Kickstarter Lesson #155: The Most Dangerous Thing a Creator Can Do

9 July 2015 | 28 Comments

The most dangerous thing a creator can do is compare their project to other projects.

Three years ago I was a few weeks into my first tabletop Kickstarter campaign (Viticulture). I had worked my butt off, and much to my surprise and pleasure, the project had almost reached its $25,000 funding goal.

Then another tabletop campaign launched (this was back when 10 game projects didn’t launch every day), and in less than a day, it reached its funding goal with ease.

For days I clicked back and forth between that campaign and mine, watching my funding crawl forward while theirs jumped ahead in leaps and bounds. It felt like a race, even though I was the only person who was aware that a race was happening. I was jealous of their success. Honestly, for a few days there, it really consumed and disheartened me.

The most dangerous thing a creator can do is compare their project to other projects.

***

This is a mindset, plain and simple. This isn’t about ignoring other projects–in fact, it’s great for project creators to constantly research (and support) other projects. We have so much to learn from each other.

But it’s when you start to compare your project to another–especially one that is more successful than yours–that you start to breed jealousy and negativity. It’s dangerous and unhealthy.

I know because I did this–I started dissecting the other project for reasons why it wasn’t as good as mine. I grumbled to myself about why my project should be doing better than the other one. This is classic insecurity. The two projects had nothing to do with one another.

Instead of comparing my project to the other one, I should have spent a little time learning from the other project, celebrating its success (we’re all in a brotherhood and sisterhood of creators through crowdfunding), then focusing on my project and my backers. No more jealousy. No more languishing. No more comparing.

***

I’m writing this post because sometimes I need this reminder. I need to remember how dangerous and unhealthy it is to compare my project to other projects. And maybe–if this resonates with you–the next time you find yourself comparing your project to another, you’ll catch yourself and will instead try to learn from it, celebrate it, and focus on making your project as great as it can be.

Have you ever experienced this? How did you snap out of it?

 

28 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #155: The Most Dangerous Thing a Creator Can Do

  1. This isn’t a kickstarter related phenomenon – its just human beings and life. How much better would all our lives be if we celebrated everyone else’s successes rather than basing ours on everything around us. In everything we do – if we did our best and did it with integrity (and maybe grew from the experience), then isn’t that a win?

  2. This is a very good point, Jamey! Like you said, it’s classic, and very natural, insecurity. It’s best that we don’t do that to ourselves, and focus instead on doing what we can to set ourselves up for success. The busier you are working on and promoting your own project, the less time you’ll have to worry about other projects.
    However, some backers will publicly make those comparisons to other Kickstarter projects for you, especially if your project isn’t doing well, or just doing okay. They’ll theorize about why project X is doing so much better than your own, and insist on changes to your project or strategy because “project X is doing it.” Everyone wants to be on a winning team…
    How do you respond to backers on Kickstarter and internet forums like BGG when they start dissecting your project and comparing it with others?

    1. Game-o-gami: That’s a good point about backers making those comparisons whether you like it or not! :) Whenever that happens to me, I reply with a compliment about the other project. If conversation steers too much in the direction of another project, I cut it off (nicely) by reminding people that conversation about my campaign should remain focused on my campaign.

      In the case of someone mentioning something they think another project is doing better, if they’re being constructive–that is, if they’re enthusiastic about my campaign and they’re just trying to make it better–I’ll try to engage them about that one specific aspect. Usually it helps me if I say, “How would you apply that concept to my campaign?” or I’ll explain why that concept doesn’t work for my campaign, but I appreciate the idea.

  3. Jamie, I find that your posts are always so on point.

    As a creator currently running a campaign, I do find myself checking out other similar projects from time to time, and am somewhat surprised at how well of them some of them are doing (surprise is probably not a good reaction in these situations.) I think what’s helped me a lot though, is looking at all of them as a learning situation, like you said. I try to investigate what they’re doing and see if it’s something I want to follow. In some cases, they are – like seeing which blogs they contacted to write about them, and in other ways seeing that their success may founded through something I don’t feel comfortable doing – like paid marketing through crowdco., or by co promoting unrelated products.
    I’m not really a competitive person by nature, so it doesn’t really bother me, but I did find overall, that reading Shawn Anchor’s “Before Happiness”, has taught me a lot of great things about how to be positive throughout this emotionally roller-coaster-y kickstarter endeavor, and how being positive is really the key to success, and not the other way around (and therefore it really doesn’t matter what someone else is doing.) And now I’m rambling so I’ll end it here.. Anyway, Jamie, thanks for your continuing stream of informative posts. They’re really, really helpful.

    1. Nancy: Thanks! I’m glad you’ve been able to look at other projects through that learning lens, picking out what’s useful for you and what’s not so useful.

      I haven’t heard of Before Happiness, but I appreciate the recommendation–I’ll check it out!

  4. I can certainly relate, as I’m sure many other project creators out there right now can too. Many times it’s a mystery as to why some projects excel and others don’t, especially when their goals are similar, the component quality/quantity and level of art is the same, and all of the other variables are also similar. It’s easy to find yourself spending too much time analyzing their campaign, when you really should be focused on your own.

    I think this lesson is valuable not just for Kickstarter project creators, but for everyone in general. The time we spend envying others’ success is time we could be spending on working toward our own success. I also think comparing your campaign with others’ sucks the passion out of you, and that is probably one of the most dangerous things, as passion is contagious. If you’re not passionate about your project, you can’t expect your backers to be either.

  5. Mike: Thanks for your comments. I completely understand–it’s hard not to compare, whether you’re in the middle of a campaign or looking back at a campaign. I like what you said about passion, and I like this a lot: “The time we spend envying others’ success is time we could be spending on working toward our own success.”

  6. This is a great story, Jamey. As a founder, my partner and I see competition in our space, not just for Kickstarting, but business in general. And though I’m not perfect at keeping a good attitude when competition is doing significantly better than us, I do try to use them as inspiration. To me, when they are doing well, I think that I can do well too. They’re proving our industry can breed winners; I just have to keep pounding the pavement to ensure we’re winners too. I forwarded your blog to a friend of mine as a bit of inspiration.

  7. Thanks Jamey and to all of you for your great comments! When we see other projects excelling, it actually encourages us because it make us realize that we can do the same thing. Of course, it takes a lot of work, perseverance and a clear vision. But we must all be humble in how we look at ourselves amongst other project creators. And encourage each other. After all, we wouldn’t be where we are today without all of the help, guidance and support of other creators. This is definitely a learning experience for us and we will always be grateful. Supporting, celebrating and encouraging others success is sometimes tough but anytime we have done that, it always comes back to us 10 fold. So as we look at other projects succeeding maybe more than ours, let’s support their success, congratulate them and learn from each other. In the end, we will all be better for it.

  8. There’s a lot of great take-home philosophy in your Kickstarter lessons Jamey! This one is not only searingly honest (as always – well done!), but it speaks right to the heart. Be the best you can be, and don’t worry about outdoing others! It’s a laudable approach, and one I really try to live by too (though I confess… it IS hard at times!). Onya :)

  9. Very much agree. Thank you Jamey for all of these great insights, we have used your blog as a great resource in this process. We are in the midst of the comparing mode now as we critically review what is going right and not so right with our project Vanquisher https://tinyurl.com/ouhssx2 which is live now. At the end of the day our backer and fan community is what drives us. Our plan now is to gather as much backer feedback as possible, likely re-group to hunker down and create more community around the game and then a re-launch. So, spending our energies focused on the positive steps we can take with a game we know is destined for success rather than spend too much time comparing.

    1. Jess: Thanks for sharing your perspective! I think you’re wise to soak in all of that feedback from backers (and hopefully seek feedback from non-backers on some of the Facebook groups) to help the project reach its greatest potential.

  10. Thank you Jamey. Are there any specific facebook groups you would suggest? Just recently joined James Mathe Tabletop game publishers guild, any others you would suggest would be helpful. I feel like we could have been on the cusp of a great project. Our game was recently reviewed and endorsed by Father Geek which was really positive.

  11. You’ve received some fantastic feedback, thus far, and while I could echo many of their comments I’ll simply state that it’s great to hear this message from you…who have a.) proven successful in your endeavors and b.) have given, especially through these vignettes and blog-posts, a wealth of valuable information to other Kickstarter creators.

    To answer specifically your original inquiry…yes, absolutely! But, then I remember why we’re engaged in this activity of board games…to have fun!

    1. Thanks Penelope! Well said–switch from envy to a desire to learn. I kind of use envy as a trigger to remember to switch over now. “Ah, is this envy I’m feeling? Time to begrudgingly learn from it instead.” :)

  12. An excellent point and especially useful to new creators coming from someone like you, Jamey. Thanks for this!

    One thing I did for my campaign ahead of time is write up how it could go and degrees of success I would attribute to different scenarios. That helped me focus in on how my project is doing and not worry too much about how much better someone else is performing.

  13. Thanks for this post! I’ve kept it in mind every day during my campaign (The 7th Continent launched the same day), and I have no doubt I’ll need to keep it handy as Scythe launches. Best of luck with the launch tomorrow; I hope the campaign surpasses all your hopes for it.

    1. Randy: I’ve been doing the same (well, trying not to do it, but still doing it!) to the 7th Continent. :) I’m so glad to see that your campaign for World’s Fair 1893 is up to 300% funded, though!

      1. Jamey: I appreciate that! World’s Fair 1893 won’t be as big as The 7th Continent or Scythe or anything, but it’s looking to be a good success and a good step forward for my tiny little company. :-)

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