Sebastian Thrun: Failure Is Beautiful

Sebastian ThrunWhen Sebastian Thrun approached the podium at Cleveland Clinic’s Ideas for Tomorrow Wednesday, I was both intrigued and put-off by his saunter and his eye-wear. It’s not his fault – I generally approach fame with a certain sense of skepticism. But when one of his opening lines was: “I hope to show you how often I fail,” I was hooked.

It turns out Thrun and I have a common passion for entrepreneurism, for experimenting with new processes in order to change our industries significantly. But, thinking and creating without boundaries involves a great deal of risk taking.

Thrun gave us a chronology of his successes by highlighting his failures because he claims “there is no learning without failure.” Health-tech entrepreneurs often risk everything – investing countless time and money developing ideas that may never work. Or they’ll get their gadget to work on Wednesday – only to find that someone else brought it to market late Tuesday night. These challenges are part of the process of innovation, which Thurn describes as a process of testing and failing.

Process of Innovation according to Sebastian Thrun

Each failure brings us a little closer to our goal – even reshapes the end goal, transforming it into something we wouldn’t have dreamed possible at the outset. If you told me 20 years ago that by 2012, approximately 76% of people would consult the Internet, Dr. Google, before calling their physician I never would’ve believed you.  But then computers became smaller and smaller, information more and more easily accessible, and it’s changed not only the way we ask questions but the very questions themselves.

Someday, someone is going to make health as addictive as video games – and make it lasting – and I want to be there to see it happen. Industries are changed by people who are fearless. Failure teaches us an important lesson: hard work is no substitute for vision. You have to have vision when the experiment you’ve been working on, the app you’ve been developing for years, or the pitch you’ve been researching for months, goes wrong. Without vision, we’d all throw in the towel and learn to love a 9-5 job. “In all these failures,” says Thrun, “there is some beautiful insight that drives us forward.”

Let’s cling to the vision.

The Ingredients of Innovation by Sebastian Thrun

Photo of slide from Sebastian Thrun’s Cleveland Clinic Ideas for Tomorrow presentation

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#Start-up Insomnia: Do Entrepreneurs Ever Sleep?

woman with insomniaI read an excerpt from a book about to be released by Andrew Yang called Smart People Should Build Things. In it, Yang describes starting a business as something like having a baby. Now that I have done both – had babies, and start a business  – I can see the similarities.

When my first child was born, she slept in a bassinet beside my bed. As with most babies, she was a noisy little sleeper – but I didn’t know the difference between her sleepy grunts and fussing. Every peep that came from that bassinet was like a clap of thunder over the house. My daughter was (and still is) a restless sleeper. For months, I fed her every time she moved. (So, every half hour or so.) I can’t remember ever being so tired – or so obsessed with something.

When my second child was born, he slept in the bassinet for two nights. I had by then realized that babies stir in their sleep. But that stirring set off all my hormonal motherly responses and prevented me from sleeping. I moved him into his own room on his third night home. And we both started sleeping for four hour intervals.

Now my children are older and – save the occasional nightmare – generally take care of their own middle-of-the-night needs. But I have a new baby to keep me up.

My business, a boutique communications firm for healthcare and tech start-ups, was born from passion. A passion for innovation and improvements in health care delivery and behavior change that sets my heart racing. I’m only in the very beginning stages of entrepreneurship and it’s very much like having a newborn baby in the house. I lie awake thinking of calls to action, of new ways to measure the impact of our work, of new story ideas, of new ways to engage customers and venture capitalists. I think of making subtle changes to websites I’ve developed. Of cutting the paychecks. Of strategies – mostly for my clients but also for my company, because I don’t get enough daytime hours to think of it.

I’ve got to figure out how to be a business owner and still sleep. How to be a business owner and be a wife/mother who might occasionally discuss topics other than her baby business. I’m a new mom. It’s terrifying. Exhilarating. Exhausting. But, at least I’m not lactating.

What makes your heart race?

“In order to find happiness, we must be a part of something greater than ourselves – something we truly believe in.” ~Paul Roestzer, author of The Marketing Agency Blueprint

What makes your heart race? For me, it’s learning new things, thinking and implementing new ways of connecting people and ideas that can – eventually – improve our quality of life. My integrated communications firm, i2i Communications, Ltd., doesn’t just offer solutions for small businesses to make a few bucks. We work together with our clients to decide how we can solve their communications issues within their budgets. Our passion is our purpose.

The art of strategy

Most brands think there are two ways to deal with all the content bouncing around on social media.

crown

Content is King

  1. The content-is-king and I-want-to-be-in-the-king’s-court strategy. These content obsessed curators share everything, duplicating the content on all different channels. They spend their days (and nights, because you wouldn’t want to miss out on a really awesome cat video) trolling Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube looking for trends. It doesn’t matter if the trend is at all related to their industry. They tweet from church; they tweet from stoplights. The trouble is: no one wants to read these messages, regardless of their length.
  2. The I’ll-speak-up-only-when-I-have-something-earthshattering-to-share strategy. These are the perfectionists that wait until the inspiration hits; the ones that wait until they have something worthy of the 5:00 news to share. They think their readers will appreciate quality over quantity. But, if you don’t share often enough to be top of mind, chances are that you won’t show up in the newsfeed at all.

I’m a writer by trade. I think of content as art. But even the most abstract artists have strategies. When I took my daughter to the art museum for the first time (she was four and a half), we wandered through the galleries talking about what makes art art. We decided that it’s art if it makes us feel or think. We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to understand it. But something about art sticks with us long after we’ve viewed it.

Good content strategy isn’t about just throwing darts at the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s about knowing your audience, what inspires them, what they want from you, and providing it. It’s about telling your story again, for the first time. It’s not just words either. More and more, it’s images and video.

chess game

But strategy wins.

What is your content strategy?

Do you have different purposes for each individual channel?

Do you have a main hub that links them all together?