Guy Kawasaki Says “Go Luck Yourself!”

Holy Kaw!

640px-guy_kawasaki_at_wikimania_2015_-_2
By VGrigas (WMF) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42237626

World-renowned evangelist, author, and speaker Guy Kawasaki was a guest on the radio show “Coast to Coast AM” during the December 20 to December 21, 2008 broadcast. He was promoting his book “Reality Check” and to discuss idea creation.

During the segment Guy shared a multitude of insights and anecdotes with host Ian Punnett, including a humorous obsession with the Mayan prediction of the 2012 opening of the Stargate! It was certainly one of the more entertaining broadcasts I’ve heard. Some of his comments that connected with me include the following:

  • “The better product doesn’t necessarily win.”
  • “Great ideas happen when people ask a very simple question: ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if?'”
  • “Many people ask the question ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if?’ but not that many try it.”
  • “My lesson on life is you ask this question ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if?’ and then, if you have the courage to quit your job, drop out, do whatever it is, try it — that’s what it takes.”
  • “At the beginning of my career I used to think that the idea is the key, and once you get a good idea, implementation is easy. Now, I’m at the end of my career and I believe the exactly the opposite: I think good ideas are easy and implementation is hard.”
  • “In my career I’ve noticed [for] the people who are successful as venture capitalists and successful as entrepreneurs one of the greatest correlating factors is luck.”
  •  “At some point little slips of fate help you.”
  • “I’d like to believe that [you can make your own luck], but some people are [just] lucky.”
  • “The majority of companies that were successful started off with a completely different market, a completely different model.”
  • “Entrepreneurship is all about thrashing: you just thrash , thrash and thrash — and sometimes you hit it.”
  • “If someone calls themselves a visionary, they’re probably a clown.”
  • “I can’t invent the future. Most people in Silicon Valley are delusional that way: they think they can invent the future.”
  • “The future happens by accident, by the law of big numbers, by an infinite number of monkeys pounding on keyboards and one of them is going to hit Beethoven’s Fifth.”
  • “The [dot-com boom] was a big biological explosion of all different forms of life: some forms of life (like Webvan) died, some forms of life (like Amazon) survived and thrived. It’s only looking backwards that you can say Amazon was smart, Webvan was stupid.”
  • “The way venture capital works: you make 20 bets, one or two are successful [and] you say ‘Oh, I knew that team was good. I knew that technology was good. I knew that market was good. I knew that business model was good. That’s why I invested in that company.’ If somebody asks you about the other 18 bets that you made that all were losers you say ‘I didn’t vote for those deals, my partners voted for those deals.'”
  • “Wall Street and the press always like a good story, and a good story always is extreme. Either you’re kicking butt, or you’re dying. There’s nothing in the middle, because being in the middle: that’s not news.”

While listening to Guy being interviewed I was following his real-time updates and interactions with followers on Twitter. He then invited his Twitter followers to suggest silly things for him to say on air; I dared him to say “cheeky monkey”:

And he did!

I have often wondered why some ideas catch fire and others don’t — especially when a superior idea fails commercially.  I was especially intrigued by his comments about luck.

  • “You could be lucky and still screw up. You have to be lucky and then work hard. There’s ways to increase your luck. One way is just to work so damn hard. It’s all about implementation.”
  • “At the moment you are lucky you don’t really know it.”
  • “I’d rather be lucky than smart.

Specifically, the quote below about successful individuals not accounting for luck as a component to their success struck a chord.

  • “If you are an entrepreneur or a venture capitalist and you are lucky, and you make this enormous success, retroactively you never attribute it to luck. You say you were smart, you worked hard, you had a brilliant insight, you were a visionary. Nobody stands up and says ‘I am successful because of luck.'”

It was that comment that inspired an epiphany about further exploring the idea through research that would result in a book. I shared my idea on Twitter:

I immediately received positive feedback about my idea from @NEENZ, @robynmcintyre, and @Bytemarks.

Although the idea was still crystallizing in my mind,  I joked the book could be called the “Guy Luck Club” (as spoof of the “Joy Luck Club” book). I considered creating a blog specifically about this topic; my idea was to use it as a conduit through which I could communicate and refine my raw thoughts while giving the book marketing exposure.

Incidentally, David Meerman Scott did just that when writing his book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.” I actually received a direct message from Mr. Scott on Twitter (@dmscott) in which he encouraged me to write the book first as a blog (without any pretense for organization) and approach publishers in a year.  Great advice — especially since it was the path he took to get his book published!

I imagine it could be most effective to test Guy’s theory, by first identifying ten CEO’s of a startup (that is not a spin off of an established company). I would take a standardized inventory of each CEO, paying particular attention to their thoughts about luck. I will reconnect with them at regular intervals: 1, 3, and 5 years (enough time for the business to have succeeded or failed). I will re-asses their thoughts on luck and see if their views have changed when asked the same question over time.

In thinking about the past 14 hours since this experience began, I couldn’t have scripted a better example of the power of social media; I am energized about writing this book! Thank you to everyone who shared their enthusiasm and encouragement. Maybe I can convince Guy Kawasaki to write the forward for my book? Holy Kaw!

Until then, I will sign off saying “Go Luck Yourself!”