“My success is built on a mountain of failure.” This bit of wisdom among others is from Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter, who shared stories from his new book, Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind, at an event organized by the Greater Washington Board of Trade in Washington, D.C.
Stone, who is regularly cited as one of the most influential people of the information age, believes failure is inevitable, at least before stumbling upon success. “With each failure, you learn something new. You cross off the list all of the things you shouldn’t do.” Now aged 40, Stone is certainly a success. He has earned hundreds of millions from his share of Twitter, the now-ubiquitous micro-blogging services that attracts 240 million visitors each month. Twitterers send out 500 million tweets each day.
Some of Stone’s lessons learned will be useful for all design professionals:
On being entrepreneurial: “Most people think opportunity is defined. But no one takes a step back and looks at the circumstances. I made the circumstances and then took the opportunity.”
On your designer ego: “Don’t love ideas so much that other people can’t participate. Take your ego out of it.”
On creativity: “Creativity is an endlessly renewable resource.” As a part of this, Stone talked about his time designing book covers. He said he learned that “there is no one perfect book cover. There are infinite perfect covers.” If your client doesn’t like one book cover — or landscape or building design, for that matter — simply create another.
On being vulnerable: “There is value in vulnerability. We put a human face on our early failures at Twitter. Twitter wasn’t built for success. We had to do that. Our underdog image helped us.”
On leadership: “Always be positive, the north star. You have to keep your employees happy, laughing. You can’t yell at people when they are stressed out.”
On profit: “If you love what you are doing and believe that a company or product will do better by aligning with a meaningful cause, then passion will be aligned with profit. Find value and then amplify that value through a business model.”
On creating value: “You will always win if you are doing right by your users.”
On major credit card debt: “I had faith my future self would be smart enough to solve this.”
On great wealth: “It amplifies who you are. If you are a jerk, you will become the biggest jerk. If you are a thoughtful, empathetic person, you will go into philanthropy.”
On philanthropy: “You don’t need to be rich to start giving. You should give early on. In fact, giving has compound impact.”