“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.” ― Ronnie Coleman
I love that quote. It applies to anything difficult people want to accomplish. Bodybuilding, losing weight, language learning, becoming an artist/actor/musician, changing your life, building a business, getting rich…
Everybody wants something, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.
This is going to be a tough love post. I’m going to pick on a reader for a minute, so bear with me. Of course, there’s a silver lining, which I’ll get to after the tough love part.
A reader wrote in recently with this:
I’ve started on my email list, and a few blog posts, worked on an e-book that’s not yet been posted, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I don’t have any audience or visits either. I share them on my Facebook, Twitter, but it doesn’t seem to come with a response.
Really? You say you’ve completed “a few blog posts” and worked on an e-book that isn’t published yet, and you’re surprised you’re not getting anywhere???
Try writing a few hundred blog posts first, then see if you’ve gotten anywhere.
Seriously, getting people to pay attention to your writing, it takes WORK and lots of it. You have to earn it.
There are hundreds of millions of blogs in existence. Why should anyone pay attention to yours, especially when you’ve only put half-assed effort into it?
The world is filled with half-assed blogs and business ideas. It takes something special to stand out and grow a dedicated audience.
Not to pick on this reader too much. Honestly, I get emails along these lines every week, and it’s a pretty common mindset. People hope for all the results with hardly any of the effort.
I’m often asked how we built an audience of hundreds of thousands of readers.
There were strategies and tactics and lucky breaks, sure.
But here’s the biggest factor in our success: we just showed up every week, week-after-week, for years, even when no one was listening. We’ve published well over 500 blog posts over the past five years. And the audience grew, little-by-little.
I used to suffer from this horrible kind of know-it-all syndrome. It’s where you think being smart is the most important thing. You feel deserving because you know everything. You feel like your intelligence and knowledge alone should make you successful.
But success doesn’t come from knowledge alone. It comes from applied knowledge. Knowledge and ideas are just multipliers of execution.
I didn’t learn the value of hard work until later in life, and my situation reflected my lack of effort. I didn’t have the life I wanted because I skated by on intelligence, avoiding effort unless it was absolutely necessary.
There are plenty of reasons for not putting in the work. Laziness is often one of them. But this knowledge equals success syndrome is debilitating.
And if we dig a little deeper into this reader’s email, we get a glimpse of yet another powerful reason why people don’t put in the work:
I like writing, but to be honest sometimes I feel sad because there’s no one reading them, and it feels like a demotivation to me, and gets me wondering what step didn’t I do well enough?
It is demotivating and demoralizing to put content out week after week, that no one pays attention to. But this is where everyone starts. Those who succeed push through and keep writing even though no one is listening. You keep writing until you find your voice and until you figure out how to write things that are worthy of an audience.
The hard truth is, you have to work your ass off to learn to make yourself and your blog/podcast/business valuable to other people.
If no one is paying attention, try harder. Try something different. Once you make something useful enough for anyone to care about, you’ll know because you won’t have to work so hard to get the word out.
If you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, turn things around by learning to love lifting heavy-ass weights. Take the focus off of the results and put it where it belongs: in the craft itself.
And that’s the silver lining. Learn to love lifting heavy-ass weights and the results will come.
But you can’t control when the results will come. It’s different for everybody, so don’t look for results after a couple of visits to the gym.
The next time you feel like you aren’t making any progress, or like no one is listening, look at the weight you’re lifting. Are you sweating? Are you spent at the end of every day? Are you adding more and more weight every week?
That’s how you measure progress when no one seems to be listening: by the intensity of the work you’re doing, the boundaries you’re stretching, the experiments you’re learning from.