Joshua Eichler-Summers
Blog of Josh Summers

Venture capitalist & founder. Lots to learn, but happy to help.
Investment Team at DN Capital
Founder of Taaalk

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Vague Writer's Block

18 Feb 2015

Side effects of going marginally viral

Yesterday I wrote a post that did really really fricken well. Incredibly well for a little person like me. I had over 21,000 visits to my website in 24 hours, over 150 mentions on twitter and the number of people that followed me on twitter close to doubled (to a mighty 52!). I don’t think anything I’ve ever done before has been so numerically successful in such a short amount of time.

In the post I mentioned a study about parenting. That praising success over effort is a dangerous thing. It creates a fear of not living up to expectations and this fear of not being as good as last time prevents action, rather than signal of success encouraging it. A praising of effort is (generally*) the right approach.

This is an idea that makes a lot of sense, but the effect of the intense experience I had after writing it down, putting it on the web and having loads of people read it, taught me that parenting isn’t just for kids. Parenting is for us adults too. Because sometimes the illogical part of our brain runs away with itself, getting in the way of the continued effort we need to put in to improve.

It was fricken awesome

At about 9am I made it onto the front page of Hacker News. I wasn’t even planning on submitting the piece to HN. What would HN care about a 1981 Lego advert - where is all the JavaScript?!? But damn - it just kept going up and up and soon I was #1. I zoomed over to Google Analytics and watched the number of users on my site at that moment rise and rise - from 100 visitors to 300. Fuck! My brain and heart were in overdrive.

Buzz. Bzzz. My phone started vibrating. Flashes of blue birds filled my notifications screen. I was getting a lift to a meeting in Victoria and I could barely manage a sentence! Too engrossed in real time traffic statistics, tweets featuring my blog and a feeling of awesomeness to think straight.

This continued pretty much all day. And if you haven’t experienced it, I can tell you that brains fricken love to feel loved! I’m pretty sure my dopamine engine is all worn out.

After the fun of the fair

Writing today sucked though. It needed to be good! No - GREAT! People needed to love it. I wasn’t writing for me, but for the 21,000 people of yesterday - even though only 0.1% of them (the 25 that followed me on Twitter) might actually read what I had to write. I flicked through my list of proposed posts and began to edit a rough draft of one on business with asymmetric information. I couldn’t write it. I couldn’t write anything.

Just like a little kid, so proud of what he had achieved, so scared of not achieving it again - I was frozen. Writers block on day five!

Experiencing success makes you lose focus on effort

My personal parenting skills were off. All those pretty numbers and feelings caught up with me and my plan to plod on regardless was nearly disrupted with an encouraging nudge that I should keep on plodding.

Consistent effort is a consistent challenge.

Says American Football coach Bill Walsh. The man is right.

*HN user duncanawoods made a very good point in the comments about effort based parenting in the orignal HN thread.

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