Why Success Can Set You Up For Failure

“Facebook executives say the people who are complaining are a marginal minority. With time, Facebook says, users will accept Beacon, which Facebook views as an extension of the type of book and movie recommendations that members routinely volunteer on their profile pages.”

Why do they think they can get away with that? Because they were able to before. In September 2006, they came out with another horrible idea that was widely criticized: The Facebook Feed. And instead of getting rid of it, or changing course, they semi-apologized and then kept up with it. In the same sentence Zuckerberg claimed to care about the users’ feels and then defended the thing they hated:

…I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

That is, “I know your mad but we’re staying the course.” And Facebook pretty much got away with it. I know I’ve grown to tolerate the mindless streams of activity coming from my friends–it’s even alerted me of some things I would have missed out on. But it was the worst possible thing that could have happened to Zuckerberg because it lead him to overreach. This is the essence of Boyd’s Loop. Success now leads to failure to tomorrow because it provides borrowed time. It detaches you from reality.

Robert Greene:

“Whatever success you are now experiencing will actually work to your detriment because you will not be made aware of how slowly you are falling behind in the fast transient cycle. You think you are doing just fine. You are not compelled to adapt until it is too late. These are ruthless times.”

Unfortunately, Facebook’s success was based on something that cannot last: Compulsion. “Why would I quit over the Feed? It’s not that annoying and if I left, I’d lose all my data.” But that’s not how it was received by the perpetrator, they heard that they can do whatever they want and after the controversy settles, all is well. And as we see now with the backlash growing, it shows how dangerous getting exactly what you want can be.

Edit: Valleywag, as usual, totally misses the point: “Traffic has more value, at the moment, than user satisfaction.” Umair, does not.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.