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Embracing Ignorance as Advantage—a Case Study
One cappuccino, two cappuccino, three cappuccino, four. Neurons humming but still no dice. It was time to get nervous.
“Hey, mate. We’re heading out to Sub Club. You want to come?” Chris, a Kiwi and my chaperone for the Rugby World Cup, was ready to hit the streets and unwind.
I pulled my headset off of one ear. “Not just yet, man. I have to get LitLib ready for launch and there is still no website.” He was well aware of my latest hair-brained idea. I somehow hadn’t been able to pull the designers and programmers together last-minute.
“It launches end of October, right?”
“Nope. It launches in less than 12 hours.”
Time for more cappuccino.
That’s how LitLiberation, the online literacy campaign I organized that ended on 11/1, got started. I opted for Wordpress.com at the 11th hour and got the site out to the world. It was like, as one professor of mine once said, a swimming duck: smooth and calm from the outside, and kicking like hell underneath it all. Despite what some might claim, that’s how most products and ideas get launched. As disorganized messes.
The end result? It didn’t hit the ambitous goal of $1,000,000, but it did raise $200,000 and that total continues to grow. It raised about $140K for US public schools alone, impacting 15,563 students and earning recognition from Google in the process.
Y’all don’t mess around, and you should be very proud.
Fundraising is a hard business. Most people who are candidates for helping have developed donor deafness under an avalanche of unending requests. That said, to put $200,000 in perspective, here is what a few 800-lb. gorillas raised during that same time:
Colbert Report (with at least 5 rebroadcasts driving people to his donation page):
My hope is that the success of LitLib inspires people to test their mettle in new worlds. Its success has little to do with Tim Ferriss and everything to do with a few simple ground rules I scribbled in my journal just before starting:
Be creative—start scaring yourself.
Explore the unthinkable.
Is it a life-or-death decision? No.
“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back.” -Babe Ruth
No, it wasn’t sophisticated. I had no idea what I was doing, nor what I was getting myself into.
The resulting model and outcome are demonstrations of a wonderful observation: lack of resources is often your greatest strength. How? It forces you to use new methods and test the options incumbents wouldn’t consider. It forces innovation. You have no other choice. Naivete, paired with unfounded optimism and complete ignorance, often helps here.
My sincerest thanks to all of you kick-ass readers and supporters for helping to make this a reality! It’s been an incredible ride, and I hope others duplicate and improve upon this model to raise funds and awareness for causes worldwide. It can be done. My congratulations and thanks also to everyone who contributed to a better future through education on other blogs (special shout-out to the formidable and most clever Tomato Nation) and through other channels. The biggest changes will take us all.
Remember: sometimes not knowing what you’re doing is an advantage.
Explore the unthinkable.
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By Timothy Ferriss
About the Author: Timothy Ferriss
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Serial entrepreneur and ultravagabond Timothy Ferriss has been featured by dozens of media, including The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, NBC, CNN, and MAXIM. He speaks six languages, runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide, and has been a popular guest lecturer at Princeton University since 2003, where he presents entrepreneurship as a tool for ideal lifestyle design and world change. The 4-Hour Workweek is his first book on lifestyle design and details how to outsource and automate your life.
Click here to visit Timothy's website.
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