In high school, I started a forum for an online game I was playing called Silkroad Online. I was 13 and naive. I had no concept of failure, just a desire to create something. I loved the game, had complete control of a site, and my username had a bold red title. As (beginner’s) luck would have it, the site eventually became quite large. At its peak, we had just shy of 10,000 registered members. But 14-year old me made a host of dumb executive mistakes. The biggest mistake was trusting the wrong person. He backstabbed me, hacked the site, deleted my account, and eventually shut the forum down. I still remember coming home that day from school, realizing my “admin” account had been deleted, and being locked out of my own website that I had painstakingly built. I didn’t know what to do, I had no one to talk to or ask for help, and in the end, it had been my own fault. I tried to get it back, but there was nothing to be done. I let it go.
Despite this “failure,” the experience taught me a few lessons. For one, it was my first entrepreneurial venture. I did manage to make a decent amount of money. In fact, I remember the first time I was contacted by someone who wanted to advertise on my site. He offered to buy a banner ad for $50/month. I was overjoyed and amazed that someone would be willing to pay me money, and all I’d have to do was insert a few lines of code. Second, I learned a lot about search engine optimization, HTML, and a number of other related things which have come in use. And of course, I also learned about the dark side of human nature.
But what I find most interesting when I look back on this experience is the fact that I had no hesitations about starting. I was bright-eyed and eager to simply create something. I had no fear of failure or cared about what others thought. While I made a number of mistakes, they didn’t overshadow the rest of my accomplishments. The fact that I got started put me immediately ahead. I started before I was ready, and was learning on the way.
It’s this kind of child-like innocence and naive “just do it” attitude that we seem to lose as we grow older. We worry about failing, “what-if scenarios,” reasons we’re unqualified or unprepared, and most of all, what others will think of us when we do fail. We get caught up in our own minds and an unrelenting “analysis paralysis” that scraps ideas before they’re even tested.
Society is realizing more and more that children display all the qualities we need to thrive in today’s world: creativity, courage, enthusiasm, and an unlimited imagination. It’s important we don’t lose sight of this inner child. I’m not afraid to admit that I probably have. But I’m working on finding him again. We may just need that kind of innocence to create anything meaningful, or to simply get started. Sometimes, getting to the starting line proves just as much as getting to the finish line.