In a world obsessed with stats and results, it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong thing.
Though it’s worthwhile to evaluate results periodically, a fixation on outcomes can be unhealthy, and even detrimental to your progress as a creative or creator. Because process is the part you can control, outcomes are not.
As a creative or creator, filters are crucial to your survival. Without them, you will take on too much, burn out, and get caught up in an unhealthy game of comparison that steals your happiness.
We need to be able to put our blinders on, even if it’s only for a short duration, to focus long enough on the process that we see desired results flow in.
Every “Overnight Success” Was 10 Years in the Making
I find it easy to fixate on the results, even unprompted. Even when there’s virtually no reason to.
I needlessly check in on my Medium stats, even on days where I know I’m not going to get any love…
Even on days when my posts probably won’t be accepted into a publication, and despite the 700 some odd followers I have, all I can expect are a couple of claps on my stories…
Look, it’s not always like that. I have stories that have done well. Stories that continue to captivate and engage.
But I think this is perhaps one of the dark sides of publishing daily… That every day you publish, you almost expect your next big break to happen… When it has literally never worked that way.
The Six-Month Window
Everyone around me says “stick to it for six months – you will see results.”
Which has me looking at myself and wondering if I have done something wrong.
There are some things I have been doing for 10 or 20+ years that I can honestly say I haven’t really seen the ship come in on.
So, that’s where I find the “six months” idea thoroughly unhelpful. I’m not saying there’s no truth to it. You will see some results. But will they be the results you’ve been hoping and waiting for?
So far as Medium is concerned, I have been publishing for over 230 consecutive days. That’s over six months already. I have not achieved “success.”
I guess that means I should stop posting to Medium and try something else right? RIGHT!?
A Breakthrough for Everyone
Okay, so a lot of this sounds kind of whiny. Which isn’t really my intention.
But you can see the conversations that sometimes unfold in my head.
I just think that the “six months” idea isn’t going to resonate with those who’ve duplicated and modeled other successful people and have shown up faithfully to do it, only to find their spin on the same methodology hasn’t yielded the same results.
Some results, yes. Always. But not necessarily the same results.
There’s a breakthrough available to everyone, I suppose. But it might not come in the expected form. And that’s where some sensitivity is required.
The universe will sometimes make that subtle, quiet call towards an endeavor where you would do well. But you’re not going to notice if you stubbornly insist on your own way. Because it will probably mean adjusting.
Put Your Blinders on
So, is it worth worrying about the results?
Should you be checking in with your stats all the time?
Should you put a hard, six-month deadline on success?
Maybe it works for some, but I can’t recall anything I’ve done that gave me a huge ROI in six months.
I am going to argue that it’s best to put your blinders on and do the work.
You’ll want to make sure you have rails for the project, of course. You could end up resenting anything you keep grinding out, without any sense of when to stop, evaluate, and course correct.
But within those rails, only come up for air, as necessary.
The temporary discouragement you allow yourself to feel could hold you back from your eventual success. It’s a distraction.
It could have you doubting yourself and your project constantly, and that can’t possibly add any value to you or your project.
Comparison is unhelpful, since it puts the spotlight on someone you don’t know, whose results you haven’t verified, and who may have put more work and effort into their project than you’ll ever know.
And most importantly, it steals your happiness, which is worth protecting.
The only score to beat is your own, and even there, you must practice accurate thinking.
Accurate thinking is not based on emotions or feelings. It’s based on quantifiable data.
Go hard within established rails. Then look up and see whether you’re further ahead than when you started. If yes, go to next square. If not, consider whether you want to continue. Yes, then keep going. No, then start playing a new game!
A Beginner’s Mentality
Personally, I seek to disappear any notion that I’m seasoned or experienced. At the very least, I don’t see it as an unfair advantage, because if it were, I would have figured out this “six-month” thing by now. Maybe I’d be able to do it in three months!
A beginner’s mentality is fresh. It’s open to learning. It remains curios. It doesn’t lose focus or interest.
Every day, we can start with a beginner’s mentality, or focus on a thousand yesterdays where we didn’t see the ship come in. We can maintain excitement for what we’re doing or make a meaning of our failures.
Although it’s good to acknowledge the ships that didn’t come to pick you up, focusing on them long-term is sure to be detrimental. You’ll just keep waiting at the docks and prove yourself right, even as ships come and go!
On the journey to success, you don’t want to keep proving that things don’t work for you. You want to begin finding proof that you’re going to make it, even if it’s small. And you want to do this daily.
In saying all this, I’m mostly preaching to myself.
I’m looking to get those blinders in place rather than evaluating my progress day to day, or moment by moment. There isn’t much positive that can come from being a dopamine junkie.
Publishing daily is a goal. There are many other things I want to do, but until I’ve completed that goal, there are no others that should distract me from that goal. That’s how I know I’m giving it the attention it deserves.
Realistic thinking has a way of being unrealistic at the best of times. Usually, it has you setting your sights on what you think is reasonable, and there is nothing reasonable with choosing business or a creative passion to begin with.
So, if you’re not choosing a reasonable path at the outset, why set your sights on what you think is a reasonable outcome? Business and creative passions require that you be unreasonable because the longer you stay with your passion, the more you realize reasonableness is just a story you made up – an illusion of the mind.
Accurate thinking is being aware of both the massive upside potential as well as the seemingly insurmountable challenges you may face on your business journey.
Expecting the best and preparing for the worst is accurate thinking.
And so, we eventually graduate from delusional excitement. And we’ll likely have learned many lessons on that path. There will have likely been more than a few letdowns too.
This is often where business becomes a grind. You can’t just graduate from excitement to accurate thinking in a vacuum. There are levels in between.
And as business becomes a grind, you may not see any results, even as you set your best foot forward, every single day.
At this point, it’s altogether too easy to draw the conclusion that all the time, effort, and money you’ve invested in yourself or your business was a waste. Nobody likes you, and even your dog thinks you’re smelly and gross. May as well pack up and go back to the dirty dumpster alley.
This, I would argue, is the right time to return to year one mentality. Pretend that you know nothing and become hungry for growth again. Move from hobby level commitment to business level commitment. Close the escape hatches, shut the backdoor, burn the ships, and move forward (and even fail forward) no matter what.
Shift your thinking from:
I hope this works….
This must work or else!
Who cares about what happened to this point? You weren’t in the game!
Now that you’ve burned the ships, you’ve moved from starting a business to being serious about your business. And that is the mindset you need to succeed.
As someone whose livelihood has revolved around writing for 10 years, that thought had occurred to me more than once. And as I started to hear rumors of an AI takeover, I seriously began to question whether I even had a future as a writer.
But five years later, here I still am, doing better than ever as a writer and blogger.
I am present to the reality that what I’m doing now may not be secure forever. Fortunately, I have developed skills in a variety of other fields that will continue to be of value to people. And I believe enough in myself to be able to acquire new skills too.
But the greatest contribution I make is not that I am a genius, but rather that I show up daily. And by virtue of showing up, I get gigs and contracts I am not the most qualified for.
That’s the value of staying top of mind with your family, friends, followers, fans, and target audience. They see you. They come to know, like, and trust you. And before long, they’re doing business with you.
People assume they must be the most qualified or innovative in their field to become high achievers and top earners.
But at times, I have been paid good money for Googling something anyone could have done in about five minutes.
It’s important to realize that many people value their time more than their money. And that is a worthy virtue. You may not want to be their personal assistant, but for $200 and five minutes of your time, you might just find yourself saying “yes.”
People want to know whether you’re genuine. And most importantly, they want to know whether you’re going to keep showing up for them. Can they depend on you?
Showing up isn’t always easy, and I don’t want to make it sound as though it is. Some days, it will feel like a grind.
But if you want to stay top of mind with your network, attract new clients and opportunities, and create an independent income surpassing your wildest expectations, I know of no better strategy than showing up. Especially since you don’t need to do it perfectly to get the results I’m talking about.
I’m not saying you won’t one day come up with an amazing idea. But in the meantime, you could be showing up anyway.