Smart people are dumb. Failure is awesome.

Been thinking about this lately and felt like committing it to paper… so to speak.

Smart people are dumb. Failure is awesome.

Let me explain.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to woefully inept people that end up rich, having great jobs, are in positions of power, get all the girls, etc. I wonder how they do it, even though they clearly lack much. By all rights, given what they’re working with, they should fail miserably. But they don’t.

People complain all the time about how the most mediocre people imaginable achieve things that we can’t reach. They can’t understand how. I mean, come on, I have everything that guy doesn’t, but why does he get what he wants and I don’t?

Why? He tries and you don’t.

I said before in my Marketing for Artists article that 90% of success is showing up. And that’s what these crappy people have that “smart” people don’t. The will to keep showing up.

If you’re running a race and everyone else gives up before it’s over, you win by default.

Let’s abstract that for a second: If they’re the ONLY person that keeps trying, who’s there to compete against? Who’s to stop him from winning by default, by being the only player?

It’s like a curve over time. At practically any endeavor, as time passes, people will start dropping out and giving up, slowly at first but then faster and faster. They’re only willing to go so far before throwing in the towel. The playing field narrows itself. Keep showing up. Keep trying. Be patient, give it time, and you’ll win because you were willing to do what they weren’t to succeed.

Sure. You’ll fail a lot on the way. You’ll make mistakes. Mistakes are when weak people give up and hand the trophy over to someone else. Persisting through the mistakes, embracing failure, and determining to keep moving forward is how you win. Every failure is an opportunity to learn, and improve future performance.

The end of the race, with the only other determined contender, is where quality, skill and intelligence come into play. Just doggedly ‘tard your way through the rest up until that point.

It’s all a game. Beyond quality, beyond intelligence, beyond any other factor, all you have to do most of the time is keep showing up, no matter what, and you’ll go places. Opportunities will start coming to you in ways you’d never imagined.

Here’s one real-world application for you: Applying for a job. Most people SUCK at this, and that’s why they don’t get jobs. Most people I know have given up after ONE EMAIL sent to a company they’re applying for. They quit before the race even starts.

After working in sales at Liquid Development, I learned that the follow-up call after initial solicitation is the most important communication you can make. Most people I would email, whether currently clients or people I was soliciting to, would never respond to the first email. Ever. It’s as if they never received it at all. I’d say I got one reply out of a hundred to the first email, if that.

After that, I’d sit on it a week, and send a follow-up to make sure they got the first one. At this point, usually within the next business day, I’d have a reply almost every single time. The response rate here was perhaps one in four. Whether or not it was a positive or negative response, it still got responses, and opportunities were either created or dismissed.

This fascinated me. Most people give up after only one communication, when the second one works almost every single time. You’d think that it would annoy people, but mostly, people are cool about it. They know they’re terrible about responding to email, and as long as you’re polite, everything is fine.

When I was applying for a job on my own, I sent out my resume and portfolio to probably 30 or 40 companies. I kept track of what I sent to who and what date, and followed up like clockwork after one week. The second email was always a quoted copy of the first, starting with a “Hi, my name is Jon Jones and I applied for such-and-such position at your company a week ago. I hadn’t heard back yet and I wanted to make sure that you received my email. I’ve quoted it below. Thanks!”

Then the floodgates opened.

Week one: 40 emails. Zero responses.

Week two: 40 follow-up emails. 35 responses within three days.

And you know what the best part was? The really, really funny thing? Every single response began with an apology for not responding sooner. Every single one, without ONE exception.

See, I was scared that I would annoy these companies by emailing more than once. Not so. Quite the contrary, in fact. It showed that I was serious about working with them. Giving them seven to ten days to respond is about right, in my opinion. Then comes the follow-up, which is the clincher.

Just keep trying politely, in an appropriate timeframe, until you get a solid YES or NO answer. In the game industry, most people will never even THINK of doing this! They’ll send out one feeble email and give up. Just one more email could have gotten them a job. Isn’t that tragic?

All it takes is showing up, again and again, until you get someone’s attention. THEN, and only then, do your skills come into play. They see your work, decide they like you, and it just gets better from there.

Some companies I had to follow up with three times or more. When I was applying at Ready At Dawn I sent something like ten or fifteen follow-ups because I’d caught our poor art director in the middle of a crunch. I kept trying. And it resulted in a job so fantastic I still can’t believe I have it.

Yeah. I got a lot of rejections. Almost everything I got back was a rejection. Oh, we’re not hiring right now. Oh, we’re just wrapping up this project. Oh, we’re not a game company and would you please quit emailing us. Blah, blah, blah. But I also got a handful of interviews out of that, and one of those interviews got me a fantastic job.

Why? I didn’t let failure bother me. I kept trying anyway. Failure is a part of life. The more you try, the more potential chances to succeed you have. If I apply to 100 companies and you apply to 5, who’s more likely to succeed? If ONE of your companies says no, they’ve reduced your chances of getting a job by 20%! But if one of mine says no, my chances are only reduced by 1%. Who’s trying smarter?

Let’s make the playing field bigger. If ten people are applying for companies and I’m the only one that applied at 100, my chances of contacting a company that has received NO other job applications is pretty high. See what I mean? Most people won’t even try that hard, and they make me win.

If I’m firing a shotgun at a guy, most of the shotgun pellets will miss. But all I really need is one to hit. The more pellets there are, the better my chances of succeeding. It just comes down to that, really.

Yeah, it’s messy, and a lot of failure is involved. But every failure is a chance to learn. Every time I fail and keep moving forward,

And again, it all comes down to showing up. The more you try, the longer you persist, the better your chances of winning get. It’s so simple that people overlook it. It’s so obvious that it’s instantly dismissed.

This is the way the world works, and this is why seemingly unfit people succeed. They just don’t give up and eventually they get what you want. And it probably annoys you because for some reason or another, you never even started. No gold star for you. 🙂

And that’s why I say smart people are dumb. “But I’m BETTER than him.” “But I want this MORE than him.” “But he’s so STUPID.” “But he’s ugly!”

But he still wins. Because you create excuses for yourself not to try. Because you’re “too smart” to bother trying, because of X, Y or Z reason.

If you were really smart, wouldn’t you be winning? 🙂

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