Don’t let fear rob you of the grind

A design event I produced

Everyone wants to do something that’s awesome and cool and changes the world. But I’d argue that it’s enough to have changed the course of a few people’s days. That is more realistic, and to be honest, no one changes the world by saying they’re going to change the world—those ideas never work. People who really change the world have failed a few times and know that luck and good ideas go hand-in-hand.

I produce events to bring people together and shift the course of people’s lives in a tiny way; this might ripple outwards, it may not. But I’m happy to have affected a part of people’s day for the better, that they decided that my event was more valuable than drinking hipster coffee by the ocean.

You never know about these things. Maybe you produce a design workshop that inspires someone to pursue design or coding, which changes their career. Maybe your music performance encourages someone in the audience to start performing.

Years ago, I was told something along the lines of this, by a comedian: “If someone in the audience was watching me, and forgot about their worries and was completely engrossed for even 5 minutes, then I have been successful. Because I have changed a part of someone’s day for the better.” And that is enough for me, I think.


In my own life, there have been a few major events that have changed my mindset and I daresay, the course of my life. The event itself, plus the people I’d met, clicked, and I’d figured out how to make a change. I’ve also been to not-so-great events.

Producing an event means that you promise to provide enough value for people to take time out of their own lives to share time with you. There is a lot of pressure in that regard, regardless of whether your event charges for admission. When you charge for admission, your event is perceived to be slightly more valuable, because people had to sacrifice something more than time, to attend.

During the first event I produced, people got up and left around an hour before it ended, because our scheduling went off-track and a few unexpected things occurred (the venue, with glass windows and no air conditioning, was essentially a greenhouse of technology with an ocean view), some of which was due to some unwise decisions I’d made.

I came home sad, and the event remained in a dark place for a long time, because I felt that I’d failed, as an event producer, to exceed expectations.

In hindsight, I made mistakes because I was young and took risks. I’d rather fail than sit on the sidelines forever, wondering ‘what-if.’ If you show up ready to do something that no one else is doing, you have won half the game already.


You take big bets, and sometimes they pay off, sometimes they don’t. If it blows up in your face, then you hope that people forget about it by the time you run your next event (or target a different crowd).

I thought I’d never produce another event. But producing an event of a similar calibre was essentially engineering pieces of a puzzle, a game to slide all the pieces into play, resulting in an event that people cared about. It was so interesting that I couldn’t not run another.

No one becomes successful by setting out to change the world, but if you set out towards something you care about, and keep grinding when most people give up, you might change a small part of a few people’s days. Then a whole symphony of people’s days. More people, more days. And then, maybe, sometime when you’re jumping off a cliff with your favourite people, you can scream that you’ve changed a part of the world.

And you know what? Doing something that matters, is not easy.

Some days, you’re tired.

I get that. I’m tired too.

Some days, I’m tired of being stuck, but too tired to do anything about it; too caught up in fear of failure. This is when you want to take a breather.


The stakes are high when the issues matter – but high stakes means high return. You never want to sit there wondering, what-if.

Start small, and grind.

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