4 min read

You may have heard of the idea of the “10-year overnight success.” It’s nearly cliché at this point, and yet, I don’t think it’s talked about enough.

There is a lot of excitement around the beginnings of something. We are enchanted by the potential of a launch. Feeds are full of things that are new and trending.

There aren’t a lot of feeds with categories for “projects that are 5 months old!”

As a culture, Americans tend towards instant gratification, and we’re only making it worse with our constant jockeying for attention.

I see a lot of people struggling. Struggling to keep things moving forward on their business or creative project that they’ve been working on. Typically, the struggling happens early on in the life cycle of that project or business – less than a year or two in.

The tragedy is that so many people throw in the towel.

Because we love the new and exciting so much, we see other businesses or creative projects being launched and getting attention!

What gives? I’ve been doing this for 8 months over here…pay attention!

But, eight months later, that creator will be in the same spot.

The truth is, in my experience and the experience of so many of my peers, you need more time than that. Sometimes it takes time to actually get good (cue the Ira Glass quote here).

But really, it’s more about showing up consistently and putting out your signal. (I wrote about that more than two years ago…talk about meta).

We stop advocating for ourselves after months of putting our work into the world, because we think people are keeping track of how much we are talking about ourselves. Or we think, “Surely, everyone must know about this by now.”

But they don’t.

I think the key to everything is much more long term.

Plan for the long term and celebrate small wins and signs of progress in the short term as fuel to keep going. 

Sales is the ultimate exercise in playing the long game.

We get so thirsty for someone to say “yes” to us that we can sabotage ourselves when we make an ask. “Do you want to buy my thing? NO? Well, why not?!”

Suddenly, a promising conversation has now put someone in a very uncomfortable, defensive position. They won’t be coming back.

A “no” often means “not now.” It doesn’t mean “no, not ever.” Sometimes, the sale doesn’t happen immediately – but the work you’ve done has ensured a commitment in the future.

Don’t think about this sale. Think about your next sale with this same individual, and act in a way to make that next conversation go smoothly.

When I open applications for Unreal, I also reach out to people I know would be a good fit for the program. And you know what? Most of them tell me no.

There’s a lot of rejection.

But a lot of those who tell me “no” enroll in a future cohort. Timing is always a factor.

But Jay, I need results yesterday!

I get it. I’m right there with you. But you won’t suddenly build rapport and trust by pushing someone into a tight timeframe – and you’ve compromised the next sale by trying.

Start thinking long term now and building relationships that may bear fruit 6-12 months from now. In the short term, get creative, get out of your comfort zone, and get vulnerable. In 2017, I covered a 3-month cash flow gap by catching up with close friends and being honest about my situation.

Even if you’ve been in business for years, if you’ve never gotten out of short-term thinking, you’re likely struggling to consistently bring in new work.

If you’re making something (writing, podcasts, videos, photography, etc.) be willing to do the work for over a year before you truly worry about results at all. If you can afford to commit to doing the work for two or even three years before declaring success or failure, even better.

Think long term, celebrate the small wins in the short term.

Remember that players of an infinite game are simply trying to keep playing.