How Long Do You Think Success Takes to Achieve? Double It
Sustainable growth can be yours but it's going to take a minute
Simple + Straightforward is a weekly letter filled with essays, tips, and ideas to live life more simply and intentionally. This is a public post so feel free to share with friends and family you think would enjoy a dose of simplicity every Friday.
I opened my wine store and bar - Vino Vero - in May 2013. Three months later, it was a sunny Sunday so my husband’s family and I convened on his grandmother’s patio for Sunday lunch. One family member asked me how Vino Vero was going.
“Slow,” I replied. “I mean, I’m worried. Surely everyone who has any interest in wine would have found us by now? If that’s the case, we’re screwed.”
What I hadn’t comprehended is how long it takes to start a new business. Slowly, people did discover us. Slowly, we turned people onto great wine.
Slowly, we became a success. But slowly.
If there’s one thing I learned during my entrepreneurship years, it’s that everything that is good and true in life takes at least twice as long to happen as you think it will.
Often more so.
The world loves instant fame and fortune
There’s a writer on Medium whose first story went viral. Then his second. Then amazingly, his third. Almost overnight he went from zero to 10,000 followers, and that number kept rising.
People loved him not so much for his writing but because he represented what everyone dreams of - instant success.
At the same time I opened my wine store, a similar place opened up nearby in London. It was an instant success.
Both of these instances stirred up some rather nasty jealous feelings in me. But what I failed to realize was that that writer and that wine store are the exceptions, not the norm.
The norm isn’t a blast of virality, the norm is slow and steady progression.
The norm is really boring.
And too often people dismiss the norm as failure. The world loves binaries (if you’re not successful you must be unsuccessful). There’s no middle ground, apparently.
It took years before we could call our wine store successful which meant to many people around us - including people very close to us - we were considered a failure.
As Bill Gates famously said:
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years
Our predilection for instant success can land us in hot water. I’ve seen businesses similar to mine spectacularly fail because they’re scared they’re not big or famous enough, so they take on another site that then pulls the whole business under. I’ve seen people waste thousands of dollars on advertising. I’ve seen people burn out because they take on too much work (myself included).
All because you’re told if you’re not instantly “successful,” you’re never going to make it.
This isn’t just about your career
This is about everything.
Women aged 20-24 think it will take them on average four and a half months to conceive when the reality is even at that age, it could take up to a year (or longer).
Learning to proficiently play an instrument can take years, even with hours of practice every day.
A new language? That’ll be about 480 hours of your life.
Friendships. Relationships. Mental health. Building habits. Overcoming addictions. Everything takes longer than you think.
It’s called the planning fallacy and it explains a lot. Psychologists say we tend to disregard historical evidence (Joe Satriani for instance, says he plays 8-9 hours a day to maintain his technically demanding guitar style) instead only focusing on the task in front of us (that guitar doesn’t look too difficult to master).
Couple that with optimism bias - the assumption that our future will be better than our past - and bingo, you’re at the heart of today’s problem.
My advice for overcoming the planning fallacy?
Slow the frick down
Take your time. Life’s a marathon, not a sprint. *Insert another cliched idiom here* - perhaps something about the tortoise and the hare.
Hopefully, your life will be long. Hopefully, you will find success (whatever that means to you). But despite what the modern world tells you, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Believe it or not, doesn’t even have to be metric-based. Success comes in many forms, even if most people only look at the numbers.
Everyone knows deep down the most sustainable way to become “successful” is slowly. Looking back at Vino Vero, it was that slow and sustainable growth that eventually turned the store into a sellable asset which led to the life I live today. One that is more aligned with what I want - nay need - from my (hopefully) 80-odd years on this earth.
Slow and steady is where it’s at.
Oh, and the store in London I was so jealous of? That shut down years ago.
Simple + Straightforward is now on Instagram! Get yourself over there:
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Website - Rich in What Matters
Rich in What Matters is written by Julia Ubbenga who has a great approach to minimalism and simple living. Her Instagram is beautiful too.