I came across this thread today and instead of firing off a response on Twitter, I decided to let it marinate a bit.
The advantage of blogging a response to something is you can let your opinions evolve over time. A week from now, I might come back and add more thoughts to this post as my views on this are affected by conversations I have with people like you.
Feel free to tweet at me and let me know your thoughts.
So here goes…
First, here’s the Twitter thread, and then I’ll follow with my thoughts.
The founders I see succeeding show up every day. Even when they don't feel like it.
Many hack their own psychology using coffee, loud music, an accountability partner, or self-imposed goals.
It's not about working long hours. It's about showing up consistently.
— Rob Walling (@robwalling) September 27, 2019
I think of it as being effective over the long-term.
It's easy to be effective in a short burst. Or a day here, a day there.
The hard part is moving the ball forward everyday. For years.
— Rob Walling (@robwalling) September 27, 2019
Rob Walling is a friend of mine and a mentor, and I know, like and trust Rob. Rob is good people. Great even. So, I can say without hesitation that I absolutely know the intent behind Rob’s message here is rock solid and well-intentioned.
I just don’t entirely agree with him. 🙂
Rob is saying: Keep going. Make relentless progress. These things are hard, so put in the work.
Those are truthy sentiments.
Truthy != truth.
At least, not the entire truth.
There is a lot of room to discuss the nuance.
You’ll see founders showing up every day, consistently, and NOT succeeding.
Likewise, I’m sure we can all point to examples of founders who’ve been a success despite working sporadically.
So, from ALL available data, we can draw this conclusion:
Showing up every day, increases your odds of… nothing.
It isn’t a guarantee.
As Picard told Data in Star Trek: TNG: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
A turkey showing up consistently to the feed trough—every single day—has every reason to believe today is the best day ever.
Every day since it was born, that turkey builds on its growing body of evidence that continuing to show up consistently is the right move.
Showing up, every single day, has led to its success.
At best, success is only measurable in hindsight.
How good is any metric that is only visible in the rearview mirror?
In fact, “success” is so constrained by vantage point as to be unhelpful as a goal to strive for.
If you were a benevolent and omniscient narrator, you could tell that turkey from our story to watch out, don’t get overconfident.
The more regularly you eat, you might warn, the more desirable you become during the upcoming holiday.
Worse, because the turkey so reliably shows up to be fed at the same time and place—consistently, every single day—the farmer knows exactly where to find it when it’s time for slaughter.
For our poor turkey, then, it’s obvious that success AND failure are both found at the feed trough.
Likewise, showing up every single day can be a strength AND a weakness. You have to take a break or you’ll drive yourself (figuratively and clinically) mad.
The same folks admonishing you to show up every, single day also give lengthy lessons about taking retreats and having hobbies.
Confused? You should be.
Pithy statements don’t a life make.
Some tweets are just for gathering likes, not necessarily to model your life from.
Yes, grow your business, relentlessly, but don’t forget to live a life well-lived in the process. Share your life and be present with loved ones. Have experiences that aren’t all about growing your business. Rest your mind deliberately, intentionally, and often. Or you’ll arrive at your destination alone, and much worse for wear.
So, what’s the lesson here? Does showing up consistently have any benefits?
Showing up regularly increases your odds of learning something useful.
Again, no guarantees, it just increases your odds… of learning… but it doesn’t increase your odds of success from that new knowledge.
Learning something useful has it’s own rewards in your journey to grow your business. That knowledge may be useful in your current business, in your next business, or in the businesses of the folks you’ll someday mentor or coach.
Or, it might not. These things are unknowable.
No, I’m not scoffing at learning. No, I’m not scoffing at folks who put in the work, who show up consistently to move the ball forward.
But, I’d like to make a few things clear…
First, work hard, but take the occasional break to clear your head and stay healthy. Don’t forget why you’re doing this thing in the first place.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Second: avoid comparisons.
Third: don’t infer patterns where none exist.
Stop this nonsense of looking for common threads that made successful founders successful, especially from a small number of anecdotal, often-apocryphal origin stories.
What made others successful is entirely unique to them: the context of their endeavor (tech, market, model, partners, plan) at that specific moment in time, multiplied by their resources, their skills, their network, their health, their passions, their knowledge, their luck, and a zillion other things that are not replicable by you.
Their story is their story, and no matter how much you mimic their path you’ll never, ever truly retrace their footsteps.
When you get hung up on comparing yourself to these past histories of success (written by the victors), you open yourself up to being misled by myriad logical fallacies and human biases, not the least of which are observer-expectency effect and survivorship bias.
All these articles, think pieces, tweet threads, and podcast episodes devoted to distilling the habits of successful people to a bulleted list of ten things every founder must do to be a success are not helpful to you. They’re a distraction.
You do you.
You’ll find your path, in your own way.
That, I can almost promise.