The 128 Year Overnight Success

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First, an idea.

Fusajiro Yamauchi wanted to make cards. That was all. He took what he had — tree bark and a vision nobody else could see — and created his first “Hanafuda” (flower card).

After a little affirmation from the people who saw them, he started to make more cards. Then a few more.

Eventually, Yamauchi created enough cards to open a shop.

The name of the shop? Nintendo Koppai. The year was 1889.

Wikipedia says the founder of Nintendo was a businessman, but I don’t think that’s true. I think he was an artist.

I choose to believe he grew up fascinated by nature and art and beauty. Maybe he even knew the history of cards in Japan, and despite the government’s ill will toward playing cards at the time, decided to create them anyway. Creative people are rebellious in nature, after all.

He could never have known his playing cards would eventually create so much demand his family would have to open a second shop. He could have never have known in the early 1900s, his designs would spread to a Western audience. He certainly could never have known that over 100 years later, the seeds of his effort would grow into an company that, with a simple mention of a plumber, would demand the attention of an entire planet.

He only had one choice at the time:

Create, or don’t create.

How long have you been trying to make a name for yourself? A few months maybe? A year? Maybe you are starting today. (If so, welcome!)

I was disgusted when I didn’t see results after the first 6 months writing on Medium.

“This is ridiculous!” I would think. “How are these other people getting thousands of likes?”

Ego. I’m sorry to stay I still haven’t fully outgrown it.

I would wake up on a Wednesday, write a post, share it on Twitter and…


Then I woke up the next day with a choice:

Create, or don’t create.

I don’t know. Today I am going to write. Tomorrow I am going to write. The next day I am going to write.

Not really. My sophomore year of college, a friend said “hey, the paper is hiring! $8 a story!” So I sold my career choice for $8. Luckily for me I started connecting all the dots to my childhood writing later.

Ooh! This one I can answer. Medium is a different place than it was when I started, but here is exactly what worked for me:

  • Write and publish as often as possible (I started slow)
  • Do original work (don’t just republish your blog content)
  • Find the top 10 publications you might be a good fit for.
  • Write an original piece for that publication.
  • Click the email icon on the publication’s home page.
  • Say “Hi [NAME OF EDITOR], I’ve been a reader of your publication for a while. I’ve written a post called [INSERT YOUR CATCHY HEADLINE HERE]. I really think it would be a good fit for your publication.
  • If you don’t hear back, follow up. Now they feel guilty for not returning your email and will probably read what you have written. (I imagine many of my pieces were picked up out of pity. That’s okay, though. I’ll take it).
  • As you write, think of which articles go together. Link people other work they may enjoy.

I am lucky enough now that people find me, start with one post, and then read 49 more. It’s a neat cycle.

Remember, growth is not linear, it’s exponential.

Today, I don’t know what will happen to you. I don’t if you will receive the success you deserve. I don’t know if you will be happy.

I do know you have a choice:

Create, or not create.

I typically don’t source my research. It gives a nice impression that I just know all this stuff off the top of my head (remember what I said about the ego thing?)

But I found this information on flower cards and this post about Nintendo’s history fascinating. I couldn’t not share it.

— TB

Written by

An optimist who writes.

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