It is About being Genuine

February 24th, 2009

I study business administration, and many of the courses I’ve taken — management information systems, operations, marketing — all preach heavily on certain practices that successful companies have.

“Best practices.” We learn about things companies have done that have made them successful. Nordstroms allows customers to return nearly anything, no questions asked. Toyota has lean manufacturing. Zappos delivers shoes overnight, for free. Google uses their own products internally to see how good they are and gauge interest.

We have these for everything we do — even writing. Some people say writing every day will make you successful. Others say writing only occasionally will.

But I say this: if all you do is take what others have done, you will never be successful.

Here’s my golden rule for being successful.

Be Genuine

John Gruber puts it like this:

The key ingredient I see in successful apps, Mac or web —- and, really, in creative commercial endeavors of any kind —- is that the creators are building something they themselves love.

Be genuine. I do not want to read articles written by someone who does not love writing, and I certainly do not want to listen to music by bands who do not labor over every second.

I want to read and listen to people who genuinely love what they do. People who live to write and make music. People who, after publishing an article, go to their website and read it from first word to last, not to make sure there are no errors, but because they published the article for themselves.

It is easy to focus on what other successful people have done, because it turns success into a science. If I do this and this and this, then I will make x amount of money just like they did. It is a simple math equation, right? Add great service, good design and efficient supply chain, and I get rich.

Companies attempting to repeat Apple’s success follow this logic, attempting to mimic Apple’s products. But they have the causation backward: Apple is not successful due to their inspired product design, efficient supply chain, or anything else you can cite about Apple’s business.

Apple is successful because they, both as a company and as individuals, really care about making great products. Their passion is to make computers, phones, MP3 players, and software that they would want to use every day.

And because they want to make great things, they have these attributes which are routinely (and wrongly) cited for their success. Success begins with passion, and not with a checklist.