The Secret Is the Beginning

(Photo: Pixabay)
(Photo: Pixabay)

We humans love to celebrate success stories. We get inspired by great companies, successful people and big achievements.

Those are the things that make big headlines and motivate us to push harder everyday. While these stories are motivating and inspiring, they are also intimidating.

Often so intimidating that we question everything we do. We compare our little project with the big ones who are already out there for many years. We put everyone & everything on our imaginary pedestal.

I remember my mother always said this one line that stuck with me until today. (I’ll do my best to translate from German to English)

Tobias, always remember—everyone sits down when taking a shit, just like you. Your teachers, your mentors, and even the president.—My mother

This has always been a gentle reminder for myself when I was busy putting other people on pedestals. It’s a reminder that everyone is human, everyone has the same humble beginnings.

Even though we should know better, we still believe in the “Over night success” myth. We want instant gratification and always seek for the secret recipe of success, even if we already know that it does not exist.

For some reason it’s deeply unsatisfying for us to not be able to find the perfect answer when asking someone for their secret of success. Still, we keep asking.

One thing that often helps me to put things into perspective is to look at the beginnings. Look at where things started rather than the final outcome.

Often the secret lies right there, in the beginning that looks a lot like your own beginning of a new project. It’s the phase we can all identity with, since very few start with a big bang.

We all know about the crazy “overnight success” of Angry birds. But few know that the three founders built 50+ games and almost went bankrupt. Angry Birds was one of their last attempts to safe the company. Clearly not an overnight success.

Anyone who wants to sell you overnight success or wealth is not interested in your success; they are interested in your money.—Ben Bennett

I always love to look at some of our favorite websites and services—how they looked and worked just 10–20 years ago. It’s a simply trick that helps me to put things into perspective.

The humble beginnings often tell us more than a refined product many years later. It helps me reflect on where I am right now with my own projects.

So let’s have a look:



Yes, Twitter looked like this in 2006. Even for 2006 this is absolutely horrible. But this is where it all started, and all that counts is that it’s LIVE and not just an imaginary idea in someones head.



While YouTube still might be not famous for it’s beautiful design and extraordinary experience, this is how it looked in 2006. It’s a small idea about to become something big.



This is how the social network looked like in 2004, and it didn’t changed for years after. It was a true MVP starting with just the basics. The design of Facebook was definitely not the reason why the service got so popular in the first place.



If I’m not mistaken, this is a screenshot from the Airbnb website in 2012. Yes, that’s not even four years ago. Things have been very different.



Uber in 2013 — Just three years ago. And to be honest, from a core functionality point of view, it hasn’t changed much.



Spotify in 2006. Humble beginnings, but on top of it all: It just worked. People came for the music, not the visuals.


Always remember. The secret is in the humble beginnings we often forget about. Everyone started somewhere. Often these humble beginnings are not portrayed by the press. They’re not sexy nor particularly interesting.

No one cares about the 50 games that came before Angry Birds. But it’s these 50 games that we need to pay attention to.

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Yours truly,

Tobias is the Co-Founder of
Semplice, a new portfolio platform for designers. Also host of the show NTMY — Previously Design Lead at Spotify & Board of Directors AIGA New York.

The Secret Is the Beginning