"I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is to try to please everybody." - Herbert B. Swope
If you are looking for a sure thing, this is it. We will fail if we believe that we can please everyone by becoming perfect, by fixing all of our weaknesses. We will fail if we imagine that it is possible that everyone will like us, respect us and appreciate us.
Everyone doesn't like Starbucks or McDonald's or Apple or Walmart. It's true that a lot of people do, but not everyone does. We can't make everyone happy. It is futile to try.
However, we don't have to stop there. If Swopes is right, then the formula for success is fairly straightforward. Don't try to please everyone. Choose a small group of people and find ways to please them.
Kevin Kelly, over at The Technium blog, argues that all you need to be successful is 1,000 True Fans. That isn't even close to everyone. In fact, it's almost no one. It is less than .01% of the population of the United States. Some people have that many friends on Facebook.
I'll take it one step further. If Kelly and Swope are right that we just need to please a few people, then this means we can succeed even if the vast majority of people don't like us. We can be successful even if almost everyone dislikes us.
The Heath Brothers make this point very clearly in their Polarize Me article. They suggest that "if you want people to like you, first decide who needs to hate you." Don't just choose who to please, choose who you will displease. Intentionally select a group or groups that you do not intend to help or satisfy. How many of us are ready to implement that suggestion?
To summarize, here is the formula for success:
- Don't try to please everyone.
- Choose a few people and focus on pleasing them.
- Choose a lot of people and focus on not pleasing them.
For more on this you can check out my previous post on being All-Purpose.