Gary Vee posted a picture quote with these words: “You’re Not Lost — You’re Just Too Early In The Process.” It stopped me scrolling and got my attention. I had to read the sentence several times to understand it.
People tell me all the time in direct messages that they feel lost. They’ve tried this or they’ve tried that and all they feel is lost. I never really knew what to say to these people. How can you explain the feeling of being lost when you don’t feel lost yourself?
After I read this quote from Gary, I went back and had a look at the online profiles of those who had contacted me and felt lost. I realized many of them were young millennials who had only just gotten started. They were liking videos of millionaires and consuming mountains of success porn.
I also noticed that many — not all — had only just begun pursuing their dream. The writers had all written less than one hundred blog posts and the entrepreneurs were in their first year or two of business.
Each of them felt lost, yet they weren’t all. They were just too early. They were looking for results when they had barely started. They hadn’t done their 10,000 hours yet. All they had were examples of people that had more than five years of experience in their field of choice, calling them lazy, unmotivated, Netflix couch potatoes.
The Learning Curve
The process of your primary goal always starts with learning. You have to put work out into the world and learn along the way. You learn from your own mistakes as well as the inputs you put into your mind in the form of books, blog posts and podcasts.
As you consume content, you start to hear the same ideas over and over. That repetition turns into a pattern and a place you can grow from.
Then you get the natural upward trend, followed by many plateaus and punches to the face known as lows. All of this is part of the learning curve.
You’re not lost; you’re in the learning curve phase.
The temptation early in the process is to become a stat-hacker.
If you’re a podcaster, you worry about downloads. If you’re a writer, you worry about the number of reads. If you’re an athlete, you worry about your strength and fitness. If you’re an entrepreneur, you worry about your startup’s financial performance.
Every day you can find yourself checking the stats relevant to your goal and obsessing over them. I was this guy for a few years and sometimes still am. I look for patterns in cashflow cycles and similarities with different readers that frankly don’t exist.
All the stat-hacking does is create worry.
If you feel lost, you’re early in the process and checking your stats won’t help you gain momentum.
Be Inspired, Not Jealous
You feel lost when you measure your results against someone else’s. You have no idea how they got there or what shortcuts they took.
For all you know, their daddy gave them a huge trust fund and they bought their success rather than earned it. Maybe they got free rent or incredible networking opportunities through their mother’s lunch crew at the local country club.
When you look underneath whoever’s results you’re comparing your own to, you may be shocked to learn their process.
The point is not to be jealous of someone’s success. I spend hours and hours every day studying other writers and learning from them. They teach me their habits, points of view, metaphors storytelling techniques and creative ways to use language. I then take what I’ve learned from them and apply it to my own writing.
The people who make your results feel small are not people to be jealous of; they’re people to be inspired by.
Your Process Will Be Different
Just because one person got their results one way, doesn’t mean your process will be the same.
Timing changes. Technology moves forward. Strategies change. Human psychology evolves.
Whenever you start your process, the circumstances which you’re working with will be different. Each of us rise differently. My mentor rose up as a blogger through a WordPress website. I used platforms like LinkedIn in emulating some of his results.
You’re not lost; your process is just different because you started at a different time.
You Start Being Lost and Gradually Find Your Way
We all start out feeling lost. When you’re early in the process, you have no idea what you’re doing. Rather than let that feeling hold you back, let it lift you up instead.
As you continue to work away at your goal, the results will come and you will feel less and less lost. It’s only by exuding effort that you’ll find what works for your situation. Some of the best times I’ve had in my own creative process have been not knowing what I was doing.
When you don’t know what you’re doing, there are no rules. You feel a sense of freedom and just go with the flow.
You try things that other people in your field might have missed because you don’t know any better.
Quiet naivety is a superpower you should crave, not run away from.
You’re Early if You’ve Been at it For Less Than 5 Years
The problem is that you might be expecting results too soon. If you’re less than five years in, you’re early in the process.
You might get lucky and achieve the results you seek before five years, but in most cases, it takes longer than that. You have to get good at your craft and that takes time.
Writing and business for me, in the first couple of years, made no sense. It was all a blur. All that happened was a series of experiments. In fact, right now, my life’s work is still mostly made up of experiments.
After six years in blogging, all that I have learned is that experiments help keep your brain ticking and stop your mind running out of ideas. The spontaneity stops the work becoming boring and often leading many people to give up.
Keep working at your goal for longer. The end result might change but the process will get you there. You might aim to be a business owner and end up becoming so much more than that.
The videos you create for your business could become the main gig rather than the marketing strategy. You could also end up combining two skills together like Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, did when he used illustrations and comedy to quit his job and do his own thing through comic strips.
Fall in love with the process. You’re not lost; you’re early.
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