Every interview in Jessica Livingston’s Founders at Work is full of interesting perspectives from successful people who had no guarantees when they started and probably claim to have no secrets of success. This is not a “success” book or a “how to” book, but simply an interesting book. Yet a read between-the-lines exposes secrets of success.
They are summed up in the interview with Paul Buchheit, creator of GMail and Adsense. Here is Buchheit on the idea for and the first implementation of Adsense:
”It was an idea that we had talked about for a long time, but there was this belief that it wouldn’t work. But it seemed like an interesting problem, so one evening I implemented this content-targeting system, just sort of as a side project, not because I was supposed to. And it turned out to work.”
Two Secrets of Success
In this quote we see two secrets of success common among folks that rise to the top of their industry:
- They work on what they find interesting. Not just on what they are told to or supposed to.
- They pursue ideas not generally expected to work.
Success and the micro-ISV
I suspect many micro-ISV owners have these traits and see themselves in this approach. To micro-ISV owners, it’s no secret.
In fact there are not really any “secrets of success” – it’s a simple risk-reward formula. Yet if this JoelOnSoftware thread is any indication, it is one that is too easily forgotten.
Success and the Employee
Work on what other people assign to you and you will likely complete the task, but will not find career-changing success. Work on something you find interesting and others find unlikely, and your chances for breakout success are increased almost immeasurably.
This advice is for everyone – not just company founders. For example, Paul Buchheit who I quoted above, is not a Google founder but an employee who practices these non-secret but too easily forgotten “secrets of success”.