When you start anything, it's easy to get impatient with it's growth. Whether you're trying to start a business, pick up a new habit, or learn a new skill, chances are you probably want to get it done as quickly as possible. And that's because growth is intoxicating, isn't it? Seeing the numbers improve. Knowing you're responsible for that growth. Reaching your goals. But when it's not going so well? When the number on the scale won't budge or your email list isn't growing or your website is stagnating? Now that's discouraging. That's when most of us become frustrated, throw in the towel and grab a donut (or in my case, gelato). That's when we get “too busy” to work on our goals. That's when we put the project aside for later. But if you've ever felt like doing that – like throwing in the towel after a period of stagnation – you're missing one small piece of the growth puzzle. Because if you do these two things, you will absolutely explode. You'll triple – nay, quadruple – your chances of success. Wanna know the secret steps? Lean in, because here they are:
1. Find what works
2. Do more of it.
Sounds simple, right? That's because it is. But chances are you're not employing this super simple method of
world goal domination.
Why You Need to Stop Fighting What Really Works for You
I'm currently writing this from bed. I'm in Malta, in a private dorm at the university (random travel hack: check out universities around the world if you want super affordable, fun places to stay) with a pillow behind my back. My laptop is balanced on my crossed legs, and my shoulders ache from this unfortunate position. There are plenty of comfortable work spaces around me, including a huge desk and a proper chair no more than 7 feet away from where I'm sitting right now. But that doesn't matter. Because I can't work there. See, a couple of months ago when I wasn't yet homeless, I was sitting at my kitchen table trying to write a guide for SumoMe. But try as I might, my brain was not sparking like I needed it to. As I sat there at the kitchen table wondering why I was feeling so creatively frustrated, I tried to reverse engineer exactly what worked for me the last time I felt super inspired and writing came more naturally. I'm a big proponent of examining why you do the things you do. And it occurred to me that the last time I felt creative, inspired, and productive with writing was in the morning, when I was in bed. I'd woken up, filled my coffee cup and spent a few hours writing before finally getting out of bed around noon and getting ready for my day. But I didn't want to make that a habit. After all, staying in my pajamas until noon is precisely what I try to convince people I don't do when I'm explaining my work. So I resisted it. I got out of bed at a reasonable hour, was showered and dressed with the rest of the world, and set out to do my creative work in a ergonomically feasible work station. I was adulting like the best of them. And sure, this setup made me feel more legitimate. It made me feel ready to get some serious work done. But getting ready to get shit done and actually getting shit done are two separate things, and as ridiculous and perhaps childish as it is, I needed to be in bed, in my pajamas, with the blinds drawn to do my best writing. It's not just me who forgets what really works. I see this all the time with Unsettlers, too. Here's a conversation I have regularly:
Unsettler: “I'm having a really hard time growing my email list. I think I've stagnated at 100 subscribers.” Me: “What did you do to get your first 100 subscribers?” Unsettler: ” I wrote a guest post. It went great! I got 60 new subscribers from it. The others are family and friends.” Me: “So have you guest posted again?” Unsettler: “Oh. No…”
So the way I see it, you have two choices:
- Waste hours (or days or months) digging to find another method that works, continue stagnating and want to hurl your body off of a tall building for all the frustration, or…
- Do what you already know works.
This applies to so many situations.
- If you're trying to find more clients, where did your previous clients come from?
- If you're trying to lose weight and struggling with motivation, what worked the last time you were successful in weight loss?
- If you want to create a writing habit, what worked the last time you successfully adopted a habit?
Examining what has worked for you in the past and then iterating on it will guarantee future success. So here's how to implement this in your life and work right now:
Step 1: Finding What Works
Now you know the easy formula. So ask yourself two questions: What have you done that has worked in the past? Think back to the last time you were successful with what you're trying to achieve. For example, a common issue I work through with my coaching clients is how to find clients of their own. Often they've had one or two clients in the past, so I always go through this process with them and ask them how they found their previous or existing clients. Often, they tell me they were referred by another client, or a friend or family member. Referrals seem out of your control, right? So how can you replicate referrals to land more clients? Well, you could:
- Ask the people who referred you before if they know of anybody looking for the work you do. They liked you enough to refer you once, and chances are they'll like you enough to refer you again
- Ask your existing clients for referrals
- Personally email your friends and ask for referrals.
If it's worked for you before, chances are you can make it work for you again. And don't talk yourself of replicating this just because it's silly or you don't feel like you should need the process as a crutch! Like me with my writing in bed habit, that will just stunt your growth. If you're a 35 year old man who wants to drink 3 litres of water each day and you drink the most out of a sippy cup, fuck it. Drink out of a damn sippy cup. Okay, so if you don't already know what works, or you want to find something that works even better… What have others done that works for them? If you're just starting, and you haven't done anything that's worked well, don't be discouraged. You can still use this method as a fast track to success. You just have to look for what other people have done that works.
- If you're trying to master guitar, find somebody who rocks at playing the guitar
- If you're trying to master writing, find people who have made huge progress with their writing
- If you're trying to get more traffic to your website, find people who have a ton of traffic to theirs, and test their methods (here are 130 ways, by the way)
Test what worked for them. A lot of people assume that something won't work for them because they think they're different. And perhaps the most difficult part of this is accepting that you're not different. Things that work generally work for everybody, in every industry. If you're a blogger, guest blogging works for almost everybody. Sure, you can come up with excuses to avoid guest blogging. For instance, you could say that guest blogging doesn't work in your industry because it's too small. Or you could say that guest blogging worked better a few years ago when there were fewer bloggers. These things may be true. But you won't know whether they work until you try them. Ok so now that you've found what works, you just need to move onto step 2.
Step 2: Do More of It
When you find something that works, your only job should be to repeat that thing. Over and over again. Wash, rinse, repeat. It's easy to become distracted by the next exciting method. But 90% of what you do should be what works. Spend the other 10% of your time testing. And if, through that testing, you find something that works better? Shift that 90% of your time to do that one thing. It's okay if you forget this sometimes. I do, too. With SumoMe, Noah reminds me to focus on what's already working often. But as long as you avoid shiny object syndrome and remind yourself to stay focused on what's already working, you're golden. Because success? Success is just repeating what works.