What I did before Cult of Analytics? Learned how to fail right

A friend of mine has asked me to be her mentor. I wondered why at first but I figure if one person wants to know how I got to know enough to fill about 3 hundred pages of a book then others also might. The mentoring I’m doing is basically giving advice on how I learned what I know now. The first thing I told her to do was read Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza so she got a copy and after reading it described it as “Frigging good”. I had the same reaction back in 2003 when I read it. What follows is the email I wrote her today about how I got started back then.

Oki, getting serious with this mentoring thing now.

What I would start doing is writing about stuff you really want to become a professional in, doesn’t matter if you don’t think it will work now, just do it anyway and try to get people to re-link to you (use Twitter & FaceBook to spread ideas about what you’re writing about).

Apply what you learn in Brain Audit to the stuff you’re writing and remember nothing is likely to happen for 6 months to a year till you figure out what you want to do with all the new knowledge you have. The key is practicing the techniques as often as possible. In anything you do (where it’s relevant) at first. You’re already a good writer, you just need to do more and more often.

Try the business card trick. Power of 3 works. Something similar here which may appeal to your artistic side!

If you liked the persuasion techniques Sean talks about the next book might be Influence by Robert Cialdini.

I have a copy you can borrow. Sean is unique in that he explains stuff lightly where as Cialdini is a bit heavier but he goes into a lot of depth and brings a lot of science into the picture.

Persuasion is always good to know but the most powerful of the tactics is what Cialdini calls social proof. Sean discusses it when he talks about getting testimonials. There is probably nothing stronger than having other people talking you up.

That’s what you need to do, provide enough value through your content that other people talk you up. When Seth Godin (another blog to subscribe to) talks about spreading the ideavirus, this is what he means. People get your idea and forward it. He also talks about purple cows (you look at something because they’re unusual, Sean describes the same from a different perspective when he discusses writing about the problem).

I ended up specializing in online marketing and measurement but your path might be something entirely different and I can’t tell you what that would be.

Do something you love and it doesn’t matter if you’re poor. That might sound rich (excuse the pun) but when I started down this path I was brass monkeys skint! I was living on €400 a month for a long time (over a year). I ended up putting a lot of expenses on my own companies account (stuff like food written off as corporate hospitality). I had so little money that I would go to corporate events not to learn (most of the talks were in Finnish) but to network with people and get the food at break times!

I was scared shitless most of the time and had to count every penny but looking back I was so out of my comfort zone and so into what I was doing that it forced me into failing in the right way so that I could learn from the mistakes.

You don’t need to do this and you can learn from my mistakes (I would have saved myself a lot of stress had I knew what I know now) but you will need to make sacrifices (even if it is only a lot of time) to follow the path you set-up for yourself.

It depends on what you want. If you want to be an expert and go for the full “I love what I do every day thing”, where no amount of effort is stress then that I would say is you need to figure out what you love doing otherwise you won’t find the energy. I am lucky in that I think I managed to find this. Yes there are things I don’t like doing, but they are minimized and I’m working on ways to eliminate that altogether.

If it’s just better work and a career path you’re looking for you’re better off trying to find a job in something you’re interested in doing and applying the techniques, this way at least you will start moving up the ladder because of your innovation.

By the way, what I just wrote here has taken me 20 minutes and is a potential blog post to my readers (with a few tweaks). This is how Seth Godin blogs. He simply posts everything he thinks about! So keep everything somewhere. You never know when it will be useful.


So there you have it. I would bet that the people I have mentioned in the post (Sean D’Souza, Seth Godin & Robert Cialdini) all had their own stories about when they started out. Everyone of them was a student once. When you leave university is when the learning begins, not when it ends. I read something useful every day (have a library of books at home – the best ones are the ones you re-read), am still a student and always will be.

That’s how I think I learned enough to fill a book myself.

Steve is a well known analytics specialist, author and speaker. A pioneer since 2002, he established one of the first European web analytics consultancies (Aboavista), later acquired by Satama (now Trainers’ House) in 2006. In 2008 he wrote his first book Cult Of Analytics published on May 14th 2009. He currently serves as CEO at Quru and has presented and keynoted web analytics topics across Europe. These include The Internet Marketing Conference (Stockholm), The Search Engine strategies (Stockholm), IIH (Copenhagen), the IAB Finland (Helsinki), Media Plaza (Amsterdam), Design For Conversion (Amsterdam) The eMetrics Summit (London, Munich, Stockholm), Divia (Helsinki) in addition to sitting on dozens of panels.

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6 comments on “What I did before Cult of Analytics? Learned how to fail right
  1. Respect. Made me think. Totally agree with many points. Someone said: “There is no elevator to success, you have to use the stairs.” My hockey story is probably better than job career one, still have to blog my story too, later. Thanks for sharing this Steve!

  2. Jo Sallu says:

    Well the great thing about business online is you can fail quickly and move on to the next thing just by analysing and testing.

  3. JoyceB says:

    I am glad to see you mention Seth Godin’s blog. Very informative. Upon your recommendation, I am reading “Brain Audit”, will let you know how it goes.

  4. @Petri;
    Good comment, “No elevator to success you have to use the stairs”. I will use this! :)

    @Jo; Very true and that was a lot of what I did. We did a helluva lot of testing. Edison once said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I felt like that, the stuff that works is often the result of simply doing the opposite of what doesn’t. Either way you still have to test.

    Brain Audit is a book I’ve recommended on numerous occasions and everyone who took the advice came back and thanked me for it. It’s arguably the best book I’ve read in this decade. I credit Sean with changing how I think about Marketing and in a lot of ways life generally.

  5. I would love to live the dream, i had fall down many times and pick myself up again n again, hope i will finally suceed

  6. B. Feltz says:

    I have taken many courses where they say that you will be mentored. If you know someone personally then it works. I have never been that lucky. I learned through trial and error.

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