I’m going to switch gears for a while. Don’t worry, I’m still working on open-source stuff and you’ll see some new posts shortly. I’ve received several inquiries about the general process of doing business as a solo freelancer. I can’t claim to have a lock on the perfect strategy for success, but I’ve been doing this since 1997 and will be happy to share my experience. It also provides an opportunity for others to share their expertise.
So, in that spirit, here is my first tip. I’m eternally grateful for a past opportunity to work with Paul Jones, considered by many to be one of the greatest commodity traders of all time. Despite the numerous trading monitors, charts, and advice generated by his support team, Paul’s greatest asset is a small handwritten piece of paper in his office. The hand scratch reads, “Losers breed losses.”
The point is that losing positions tend to not turn into winning positions. Losers don’t breed winners. They tend to breed more losses. Paul approaches a trading day with the attitude that every single open position in his portfolio is a loser. It must *prove* itself to be a winner. We tend to take the opposite attitude with our business positions. We presume that decisions we make are destined to be winners. We think that bad times will turn around and a losing posture will turn to a winning one. Sometimes, it happens, but at a substantial opportunity cost.
My business began as a 3D animator and plug-in developer. I had character design and animation experience not matched by other programmers and C++/math skills not possessed by other animators. It was a really nice niche and I had a lot of money and time invested in that niche. Not just money, but emotional currency as well.
Yet, every morning, I told myself it was a losing position. It had to consistently prove itself to be worthy of continuance. Early after the new millennium, several factors came to the forefront that proved to be the writing on the wall for my so-called niche. The business strategy failed to prove itself a winner, so 2003 was the year I gave up 3D and re-branded myself as a full-time programmer.
Interestingly, the niche that proved to be successful for the last nine years was something I never would have predicted coming from a C/C++/scientific programming background.
Something called Flash.
Nine years is a nice ride and I’ll never be successful attempting to predict the next nine years (nor will you or any of the silly technology pundits). I’ve never been a <insert_the_fab_language_of_the_day> developer and never will. Every day, I wake up with the presumption that Flex/Actionscript is a losing strategy. It must consistently prove itself to be a winner.
Because, losers don’t breed winners. Losers breed losses. Try considering your business decisions in the same light and best of luck to you!
4 thoughts on “Losers Breed Losses”
Hi Jim, I’ve been following your blog for a while and just wanted to say I really liked this post. Best wishes to you too.
Thanks, Lee – glad people are finding this information helpful; I’ve had to learn a lot the hard way through experience, so it’s always nice to pass the knowledge along and help others in their business ventures.
If there is enough demand. I wrote a ton of DHTML back in the day of the Version 4 browsers (including a C++ application that generated DHTML as a cross-platform NT/Unix sparse matrix visualizer) and it would be fun to revive that.
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