What are you drawing, Lily?

I have more than a few friends who keep talking about the businesses they want to start. But every week there’s a new excuse.

They can’t make up their minds about the best credit card processing company, or the best blogging platform, website CMS, or shopping cart, or the best book that will guide them to success.

Of course, most people invent all these obstacles so they never actually have to start and risk failing. Their ideas can remain flawless dreams.

But others see the Ubers, Dropboxes, and Airbnbs, or whatever else is worth a billion dollars this week, and they think they need to create something as big, and as perfect.

Airbnb recently raised $450 million at a valuation of $10 billion. That’s an awfully big company to look up to.

But Airbnb was a mess when they started.

Paul Graham told them their idea was crazy.

And he was right. Airbnb’s idea wasn’t just crazy, it wasn’t that good - they wanted people to rent out real airbeds, and hosts were required to make breakfast for their guests. After 8 months in business, they were stuck making $200 a week in revenue.

Most of us would have been “smart” enough to give up. But instead they kept on sucking.

At one point they flew to New York with a nice camera to help users update their listings with some high resolution photographs. That helped them book $400 a week in revenue.

Still a laughable amount of money for three guys trying to make a living, but it was enough of a bump to keep them excited.

So they kept on sucking… until they didn’t suck anymore.

Of course, most of us still aren’t going to create something anywhere near as big as Airbnb, but imagine how much we’ll learn if we just start.


The Airbnb guys remind me of a band:

When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not fuckin’ good enough.’ Can you imagine?

It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old fucking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll fucking start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a fucking computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.

Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana


I was watching my nieces the other day, Madeline and Lily. Madeline is 3. Lily is 4. They both sat there eagerly making things. They didn’t have excuses that they didn’t have the right markers or the right paper or the right idea.

I had run out of blank printer paper, so they started making paper airplanes out of magazine inserts. Madeline was thrilled to draw with whatever utensil she could get her hands on. Lily had found a pink ribbon someone had dropped on the street. She picked up the forgotten trash and later turned it into a kite.

Of course, their airplanes didn’t work. I have no idea on earth what Madeline had drawn. And the kite didn’t have a chance of actually flying. But it didn’t matter. They didn’t care. It was a start and you can see them just get better and better at making these things.

Later I heard of a conversation Lily had with her mom that sums up how little these kids care of perfection, and how much they just care about putting something, anything, that they’ve created into the world.

Lily’s mom: Lily, what are you drawing?

Lily: I don’t know, Mom. I haven’t drawn it yet.



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