Ice Cream is about Nothing – should we ban Ice Cream?

When you start a business, how do you know it will succeed? Clearly, you don’t – you can do as much market research as you want, write business plans, and try things – and ultimately, you don’t control the end result.  You can direct what you hope will happen, and then respond to the feedback that you get. And you need to believe in what you’re doing before anyone else (ever) does.

I listened to Biz Stone‘s interview with Terry Gross on starting Twitter today, and I was struck by his description of the early days of Twitter and how no one thought they could succeed. For about a year, the founders of Twitter built what was essentially a labor of love while their friends and family wondered if they were simply nuts.  Hindsight is 20-20, so it’s easy to declare them an overnight success now, but we should really remember that their overnight success happened over a period of 5+ years.

Ideas are a dime a dozen (or maybe a dollar with inflation.)

One key takeaway I have from the Twitter experience is to acknowledge that ideas are cheap – whatever idea I or you have is probably being duplicated by 10-15 other people even in the same city where we live right now. That doesn’t mean you should give up on your ideas (I have a mental list, and then a physical list of ideas that I keep for my next inspiration) but it does mean that you shouldn’t treat them as truly your own until you act on them.

Twitter didn’t start out as a world-changing information service – it started as a podcasting service, then evolved as a side project.

You won’t get it right the first time, so try to do that part as quickly as possible.

A developer friend of mine once told me that when he develops software, he assumes it’s a “1.0” version, and then throws away his code at the end of the first try. At first I thought this was very wasteful, and then realized that it was brilliant – he freed himself to make many of the mistakes that a “finished” product wouldn’t have.  And then did it again.

Twitter is evolving constantly, and engaging its users to define many of the features and functions that will make it successful.

Business should be about combining fun with profit – too much of either and it’s tough to make a business.

Biz mentioned in his interview about Twitter that initially people were confused and didn’t know what to make of the idea of thousands or tens of thousands or millions of people telling each other about “nothing.” And he hit on a brilliant way to describe it, saying that “ice cream is about nothing – should we ban ice cream?” There are many things in life that are simply fun, even if the operational underpinnings behind the businesses that deliver that product or service are all about the traditional goals in business of making money. So here’s the takeaway – business should be a little of both – depending upon where you fall in the spectrum, you might think that your business should have more fun or more profit, but it’s extremely hard to have a successful business without either of those things.

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134 thoughts on “Ice Cream is about Nothing – should we ban Ice Cream?

    • “Business should be about combining fun with profit – too much of either and it’s tough to make a business.”

      I like this statement very much , and its really true and i firmly believe on it that what every you do in life do with passion and passion only come when you enjoy it and it is like fun for you other wise you get bored quickly and get out of that stuff.
      Motivation only comes when you enjoy the work , business.

      As the quotes says

      “This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.”

  1. I so thought i was going to read about ice cream :-)
    I love how the term “overnight-success” is thrown around like… well the word “like” in high-schools across America. It’s as if people think they aren’t smart enough to cultivate an idea themselves, so they label the successes around them as overnight miracles — more due to luck than hard work and fortitude. Ideas might be a dime, or dollar w/inflation, a dozen, but the work that goes into them to make them something more is beyond monetary measure.

    • Indeed – “overnight success” often means “I didn’t follow you when you were working really hard to figure out all of the stuff that didn’t work,” and congrats!

      -g

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly. As a small business consultant, I tell people who should love what you do. Business should be about fun. If you’re not having fun, you are in the wrong business. People thinking about starting a business should follow their passion. Making money is secondary to being happy and enjoying going to work everyday. I do disagree that “ice cream is nothing.” Ice cream is one of the great, simple pleasures in life.

    • Susan –
      Thank you very much for your comment. By saying “Ice cream is about nothing” I mean that people love Ice Cream regardless of what value it provides them – it simply brings joy, as you suggest.
      Regards,
      Greg

  3. I’m presently starting a new venture with a friend on the internet. I hope it succeeds. I also hope it doesn’t turn out to be more of a chore than a fun opportunity. Life is short, enjoy it.

    Twitter is a great venue for just talking inane stuff. Bacon seems to be a hot topic to tweet about. Why? Because it’s fun to tweet about bacon!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  4. Great inspiration here … I always keep Walt Disney in the back of my mind while pondering biz ideas, as not a whole lot of people believed in his “folly.”

    Then he build Disneyland in 365 days. Or was it 366? Doesn’t matter, I guess. Point is, he did it, despite the naysayers. And just think of the daily “take” at the gate. Astronomical…

    • Mikalee –
      Thank you for your comment, and glad you liked the piece. Walt Disney is an amazing example of someone who believed in a dream and didn’t listen to the people who didn’t believe in him (or at least, he didn’t listen too much.) He also was fanatical about his attention to detail and in fixing the things that didn’t work.
      Regards,
      Greg

  5. I love ice cream and I wanted to see what this was about. Thanks for such an encouraging post. It isn’t positive thinking that makes you successful. It is persistence and the conviction that you have something. You tend to not listen to anyone else and head for the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you.

    • Rubiescorner –
      Thanks for your comment – I appreciate your thoughts. Keep on pushing for your dream – I found it inspiring in this radio interview with @Biz that he did too, and now he’s still figuring it out every day.
      Regards,
      Greg

    • CrystalSpins –
      Excellent point – agree that if something is about nothing it opens up the possibility that people will overlay their own ideas on it.
      Thanks for reading!
      -g

  6. This is very interesting to read, and I must say I am fascinated with all of the metaphors- particularly the one about ice cream. Thank you for taking the time to share this, I find it useful.

  7. “Fun and profit.” Tis the key, enjoy what you are doing and have the best product available…Word of mouth and tweets are the best!!!!

    • Lakia –
      Thanks for your comments! Not only do you have to make sure your ideas can stand the test of trial, but also the more people you tell about your ideas, the stronger they get.
      Regards,
      Greg

    • ACleansurface –
      Exactly! That was the point @Biz was trying to make – that if people were comparing Twitter to Seinfeld, that it had jumped the chasm and had become more than just a service – it was a part of the zeitgeist. Thanks for sharing!
      -g

  8. Very interesting post. Always enjoy reading stories about people following through with their dreams – no matter how crazy. Really like the advice here. My favourite — “You won’t get it right the first time, so try to do that part as quickly as possible.” This is key. Soo many people spend all their time trying to get things perfect that they sometimes miss the boat on a good opportunity.

    • YouNxt –
      Thanks for the kind words. As a recovering pessimist, I think it’s important for people to dream realistically – but also think it’s important to dream. So if part of achieving your dream involves failing at the parts that don’t work, you should get that over with and move on ;)

      -g

  9. Thank you for sharing this advice and encouragement. I took an introductory Visual Basic course once, so the advice from your friend on throwing out the code from the first try and starting over makes some sense to me, although it must be painfully hard. Success requires a lot of dedication.

    • My Camera, My Friend –
      Thanks for your thoughts. I’m not a great coder – I often tell people that I’m about good enough to “code my way out of a wet paper bag, but no better.” Mike’s advice has made a great difference to me in many arenas and has encouraged me to dedicate myself and try harder, as you suggest.
      -g

  10. Congratulations on being freshly pressed!
    Great insight and well written!
    You are so right. Ideas are nothing until we put the action into the idea.
    Sometimes when I am writing something and I forget to save it and it disappears, the second draft is always better.

  11. Loved the article, as a new business owner it gives a little comic relief to the oh so serious struggles of owning your own business… but it is certainly important that one has a great time- in doing so… Point taken :)

    • FaithAndStageFright –
      You can do it! I’m glad these words helped and I can tell you from my perspective that once you get going, you’ll feel better (even if all of the questions aren’t answered yet.)
      Good luck!
      -g

  12. “One key takeaway I have from the Twitter experience is to acknowledge that ideas are cheap – whatever idea I or you have is probably being duplicated by 10-15 other people even in the same city where we live right now.”

    That quote spoke to me. It has been tempting to throw in the towel given how hard it is to be a publisher in Australia. Probably many of the people who did the same degree as me are in the same boat. But as it is my passion , I have decided not yet.

    • LeadingLight –
      Thanks for the kind words. I think the most important thing is whether you can execute on your idea and get it to some semblance of done. It’s much more important to ship your idea and get it out there in the world than it is to make it perfect (the first time, anyway.) You can beat much bigger, more well-funded competitors with this strategy.
      –g

  13. I agree with your premise on business & success, but I have to severely disagree with your premise regarding “ice cream is about nothing”.

    Seinfeld was a show “about nothing”, but ice cream? It is an ingenious dairy creation that can cure sadness, help a broken heart, lead to fatness and millions of people find comforting and delicious.

    • Mayor –
      Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t mean to claim that Ice Cream is worth nothing; but instead to acknowledge that Ice Cream provides many more benefits for people than you would expect from a frozen confection. Ice Cream is more than nothing – it’s whatever you want it to be.

      –Greg

    • ThatIsSoPhat –
      Thanks for your comment. It’s important not only to learn about technology, but also to ask the right questions so that you can pick the right technology (or knowledgeable technical partner) to help you to solve the problems you want to solve.
      –Greg

  14. This could apply to so many things. I for one am always thinking of things and then not acting for fear of disappointment. When I finally do act (starting my own blog for one) I stop and start and stop and start thinking too hard about failing. I don’t know why I stopped to read this, or why i feel compelled to comment, but really in its own little way, this is rather inspirational. Thank you.

  15. Like most of the readers here, I thought I was going to read about ice cream. I was disappointed at first, but then I realized that your post might actually help me.

    I love writing my blog, but have been finding it difficult to find the time and motivation to write it. I feel like I should be getting something in return for it. Of course, my first thought is money. Perhaps if these other “nothings” can become successes, why can’t I?

    On a somewhat side note, I don’t see ice cream as being a nothing. To me it’s a very big something… especially when there is chocolate involved.
    <3 Milieu

    • Milieus –
      Thanks for your kind words, and for your indulgence on the title of the piece.
      I think your blog will be successful if it’s what you want it to be – money is one measure, but customer engagement and comments are also very important – and you have to choose what you want to put into it to get something out of it.

      And even if you put a lot of effort into the blog and get nothing, it’s still worthwhile (and you’ll be closer to being your own definition of successful.)

      By the way, I very much appreciate ice cream (especially chocolate.)
      -g

  16. The unmentioned note here is that Twitter was born out of a failure. They originally tried to revolutionize podcasting and failed in their attempt so they then switched focus over to Twitter. It takes a special ability to know when to push forward and when to change focus.

    • Jason –
      Great point – not only was Twitter born out of a failure, but Biz Stone originally had the idea for the service in 1999, but didn’t commercialize it until over 6 years later.
      Pivot, then succeed; pivot, then succeed was the recipe for Twitter’s success, and it doesn’t work for every business. It’s impressive that it’s succeeded beyond the founder’s wildest dreams.
      –g

  17. To ban ice cream would be akin to frowning on a smile, supressing a giggle or stopping a hop mid-air… Things don’t always have to have a reason for them to have a reason for being. Some of the best ideas started from nothing.
    Congrats on being FP’ed.

  18. Hi Greg – the ice cream thing certainly provoked a response!
    “Fun and profit” seems to be a catchphrase at the moment. I wanted to point out that doing what you love is not always ‘fun’. In fact, if you are in the pursuit of pure ‘fun’, you’re on a tough road. Doing what you love for a business, however, leads to something much more durable than fun – satisfaction. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it isn’t, that’s not what matters.
    Well done for the Freshly Pressed. x Pollyanna

    • Pollyanna –
      Thanks for your thoughts – I agree that a balance of fun and profit is what succeeds – too much of either one yields either not enough profit or not enough fun.
      Cheers!
      -g

  19. What a great point! I hope to eventually start my own fashion business/blog/design label/success. And it is such a daunting task when you think about what is profitable, rather than what is inherently you, and how you yourself through your business are indeed profitable. We’ll see how this goes. hopefully I’ll soon take the plunge! After college, that is.

    If you do happen to reply to my comment (not that you have to, or that I am expecting it), please do so via email, because if I set it for “Notify me of follow-up comments via email,” I will get every other person who stumbles upon your genius post clogging my inbox.

    PS–loved this!

  20. Good job Greg,
    Hear, hear! Well said and, as with Twitter, you know you’re onto something when the naysayers don’t quite get your ice cream flavor. I’m tweeting this one. :-)
    Eliz

  21. I think new businesses also need to have enough cash to stay in business at least one year. It always takes me at least that long to finally get around to stopping at the new places (unless it’s a restaurant and I’m dying to try the food) to check them out. I have good intentions of stopping, but with all the other things I seem to always have on my list to do, stopping to spend my hard earned dollars is not always the thing I run to do immediately when a new place opens up. Unfortunately, just when I get around to making the trip, most of the places are already closed down.

    I read somewhere that the average person takes about a year to check a new business out. They have to drive by several times, check out any advertising the company may be putting out, wait to see if anyone they know has gone there, and see if the business is going to stay open and be legitimate for a length of time. For me, even though I don’t do it consciously, it always seems to be about a year in time before I get around to actually going there to check it out. If they’re closed, I always wish I had gone in sooner, but am also glad I didn’t invest any time or effort in someplace that was closing up so soon. I know, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s what happens.

    • RTCRita –
      Thanks, great point! As one of my professors in school used to say, “cash is king.” If you don’t manage your operating capital wisely, you’ve likely had too much fun and not enough profit.
      –g

  22. Pingback: Ice Cream is about Nothing – should we ban Ice Cream? (via Information Maven: Greg Meyer) « The Scone Chronicles

    • Kim –
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not suggesting that anyone should live without ice cream. Rather, I’m suggesting that ice cream is successful in spite of any other benefit that it offers, because it allows people to see it as something more than just a frozen confection. Services that make this emotional connection (like Twitter) succeed too.
      –g

    • Grace –
      Thanks for your comment.
      If you’ve read this far, you’ll know that no one is actually advocating getting rid of ice cream, and that the title was a clever way to bring you to the post and to make a point at the end of the article. Sorry if this was confusing.
      –g

  23. i can’t understand why u would choose a title like this…u talk about something completly different the entire blog and yet u choose to put that title with that picture even though it’s only mentioned once in your blog that SOMEbody said that…

    • Iulia –
      Thanks for your comment and I apologize for the inconvenience. The point I’m trying to make here is that certain services (like Twitter) are about nothing, and people ask, “why use them.” Yet no one asks, “why eat ice cream?” The analogy is similar – Twitter has become like ice cream to people – valuable beyond the initial benefit that it offers – which is why it’s successful.
      I hope this explains why I chose the quote.
      Regards,
      Greg

  24. Hi,
    Everything you wrote is possibly known to all of us…..but how many things that we know do we implement ? Therefore a reminder now and again can only help us. Wish all of us got as much fun out of our work as we want.

    • Roda –
      Thanks for your comment. I agree that we often know what we need – but we also forget that we have to implement it one step at a time, even if it doesn’t seem “ready” or “done.”
      –g

  25. I was one of those folk who resisted Twitter for a long time. I didn’t get it and I too felt it was about nothing. Then I succumbed and lately I’ve been getting my news from it. Just goes to show you, the most seemingly inconsequential ideas can end up having a great cultural impact. Thanks to Twitter, we will never be the same. Testament to that is the Egyptian revolution. Twitter works! Thanks for a great post and congrats on being FP’d!

  26. Well written Write-up. Glad i am able yo locate a site with some knowledge plus a great writing style.
    You keep publishing and i will continue to Keep browsing

    Thanks Again

  27. People need to learn how to pick something and stay with it. I meet so many people that say there going to do something and they don’t follow up with it. If you don’t stick with something and work with it how are you going to get anywhere. You won’t become a millionaire over night, when you have a idea work with it. Love what you do and the ideas you have. Great post BTW

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