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Pinterest, a story of Ambition, Willfulness and Discipline.
Ambition is the grandness of what you want to achieve. Being ambitious is relatively easy – just imagine the most you could achieve in a lifetime. It’s easy to become delusional about your potential grandeur. But you never get more than you ask for in life. Ambition is the ask. Asking is easier than doing. So for most us ambition is easier than discipline.
Willfulness is the desire to do something regardless of consequences. An unstoppable desire. There are two parts to willfulness: one is an extreme desire, and the other is fearlessness about facing the consequences. If you lack willfulness, you either don’t have an extreme desire or you fear the consequences of your desire so much that the fear stops you.
Discipline is simply doing what you’ve planned to do. It requires a plan, any plan, and your execution of it. Most people get that far. But the doing part is more difficult – it requires something less than what we normally do – doing without reconsidering. You need to follow the plan without doubting the plan, at least for some time.
The game that has been downloaded more than 3 billion times – almost enough to give every two living humans a download – started in December 2009. It might be a familiar progression, that happens in many startups. Three guys open a company, hoping to make a hit game. They launch one, two, three; five years go by, now they are launching their 51st game. And it’s still not a hit. Funding slowly runs out. They are staring bankruptcy in the face. They don’t want to shut the company down because… What if they still can make a game that will capture people’s imagination? They go back to the drawing board. They keep believing that they could capture that imaginary character that people will believe. Maybe if they can just get into the zone, unlock their inner humanity, they can think of a picture that others will believe is real. They take a methodical approach – they ask the designer to pitch 10 ideas a day.
Daily, the game developers generate ideas and pitch them to the management. So far they’ve rejected all of them. They are either too complicated, too simplistic, or just outright boring. As he started seeing it in his mind’s eye, Iisalo turned on Photoshop and sketched out a bird with large eyebrows, no feet, and a somewhat deranged expression. Iisalo thought nothing of the bird at the time. When he showed the bird to the management, the presentation turned into an Aha moment for the whole company. Looking at the bird, even without knowing the point or the mechanics of the game, they already found it irresistible.
Rovio’s 52nd game was launched. The rest is history. Now we can ponder if trying something for the 52nd time is ever a good idea.