Beginner's Luck

My first app to the App Store back in 2010 made it to the number one position in the US Productivity category. How, I do not know. I did not advertise it nor did I really make a big deal of it publicly. It was more of an experiment than anything else. I hadn’t even known it was top in its category until I was randomly browsing the productivity category to see what else was on there, and lo and behold, my app sat gloriously on its lucky throne. Since that day, I have been on a wild goose chase to recreate this success, with all but little luck.

On Christmas of 2013, I wrote and submitted an article titled “4 apps, 1 weekend” to HN. I thought very little of this post, nor did I care if it did particularly well. In fact, after I submitted it, I hopped in the shower and totally forgot about it. I came out and seen that I had several new emails, many from Twitter about several new followers, as well as miscellaneous email inquiries, all starting with something like “Loved your article on HN!” Since that initial taste of sweet and ephemeral success, I have been on yet another wild chase to write a post that might somehow get me to the top of the list, with all but little luck.

The high that has come with such fleeting success has been toxic and dangerous. Since these two early successes, nothing else has quite mattered to me more than recreating them: by somehow making another product or writing another post that might be recognized. I spent months and years crafting and perfecting new products, thinking it would be as easy and prosperous as my first. This, obviously, was not the case. And since 2010, almost five years now, I have been unable to recreate an app as successful as my first, and also unable to recreate an article as popular as my first. This has created within me an insatiable restlessness, where an inner inclination lingers within that urges me to continue working and creating until I can consistently recreate these successes.

Since then, my faith in myself and my abilities has decreased with every new app or article I publish. It has even gotten to the point where I fear spending too much time on a single product, fearing that it might (and most likely will) fail, and all that time will have been lost. I tell myself, “the less time I spend on this, the less heart-broken I will be after it fails.”

Nothing has quite changed in this self-pitiful saga, save for one glimmering strand of hope that I have found recently: that I am not alone.

I happened upon a book that you might have read called The Alchemist, a book so divine that it has been translated to more than 56 languages. It tells of a fictional boy who leaves all behind on a journey to find a treasure that he dreamt about. In the beginning of his journey, the sun shines bright, and everything miraculously works in his favor.

“That’s the way it always is,” said the old man. “It’s called the principle of favorability. When you play cards the first time, you are almost sure to win. Beginner’s luck.”

“Why is that?”

“Because there is a force that wants you to realize your destiny; it whets your appetite with a taste of success.”

As he progresses on his journey and towards his treasure, however, life becomes increasingly more difficult.

Meanwhile, the boy thought about his treasure. The closer he got to the realization of his dream, the more difficult things became. It seemed as if what the old king had called “beginner’s luck” were no longer functioning. In his pursuit of the dream, he was being constantly subjected to tests of his persistence and courage. So he could not be hasty, nor impatient. If he pushed forward impulsively, he would fail to see the signs and omens left by God along his path.

What has given my agnostic sensibilities hope here is that I now have something to believe in: that life doesn’t hate me and wishes for me to fail. No, — I was played by Beginner’s Luck, and to reach your treasure, you must play back.

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