In 1848, just outside Coloma, California, John Marshall found a small lump of metal that started a gold rush. In the following years, over 300,000 people flooded the area in search of their fortunes.
The psychology of a gold rush is understandable.
You hear whispers of people making a killing, simply through being in the right place at the right time. No need to work for your winnings, just turn up and get lucky. It’s seductive.
The gold rush mentality persists to this day, only it’s not land that’s being mined – it’s technology.
Whenever a new platform springs up, getting in first can bring you ‘easy’ money. Count the times it’s happened: the dot-com bubble, email spam, problogging, social media gurus, throwaway apps…
Right now, it’s writers who are gripped by gold-rush fever. Look at all these guys publishing to the Kindle and making huge money! It’s so simple!
There are more e-readers than ever, waiting to be filled, and a salivating base of creators scrapping to get their share.
Three things worth noting about a gold rush, though:
1. It requires the right tools and the right knowledge
No point turning up with a plastic shovel, or digging in the wrong place. And it turns out that those with the best tools and the best knowledge tend to be those who’ve been in the business for a long time already. It’s rarely the newbie who wins out.
2. It’s finite
Eventually, the vein will be tapped out. When there are 5,000 ebooks from which to choose, you’ve got little competition and a big advantage. When there are 1,000,000… not so much.
3. It’s already over
By the time you hear about a gold rush, chances are you’re already too far behind to win. If you know about it, so does everyone else – which means point number 2 is getting closer every day.
And after the gold rush? You’re left with a worthless patch of land. If you failed to find riches there, chances are you’ll abandon it and move on to the next thing.
Unless you take a drive on the roads around Coloma in the present day and see how the land is being used for something else.
All around this part of California, vineyards thrive by taking a different approach to the rich land. Instead of buying a plot in the hopes that it might have a scrap of gold hidden in the dirt, land is bought to be cultivated over time. Instead of mining and grabbing, you plant seeds that bear fruit – and continue to bear fruit, year after year.
You need luck to win in a gold rush.
While everyone else is crossing their fingers, maybe you could be building something that lasts.