So, a few years ago I created a mod for a game called “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” which got over 24 million clicks today.
There were many things I learned the hard way about going viral and a lot of other things that really made me think, which I want to share with you. I created the mod in the first place, because I am a perfectionist and I absolutely love to learn new stuff. In 2011, about five years ago, a game was released which freshly 17 year-old me was anxiously awaiting for over a year. When I finally started the game on 11/11/2011, I was shocked. The story and feeling was great, but the graphics of the game were below everything I ever expected. At this point in time I had used Photoshop probably ten times in my life and had no idea about game modding whatsoever, but I just couldn’t stand it. I closed the game and started a process which then took me on a journey I never expected.
1. Education is complementary to passion, not the other way around.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that education is secondary, I mean that – in order to start – you don’t need to know something. People will tell you all of the things you can’t do and they will try really hard to convince you that you definitely need that MBA before you are even allowed to think like an entrepreneur. And this is, in all respect, totally wrong. You need education – doesn’t matter if it is formal or informal – and you need passion.
If you have none, start with passion. Why? Because if you don’t have a fire that keeps you going, all the education in the world will feel meaningless to you. If you have one of them, try to look over to the other side. There will be something you can use. You are passionate? Great! You can already go out and do everything you want, but in order to maximize your success, educate yourself and get going! You’re well educated? Sit down and think about what your macro goals are.
I cannot emphasize enough how important macro goals are – not just for you, but for humanity in its sum. This passion you have for your macro goals will be complemented by your education. If you want to build rockets and go to space, you first need a huge passion – some might even call it craziness. After you got your passion right, align your education. You don’t need to pay half a million dollars to get good education. Grab the best books you can find on the topic, find experts and learn the sh*t out of that stuff. Passion is powerful. If you think this example is crazy: Yes it is, but maybe look up “Elon Musk” on google and you’ll find out where crazy gets you in life.
2. Not everything shiny is gold – but how else should people find it?
Great minds are often afraid of seeming too shiny.
“Our product is so great, it will just sell itself. We don’t need marketing.”
While I can still relate to this today, I definitely lived this up to this very year. “What changed?”, you might ask. Well, I found out that it doesn’t matter what you define as product: Your app, Your newly developed Drone or even yourself. You need to sell and in order to sell you need people to know that you exist and why they should buy. This doesn’t happen without marketing – most of the time. My project exploded from a few thousand clicks to a project with around 24 million clicks without me doing pretty much any marketing. It was done by users, which is commonly known as “going viral”.
“Well that’s what I meant! My product is so good that it will just go viral.”
Let me tell you this: The probability that you or your product goes viral is very, very much dependent on an extremely small percentage of luck. If you have good marketing skills, you can control virality instead of waiting for its grace to touch you. I didn’t and I still don’t have.
“But you still went viral, so you had the same success like all the others who go viral with their stuff.”
No, I didn’t. I’m going to be honest with you: If you have absolutely no idea about all this and you go viral, you don’t know what to do with it. You can’t even react as fast as it takes off. You will be so focused on your product that you will miss the opportunity to build something long lasting out of it. Just imagine it like this: You have no idea on how to drive a car and somebody sits you in a Ferrari with the gas pedal strapped to the ground. Even if you are lucky enough to not crash it, the drive will be extremely unpleasant and after all fuel is burned you are just left stressed and with not much more that to tell people about the Ferrari story. This is not how it should work. You wan’t to know how to drive, so if somebody suddenly shows up with a Ferrari, you can jump right in and have the time of your life.
3. The value of life experiences is often hidden and gets revealed by time.
This is an important thing that still gets into my mind today. There are many things in life that will make people ask you “Why do you do this?” or even make yourself doubt the reasons for why something happened. Don’t ever let yourself be dragged down by this. Everything you experience – everything bad, everything good is a possibility for improvement. Even if you don’t see it right now, your future will benefit from what happens to you everyday. You have to see the opportunities in everything that happens. Just let me give you an example:
When I bought an old Skateboard for the first time in my life, I had to do it, because I didn’t have enough money for a bike. Within the first two weeks learning how to drive, I fell down often. On one particular day I was late for class and still couldn’t really skate, but I went as fast as I could and well – I fell down, sprained my ankle, my wrist and had two bloody hands. I am glad this happened. At this time I was in the US and was new on campus and right next to me somebody picked up my skateboard and helped me up. I talked with him for the rest of the walk to campus and became very good friends with him. I would always choose to fall again.
Sometimes the value of things that happen to you take time to be revealed, but you need to keep your eyes open and not let them be clouded by despair or anger.
4. Mentally harden yourself
You don’t need to study psychology to know that people can be really mean and that you need to learn how to deal with pressure in order to function properly. My work was starting in the infant state of my texture creation skills. I literally knew nothing when starting out, but it didn’t hold me back from learning with an insane speed. Still, my skills weren’t nowhere near perfect, I didn’t have any idea on quality assurance or how to deal with people, but without knowing it, I got thrown into it. After publishing my work for free, the word spread and suddenly I got thousands of people expecting me to continue my work and fix errors in it. At first it felt overwhelming, but still really great. With an increasing amount of users the pressure rose and I really had the feeling I couldn’t stop anymore – even if my work was totally free.
After months of work and then years, there were hundreds of thousands of people sitting in front of their computers and waiting for my work. Just by the numbers, there were people writing everything from mean comments to full blown hate mails about how I could “dare to ignore the errors people report in the forums” and that I should “go and f'” myself. Well, that wasn’t even the worst I got and I am just a random guy offering some amateur work for free in order to make peoples life a tad better. Let me tell you: Prepare yourself! No matter what you do, no matter how good it is, the more people come the more hate you will also receive. You don’t get around that – and I’m not even at the point where I can imagine how it feels if people gave you money for your work. You have to be prepared and keep at it.
5. Anything is possible – No, really.
I know, I know… This is the cheesy sentence you can see on every other motivational blog or Instagram picture, but I think the message is so overused that people actually don’t really get it anymore.
“Anything is possible” really doesn’t mean YOLO. It doesn’t. Stop.
Many people out there tend to mix it up. You should still think and very much plan what you do, but don’t limit yourself to old thinking. Should you go out for drunk skydiving? Well, if you really anticipate those kind of hobbies, do it, but what I am aiming for has a much deeper sense than just acting spontaneously.
To quote one of the, in my opinion, most inspirational human beings of this century:
“Reason by first principles, rather than analogy”
Act with your life goal in mind, try to skip too easy steps, but don’t go crazy. If you try to jump the whole staircase at once, you will fall. Go one step at a time and try to skip one or the other, but don’t go skydiving with your life.
Act mindful and careful but not fearful.