About 25 years ago a young grad student at Stanford University was hungry. He wanted a pizza as he pulled an all-nighter. The internet was new and exciting in 1993 and he said: “oh, the web is great and what we really need to do is to be able to order pizza using the web”. Today the mere ordering of a pizza seems yeah of course no problem. But back in 1993 it was a big deal.So he sat down and wrote a web script that would enable you to fill out an order and then fax that order to the pizza place. Because back then of course very few people were online or had email addresses. But they did have fax machines. It seemed a genius solution to the crazy impossible idea of ordering pizza over the internet.
So after completing the script and still hungry – he was a computer nerd after all and his quest had become all consuming, it would have been a lot easier to just pick up the phone – he fired up the web server (do you remember the web dial up tone?), filled in the order which then got magically sent through the internet to the pizza restaurant. And then he waited and waited, and got hungrier and hungrier.
After a couple of hours he broke down and phoned the pizza place and said: “You know I faxed you an order four hours ago!” And the guy said: “OH, really? Let me go check the fax machine.” It was then that the student, a certain Sergey Brin, realised this internet-fax thing just wouldn’t work because the restaurants that did have faxes were not even looking at them. The idea that had seemed brilliant, failed.
Today Sergey says he feels “lucky” that it failed because back then it is very possible that the fax would’ve got picked up and then he would have put a lot of energy into his great idea of ordering pizza over the web using fax machines. And here is what Sergey says he learnt from that experience: “A challenge or a problem shouldn’t related to how likely you are to achieve it. The fact is even when you go after more ambitious goals, even if you fail to achieve that big goal, all the side effects that come along the way can be that much more rewarding and significant in their own right.“
Following his failure in the pizza web ordering business Sergey went on to work with Larry Page on data mining and eventually Google was born.
So even if your goal seems crazy impossible, go for it, you just never know what positive and rewarding side-effects may come along that can be more rewarding and significant in their own right.