Whenever I try something new, there's always an inherent amount of fear associated with it. And that's quite reasonable, I think. Attempting to do something that's never been done before or that you haven't tried yet, because it as no guarantee of success or even mediocre, passable results, takes a bit of getting outside the comfort zone. But there's also the feeling of some temporary triumph and satisfaction when something you've worked on with motivation and a goal goes out into the world and takes on a life of its own (or in many of my cases, dies off slowly). I want to talk about one of my experiences with trying something new, failing, and why I'd probably try again anyways.
Almost exactly 4 weeks ago, I launched something called the West Side Collage Project”. After this website and my YouTube Channel, #WSCProject* was probably the next largest-scale public thing I tried to execute. Accordingly, there was a lot of planning, filming, designing, analyzing stats, more planning, more filming, et cetera. In all honesty, I was rather certain that this would be successful. But because of that, or perhaps in spite of that fearless assumption, the project has thus far defied all the odds and failed to take off. Twenty-eight days later, the project has come to a close, and it's utterly undermined my expectations and assumptions. It's underwhelming, to say the least; it's the exact opposite of the stereotypical model of internet success, in which you create something totally out of context and random that takes off into a maelstrom of virality and vitality like a quadruple-platinum album. But that's not what happened, and what follows is an honesty story – a transparent transcription of my mind – of what's gone through my head in the past month, starting with my thoughts just before the launch.
October 13th, Launch Day, understandably, I was pretty excited. The total of five minute or so of carefully put-together and edited videos, logos and graphics designed with almost meticulous OCD-like detail, and what I took to be a solid launch plan and social media setup all contributed to my air of expectation. Everything was going according to plan. In fact, my comment on the day's progress with the project was, “Overall, a great kick-off day for a big community-oriented project." I wasn't all certainty; I had certain doubts from the beginning about the size and scalability of what I would have to do, and certain opinions and reactions that people would have about what I was trying to do. But all in all, my expectations were positive.
October 17th, the Friday of the launch week, I was beginning to sense that it wasn't going to be all flowers and rainbows. I wasn't getting anywhere near my expected participation in the project, and the publicity that I thought I would get from various things that I tried just wasn't there. All in all, I was rather disappointed with the activity (or rather, the lack thereof) from the first week of the project. I had bene putting up more graphics, talking to people about it, and trying to come up with why it wasn't going according to my expectations, but really, most of my mind at the time was busy trying to process the disappointment, which, in retrospect, wasn't as big as it could have been**. Still somewhat confident that the three weeks left would afford me some amount of expected results, I looked forward.
Fast-forward to today, November 10, and it's time to call it a day. The project's come to a close, and as I had feared, there wasn't much participation. Despite the people who though it was a great idea ***, I can't say I'm excited about the outcome. But the thing is, it doesn't feel too bad, either. Honestly, I could call it a failure, or I could go ahead and call it a mild success. I've learned to look at the situation less as the person who started it with high expectations a month ago, and more from a fresh perspective. And when I adopt that point of view, it didn't go as badly as it could have gone, and the results are not fantastic, but it's still a result, and I take it as a decent beginning. Most importantly, it'll be something of a basis for future attempts at something like this.
So what did I take away from this past month of work? First and foremost, there are so many thing that I realized were effective, and so many things that I realized weren't as effective as I expected. I think the big thing about trying anything is that you get to see your plan in action. What you thought was flawless may break, and unexpected obstacles may get in the way, but that's part of the fun, right? My thought process is that, when you have an idea, but never execute it, it's just that: an idea. It's really nothing more than a child's dream. But once you start to do something with it, the execution of the idea is exciting, and you get the opportunity to see which ones work and which ones don't, and hopefully improve upon that. In the end, the benefits of trying something (and failing) don't come from the attempt itself; it comes from the fact that there's always more to be done after it's all said and done. Second, it reminded me why I prefer real-world experiments and trials over book-studying; reading, listening, and coming to an understanding is one thing, but applying it is something entirely different, and when ideas become real, that experience is exciting enough to be worth it by itself. And with this particular one behind me, my question to you is, do you have an idea? Ever thought about something you wished you could do? And most importantly,
Why aren't you doing it?
* For the record, I'm not just using this hashtag for the heck of it; it's a thing. Go check it out.
** But then again, in retrospect, I could say that about pretty much anything. So take that claim with a grain of salt.
*** By the way, big thank you to all those who participated in any way or talked to me about it – it made my day each time.
If you enjoyed this piece, you might also enjoy my next post, Banning books from the Internet shelves.
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