embedded in our [minds] that we don’t even realize they guide our behavior.
What’s the biggest invisible script? All or nothing, the idea that you need to go all-in or you should just not do anything at all.
He then explains that this is why people look for magic bullets or win at the lottery. As these never happen in general, people then become disappointed in what they are doing:
without realising that success is imminent:
His advice is to start small, focus on knocking down your first domino and be patient.
Peter Norvig, in his Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years article, also mentions that mastery takes time. He says that anyone who wants to become a very good programmer has to be patient enough to wait 10 years while engaging in knocking down bigger and bigger dominoes:
- 1st domino: Become interested in programming.
- 2nd domino: Program (learn by doing).
- 3rd domino: Talk with other programmers and read other programs.
- 4th domino: Go to university (optional).
- 5th domino: Work on projects with other programmers.
- 6th domino: Work on projects after other programmers (and find remedies for their mistakes).
Knowledge Seven, my company, started offering training services in January 2009, 7 and ½ years ago. This means that I still have 2 and ½ years left in my 10 years plan.
I have an idea of what my next domino is going to be.