Guy Kawasaki Says “Go Luck Yourself!”

Holy Kaw!

World-renowned venture capitalist, blogger, writer, speaker, and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki was a guest on the radio show “Coast to Coast AM” during the December 20 to December 21, 2008 broadcast.

By VGrigas (WMF) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

He was there to promote his book “Reality Check” and to discuss idea creation. Guy shared a multitude of insights with host Ian Punnett, with some of his more informational and/or inspirational thoughts. He also humorously focused on the 2012 opening of the Stargate – holy kaw! It was certainly one of the more entertaining broadcasts I’ve heard.

While listening to Guy (and following along with the conversation on Twitter — where I (along with other like-minded people) were discussing the interview and giving Guy ideas for silly things to say:

And, sometimes he said it!

I have often wondered why some ideas catch fire and others don’t — especially when, by all accounts, the superior idea was the one that failed commercially.  I found myself inspired by his comments about luck. Specifically, the bolded quote below about successful individuals not accounting for luck as a component to their success really struck a chord with me.

“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.”

“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.'”

“I’d rather be lucky than smart.”

“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.”

“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.”

As Guy shared his thoughts, I was struck with an epiphany about wanting to further explore 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 (and still is),  at one point I joked the book could be called the “Guy Luck Club” (as spoof of the popular “Joy Luck Club” book).

At one point during the interview, I pondered (on Twitter) that I might create 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 awhile also giving the book marketing exposure.

In doing so, I referenced how David Meerman Scott did just that when writing his book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.” Incidentally, I selected this as the main book for a buying behavior course I teach at UC Santa Barbara Extension.

Some time later I received a direct message from Mr. Scott on Twitter (from @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!

He also shared with me that his new book, World Wide Rave, is releasing in March 2009. The book’s website defines a “world wide rave” as follows:

A World Wide Rave is when people around the world are talking about you, your company, and your products. Whether you’re located in San Francisco, Dubai, or Reykjavík, it’s when global communities eagerly link to your stuff on the Web. It’s when online buzz drives buyers to your virtual doorstep. And it’s when tons of fans visit your Web site and your blog because they genuinely want to be there.

I think that, to most effectively test Guy’s theory, it might be most insightful to identify 10 CEOs of a startup that is not a spin off of an established company without any particular celebrity status. I would take a standardized inventory of each CEO, paying particular attention to their thoughts about luck.

I will then reconnect with them at regular intervals down the road: 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 realize I couldn’t have scripted a better example of the power of social media had I tried — nor would anyone have believed me if I had.

I am suddenly energized at the thought of writing this book (well, technically, blog) and will reveal the URL once I’ve secured it. Thank you to everyone who shared their enthusiasm and encouragement. Maybe I can convince Guy Kawasaki to write the foreword for my book? Holy Kaw!

Until then, I suppose it would be most fitting to sign off saying “Go Luck Yourself!”