When we hear stories others getting the fame, recognition, and traffic that we desire, our first tendency is to wonder why that isn’t us. We look for shortcuts to becoming a black swan. We long for the quick win—we wish we could have overnight success, but we forget that years of work go into being suddenly discovered. The performer on YouTube that gets 500 million views on their first video, the business that shoots to the top of an industry, the blog that is an instant hit — these results are not common. We feel bad because we only have 5, 50, or 500 followers. We fail to recognize how amazing it is to even have one.
We’ve poisoned ourselves with stories of Silicon Valley startups that hit the IPO lottery. These are our modern-day mythic heroes. It’s healthy to have lofty goals. But for some of us, these extreme outliers have become the measuring stick for success. Anything less than worldwide domination is failure. This type of self-inflicted penance doesn’t do us or anyone near us any favors. Growing your business gradually has become a dirty phrase, but it’s what actually happens 99% of the time. If you suddenly grab hold of a rocket to the top… Awesome! Just don’t base your happiness around that expectation.
We give things to little time to grow. We are sometimes guilty of wanting instant gratification without putting in the work. We uproot our projects before they have a chance to reach the sunlight. To paraphrase Mike Michael Ehrmantraut, we opt for a half-measure when we need to use a full-measure. We need to be all in with our effort, strategy, and mindset for our businesses to succeed.
The reality is that most things in this world, whether they are on the web or not, take a fair amount of time and effort to grow. When we hedge our bets, and abandon projects or strategies because they don’t have explosive growth, we need to examine our reasons for starting those projects in the first place. A strong reason will keep us interested in working on a project; a weaker reason will not.
Tactics for growth and discovery are great, I use a fair number of them — but sustained growth comes when other people believe in us as much as we believe in ourselves. Building genuine community and investing in other people is one of the open secrets of grass-roots growth. Be genuinely interested in other people, and listen twice as much as you talk. You cannot be everywhere at once, extolling the virtues of your business, but if you build an army, they be your ambassadors.
The hard part is, the bigger your community gets, the more difficult it is to know each person personally. Take care of the people who are early supporters and advocates of your business. They will help you grow to the next level. As you grow, have a plan for how you will keep the early vibe of your community alive. How will you continue to make people feel special when you 5x, 10x, or 100x as big? Are you truly ready for that?
One of the biggest factors that no one talks about is mindset. When I worked for other companies in my previous career, I made decisions based on what I thought was best for my family, but fear was always present. Making decisions from a place of fear and desperation is a tough place to be, and it’s even tougher to see when you’re inside of it. Money is always going to be something that must be addressed, but the biggest thing I’ve done to improve my life and chances of success is slowly get rid of that fear, and replace it with a mindset of certainty.
Reshaping the way you think is not a quick and easy process either, but I’ve chosen to believe that I have the power to make my own destiny. Will there still be tons of roadblocks and things to overcome? Hell yes, there will be! But I’m no longer blaming my shortcomings on outside factors (the government, the economy, competition, yada yada…). When you blame outside factors for your circumstances, you take your power to change things and give it away to those factors. I don’t like the feeling of being powerless to help myself, so I quit that habit. Words are powerful. So are thoughts! Keep your mindset positive, decide where you want to get to, and take the actions necessary to get there. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t getting there fast enough, just stay the course and know you are going to get there eventually.
There’s so much more to say about this, but basically it comes down to a few things. Realize you probably have a long road ahead of you, but that’s OK. Be good to people whenever possible. Use growth tactics, but realize they aren’t the silver bullet. Give strategies time to work before abandoning ship. Believe in yourself and your path, because no one else will until you do that.