Why do most people give up after one try? I blame Wile E. Coyote!

Most people of my generation grew up with Saturday morning cartoons on TV.  One of my favourites was always watching Wile E. Coyote endlessly chasing the Road Runner.

I don't know about you, but I was always rooting for the coyote, and straw polls among my peers seemed to show a similar sentiment.  We all craved for the day that Wile E would triumph and be rewarded with a road runner roast.  (Rumour has it that there was ONE secret episode in which he actually won, but furious Googling and Youtubing has yet to reveal this treasure.)

But even as a young impressionable kid, I was always vexed by two questions.

1. How did Wile E afford all that gear and equipment from Acme Inc. ??  He must have either had a large stash of money somewhere, or else a great line of credit with the company.

1b. And if he DID indeed have access to lots of cash, why didn't he just BUY himself a Kentucky Fried Roadrunner family dinner instead of trying to hunt one himself?  Perhaps he was just in it for the thrill of the chase?

2. Why did Wile E always give up after the first try?  I mean, he would invest a LOT of money and time in setting up the most elaborate traps, but as soon as one tiny thing made it all go wrong, he would give up and move onto the next idea, instead of retrying or improving his first idea.


I think it is this second factor that has become imbued in a lot of people in my generation.  I keep meeting peer entrepreneurs who tell me sorry tales of woe where they tried something the once, noticed that it didn't work, then dropped it like a hot potato to move on to the next thing.

Usually when I probe further and ask them if they tried to pivot their idea in some way or revisit it with some changes, I am met with an incredulous stare.  They almost always never considered trying again.

I blame Wile E.

In a lot of ways, Wile E. Coyote is much like a lot of funded startups these days:

  • A LOT of disposable cash, with a high burn rate
  • 'Fail fast' manifesto - pick and, dust off and try something new after every failure
  • Quick iteration from concept to execution, with bare minimum planning beforehand, or else planning as they go along
  • Single track focus on ONE end result, but with many paths to get there

Arguably some good traits in there, but there is always room for improvement.  I always wondered what would have happened if Wile E had grown intellectually and emotionally and perhaps explored the possibilities of:

  • Using guile to befriend and win the trust of the Roadrunner before capturing him
  • Had 'guaranteed performance' contracts drawn up with Acme Inc. that would have insured him against failure and allowed him to replace failed equipment at no extra cost
  • Used his money and influence to organise other coyotes in the area to work together to capture roadrunners

Perhaps the generation of entrepreneurs that grew up with those messages may be going things slightly differently nowadays?  

Well, at least MY Saturday mornings may have been a LOT more enjoyable had he done so.