There’s No ‘Fast Track’ To Success

“The difference between winning and losing is most often just not quitting” — Max Levchin

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“Shit, I can’t figure this thing out,” I thought in panic.

My following wasn’t growing for several days. The that I am helping to grow hasn’t had a new paying user in weeks.

I looked at the dashboards on the screen in front of me and it was crushing me.

The obvious thinking pattern in situations like these, is that you’re doing something wrong. You need to change your strategy. So that’s what I did: I researched the web for answers.

How do you scale a SaaS? And how do you build a following on Medium?

The answers I was seeing were all cliche: “build a community”, “create stunning content”, “follow your passions”, blah-blah-blah. Nothing practical. Nothing actionable.

But then, north of the sixth hour of research, I looked up and realized it.

I was solving a problem that had no solution.

The problem I was solving wasn’t “How to scale a SaaS” or “How to build a following on Medium”. These problems have solutions and pretty obvious ones. That’s why I was getting cliche answers when I googled it.

But “How to scale a SaaS into a profitable company in a week” and “How to make $10K/mo from Medium next month” have no solution. Like Warren Buffet famously said, it’s impossible to give birth to 9 women in a single month.

You know those passes you can buy in Disneyland, that allow you to skip the line and jump ahead? Right, well life doesn’t hand those out.

There are no fast passes to success.

Success In Anything Is a Marathon

The question is, “Are you willing to complete it?”

It’s a hard choice. That’s why it’s worth spending more time in the pre-committing zone before you say “yes”.

Some people think that just because they agreed to something (e.g., decided to launch a business), they are automatically owed success. But it doesn’t work that way. You aren’t guaranteed to complete a marathon by finishing the first kilometer.

Whatever you start — you’re in it for the long haul. You’ll need twice as much money and three times as much time as you planned. And there will be difficulties on the road — Seth Godin calls those “dips” in his .

When things get tough, you’ll need decent reasons to keep going. That’s why successful people say, “follow your passion”.

Unless you love what you do, unless you love the process, it’s easy to quit.

But there’s good news too.

Good News: You Just Need To *NOT* Quit

“The difference between winning and losing is most often just not quitting” — Max Levchin

Everyone who quits fails. Period.

But if you keep on going — even when it gets tough — you have the chance of succeeding. Again, you’re not guaranteed success, but at least the probability is not 0.

In long-distance running, it doesn’t matter how fast you run. All that matters is that you keep going. I ran a half-marathon a few weeks ago, and by the 20th kilometer, I started to feel really tired. So I told myself to slow down. And to just keep going, no matter how slow. I finished it.

No matter what you do — build a business, start a blog, launch a podcast — adopt a long-term mindset. Tell yourself that you’re in it for the long run, and give yourself time: three years, five years, hell, ten years.

When you think about things on that level, you stop caring about the day-to-day wins or losses.

You know you’re in it for the longterm, and as long as the month-to-month trend is positive (either in cash or followers or whatever you’re keeping track of), you’re fine.

There Is No Secret

I knew this, but for some reason, my mind still looked for one. It always does.

Our minds are wired this way: if a task is hard, we either rationalize our way out of it (procrastinate) or start looking for shortcuts.

But there are none. So stop looking.

There is no hack to getting to 10,000 followers on Medium. There is no one thing you can do to scale your company. There’s no button you can press to make things easier. Really, trust me — there is none.

People waste so much time looking for the latest platform, “growth hack” that will make them rich. The truth is, successful people are all long-distance runners.

For example, to become a successful writer, you need:

  1. To write every day.
  2. To have a newsletter.
  3. To have a Twitter account.
  4. To engage in your community and build one.
  5. To promote your work.
  6. So on, so forth.

This is a daily struggle, and it never ends. You just keep running, day in, day out.

No matter where you look you’ll see a similar picture. Hard work and patience — that’s all there is.

I’d love to say that’s not the case, and that all you need to do is to “follow your passion” and “be yourself” and that things will be fine, but that would be only part of the truth.

When you do what you love, you just have more motivation and energy to run the marathons you’ve picked.

Nothing cosmic happens. Because there is no secret.

Looking back at my struggles, I see that there’s nothing to figure out. Some things (most things) take time. Lots of it.

Impatience kills many talented people, whereas less talented ones who’re disciplined to work daily for many years have an edge.

Life can be fun, but it’s not Disneyland. There are no “fast tracks” to success.

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