“I don’t know, man, I’m just not seeing any traction.”
“How long have you been at it?”
“I’ve written a post every day for 3 weeks now!”
This conversation happens way too often.
Maybe you’ve even had it yourself. (I have)
Maybe you thought, like so many of us, that you deserve to be successful already.
Maybe you wonder what it really takes to be a successful creative person.
There’s one thing everybody needs, but few have. It’s a big key to running the marathon of life without wanting to stick your head in the oven:
It doesn’t come easily to most (myself included) because we creative types were born to fly.
We were made to run, not walk.
We were meant to sprint, not wait.
We were created to blaze trails, not follow them.
But Life qualifies you. It does it every day. If you aren’t willing to keep writing for 6 months when nobody’s reading, are you really going to be willing to do it forever?
When I seriously started making a run at being an “online presence” in 2015 (after 1 failed blog, 1 hardly successful one, and a failed business), I knew I couldn’t fall into the same trap I did before — trying to do everything at once.
Here’s a piece of advice I picked up somewhere. Hopefully it will help you as much as it did me:
Do ONE thing.
If you want to be a photographer, take one picture. One good picture. Then do that for two weeks.
After you’ve got that down, post one of your pictures. JUST one.
There are no “6 easy steps” to learning patience. I’m not even sure I can tell you how to do it. I can just give you my experience and let you learn from it.
My experience is this:
On January 12, 2015 ALL I DID was record one Monday Motivation for around 30 followers on Snapchat. Maybe 12 of them watched the whole thing. Then I did that for the rest of January.
In February of 2015 I started turning those into articles on Medium. I didn’t have a WordPress site, but still wanted to get my work out there.
I did this for several months, getting better at writing, cranking out Monday Motivation quicker each time. Turning each video into a written article a little faster.
I was doing TWO things. ONLY two things.
I wanted to build a site, but I didn’t.
I wanted to publish more, but I didn’t.
I wanted to do more, but I didn’t.
Four agonizing months later, when I started getting really comfortable with TWO things, I started writing another post a week.
Three things??! Slow down, Todd!
After another two months that felt like an eternity, I got my blog started and wrote two posts a week there and one original piece for Medium each week.
WOAH! FOUR THINGS.
And that’s still pretty much where I am. I do four things. Maybe I’ll do more one day, but I don’t know. Four things is a lot.
Something else strange happens when you are patient. A weird addendum that people don’t talk about much because it’s hard to explain. In fact, I’m guessing I’ll lose a lot of you at this point.
When you keep patient long enough, the world starts playing along.
It’s beautiful and wonderful and magical and I don’t get it. But it’s real. This weird cycle emerges.
Action builds momentum. Momentum builds respect. Respect leads to assistance. Assistance leads to inspiration. Inspiration sparks action.
Here are some things that have happened while I’ve been patient with four or less things(without much other effort on my part):
- I’ve had 3 top-20 posts in the world on Medium (1 top-10).
- I’ve grown my Snapchat following, connection with dozens of new people*.
- This guy named Matt built me a website FOR FREE.
- One of the editors for LinkedIn asked me to republish one of my pieces in their network.
- A developer approached me about demo-ing his software (don’t tell him I’m not super successful and famous).
- My salary at my “real job” grew by about $10K. (Turns out when I don’t feel guilty about my side-hustle, I do better at work too).
*+toddbr, in case you want to join the fun
The whole point of me telling you any of that was to tell you this:
Don’t be embarrassed to start small.
Start small and grow big. Be faithful with the little things. Love them. Do them well. Do them a lot. Do them in the way only you can do them. Care for them.
And then do another thing.
And then another.
And then another. (maybe)
Rather than spitting out cliches on how every journey starts with a single step, I’ll end instead with this question:
If you could skip all the small steps. If you could skip all the climb and the grind and the hustle and the waiting and get what you think you want most…
What on earth would you plan to do for the rest of your life?