One Out of Five

I once made some simple cartoon strips and sent them to several national newspapers, asking them if they wanted to publish my outbursts of creativity on a daily basis. They all kindly rejected my offer. It was one of my first disappointments in business. I was twelve years old.

I also placed a free advertisement in a local newspaper, announcing that I could draw things for people. For a small fee, of course. I received exactly one phone call from someone requesting a caricature drawing based on a photo. Unfortunately, this was beyond my talents, and I had to decline. I was fourteen then.

I tried launching my own little paper magazine about dance music. I spent a whole afternoon asking a dozen or more retailers if they wanted to advertise in my magazine. Nobody wanted to work with me, except one. But this one store manager asked me to come back another time, and I basically had already given up. I must have been fifteen or something.

I was also briefly in contact with a leading Dutch music trade magazine, after I had sent them some of my carefully calculated hit statistics and pop chart analysis. At first they seemed interested in publishing my insights on a regular basis. But, while I waited anxiously by the phone for several days, they never called me back. I was sixteen then.

I once put an ad in the local newspaper offering my services to fellow high school students who had difficulties with math and physics. I hit the jackpot. The phone never stopped ringing. I made myself a nice amount of extra pocket money, optimizing my income with my friendly face and mathematical mind. The parents paid eagerly, and offered me coffee, cakes and mathematically-challenged children to work on.

My fifth idea was a success.

Maybe that’s why my lucky number is five.

I bought my first computer (a Commodore 64) with the revenue. And a monitor. And a tape recorder. And books. Armed with my new computer, I had ideas for several new ventures and businesses. And the cycle of failures started all over again. But (roughly) once every five times, I did something that actually worked.

Don’t worry if your idea doesn’t catch on. Try something else. One out of five is not a bad score.


  • How I Organize My Work (with Remember the Milk)
  • The Happy Melly Team
Related Posts
free book
“How to Change the World”