Two months ago I committed to writing a newsletter for 10 years (more on why here). Yeah, I’m scared shitless about the commitment, but my hope is that through this process I’ll grow and help others do the same.
After 3 months writing I wanted to share some principles that have helped me. These rules aren’t just for building a newsletter, these rules apply equally to living life, building a company, or choosing a career. I hope that by sharing these principles it helps someone have clarity, and to commit to pursuing what is meaningful to you, not to what society dictates.
Pick a focus that matters to you
We’re too distractable. There’s so much going on in the world, it’s easy to get swept up in a fad or get rich quick scheme. Instead of creating something that you think will make money, quickly, and easily, instead focus on something that matters to you. Any idea can be valuable provided you put in thousands of hours into it.
If you pick something that is intrinsically interesting, then you’ll keep at it even when the money doesn’t come. This is important because the success will always take waaay longer than you expect. Most likely years. And it needs to be years of persistent, consistent work to achieve it. If you’re chasing an easy win just stop now and focus on something personally interesting.
Don’t be passionate. Too often we hear about chasing your passion. Passion fades. Instead, be consistent. Day in, day out, week over week. Do the reps. If your goal was to sculpt your body into Mr. or Mrs. Olympian, it’s obvious you have to work on it daily. You can’t just do it when you feel like it or you’re inspired. Pick your cadence, and stick to it. Put in the reps. Do your time. And then do some more.
Set easy, audacious, and controllable goals
This sounds contradictory, but it’s important to set both audacious as well as easy goals. Easy means the minimum that keeps forward momentum and growth. For my newsletter, Grit List, it means write one letter a week. Audacity comes into play when you look at timeline/duration and the end game. 10 years. That’s ridiculous. I may be dead in 10 years.
Combine the simplicity of the one task you need to do every day or every week with an audacious long term goal. Make sure that both of these are within your control as well. You don’t want to set a goal like, “I want to make $1 million this year”. Instead, focus on “I am going to contact 100,000 potential customers for my business”. One gives you direction and action, the other is vague and out of your control.
Fuck your motivation. No one was successful because they felt motivated all the time. Instead, just be determined. Be gritty. Your motivation is bullshit and you will not feel like continuing somes days. That’s where your easy goal comes into play. Just one more email. One more blog post. Just keep at it.
Motivation will come from you doing the work (more on this idea). The more you do, the more you’ll feel motivated. Don’t wait for some divine inspiration or perfect mood to get started. Just start. Take action. Do the work.
Focus on the work, not the metrics
Lastly, don’t worry about the metrics. We are all brought up in a society of comparing ourselves to others. Who has more subscribers, more growth, more traction, more revenue. A prettier product. All of this creates angst that really isn’t useful. Instead of obsessing over the metrics and refreshing your Stripe Dashboard or Google Analytics page 10 times a day, build a new feature. Contact potential guest bloggers. Do more work.
The metrics will come…eventually. Don’t worry about it. That’s why you pick an interesting focus, because when the metrics are flat for 6 months you’ll still keep going.