I’ve talked before about how I’m working diligently on my 4-Hour Workweek muse (more on that later). What I didn’t emphasize before was the doubt that has come along with this project.
Since I’ve started affiliate marketing and building websites, I’ve been reading a lot of online business blogs. I came across a post on the blog Freedom Ideas with this image that describes the author’s progress making money online:
I want you to notice a couple of things about this graph. First of all, this guy makes over eight grand a month now- most of it passive income (meaning he doesn’t need to keep actively putting in work to get the paycheck). Not too shabby. Second, he made almost no progress in his income for the first 15 months.
What do you imagine he was thinking for those first 15 months, putting in so much effort with so little return? Do you think he wondered if he was on the wrong path? Do you think he ever wanted to give up? Do you think he ever felt doubt that success was coming?
I’m sure the answer is yes. It’s easy to see in retrospect that the effort was worth it, but obviously when you’re in the thick of it you don’t know what’s coming. What separates someone who keeps trying long enough to succeed with someone who gives up far too early?
The person who succeeds is the one with the unwavering ability to continue on a path in the face of doubt.
In the Buddhist philosophy, doubt is considered one of the Five Hindrances along the path to enlightenment (along with Desire, Anger, Boredom and Restlessness). It is said that before the Buddha became enlightened, each hindrance visited him, temping him to give up on his path. Each hindrance was challenging, but doubt was the most insidious. This is because doubt works underneath your skin, integrating itself into your thoughts to the point where you don’t realize its the enemy, and instead start to believe it.
This concept applies to goal where the path is uncertain. Do you want to quit your job? Find a relationship? Make a drastic move? Take on a new challenge? You’re going to feel doubt any time you take action and don’t know the outcome. You’ll wonder if you’re doing things right, if you should just give up, if it will be too hard, etc.
Let’s take the example of finding a relationship. I know a lot of people (and myself, might I add, when I was single) who struggle with doubt that they will ever meet someone. They look in their past and see a bunch of missteps and painful breakups and imagine that that’s what their future looks like, too. But actually the path looks similar to the first image of this post. Every relationship ends until you find one that doesn’t; the doubt you feel in the meantime is not a sign that things won’t work out in the end.
Sure, you don’t know how it will happen, or when, but if you put your energy and effort in the right place, and fight through the doubt, you will get what you want. This is true for almost everything.
So this brings me to my new business project. This is pretty much where I am right now on the graph:
I really haven’t made too much progress since my last update. No more sales, and a minuscule amount of traffic to my site (although I do have 3 pages ranking on the first page of google for their respective keywords). But I’m going to keep going.
Some friends of mind recently quit their jobs (one as a lawyer in a big firm) to move across the world to Kathmandu. They are kicking ass right now living a life I wish I could live (my version takes place in Nicaragua… I’ll get there someday), but don’t you think they doubted taking such a big step off of a traditional path? Wouldn’t it have been a mistake to have let doubt stop them from taking such a potentially life-changing step?
Don’t mistake doubt for a sign that you will fail, because you will feel doubt any time you are going along an uncertain path. Doubt is an obstacle you need to pass before you can find success. It is a Hindrance on your own path to enlightenment. If you are doing something hard you will doubt everything – your abilities, your knowledge, your luck, the specific path you’ve chosen – even your final goal.
You will be afraid of making mistakes, and that fear may make you move so cautiously that you don’t make any real progress. You may forget that mistakes are inevitable and not really mistakes if you do the best you can with the knowledge you have at the time.
Imagine a plane that makes constant small course corrections on the way to its destination. Like the plane, you can be going in the wrong direction 90% of the time and still end up at the right place.
So anyway, do I doubt I’ll be successful at this project, and with my eventual goal of freeing myself from the necessity of work for work’s sake? Constantly. But I try not to believe the narrative of my doubt. And really, if a person wants something with every fiber of their being, they usually find a way to get it.
I love this! And I think that you’re right on. I think we ALL need to print that graph out and stick it right in front of us every day. If we are putting our souls into something, whether it be finding a relationship, or developing a blog, or (fill-in-the-blank), and if we are continuously learning and growing, then we can’t help but get somewhere eventually. The true question is this: do we truly KNOW it in our souls?
Nothing truly worth doing is easy… that’s why so few people make it! 😉
Hi Therese, thanks so much for your comment! It’s true, you may know on some level that if you keep trying you’ll eventually get to where you want to be – but in the hardest moments it doesn’t feel like a reality. I try to keep reminding myself. And I’m almost glad that it’s not easy – or else I would have more competition!
Joyce Y says
Hey Elana! I like this post!! It’s so encouraging! My greatest role models are ones who keep going no matter how hard things seem! You are right. “The person who succeeds is the one with the unwavering ability to continue on a path in the face of doubt.” I will strive to be that way myself!
I really like your blog. It’s not just entertaining but also very educational. 🙂 I had a blog when I lived in Japan, but I just wrote about stuff I did that day. haha. Yours is much classier! I am trying to eventually read all your posts! ^^I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about being frugal and also on negotiating things like grades. 😀
Good luck with your online business ventures! It’ll pay off in the end!
Hey thanks Joyce! I’m flattered and glad you like what I’m writing. I’ve got a post on minimalism in the works so stay tuned 🙂
Hope things are going well at Cedars – I’m sure you’re doing a kick ass job there!
I’ve seen that graph before, but I really like your spin on it.
It really does show that you can see exponential returns on all of your effort after you “pay your dues.”
Hey Clayton, yeah the image is over from Freedom Ideas – and you’re a great example of someone making a lot of progress after paying your dues!
Hey Elana! I’ve just come across from Claytons blog – Journey of my Own.
Great post, and I’m currently in that stage of doubt. Did it really take him 15 months before he saw any real return on his time and effort? I guess I’ve got another 9 months until I reach that stage :S
Keep up the work with your IM stuff. I’m sure you’ll make it 🙂
Hey Ben! That’s what I read in his post – and makes sense, we all look at these successful people and think they were immediately successful, when really there’s a whole backstory to how they got where they are that gets glossed over. Good luck with your business ventures too!
I went across to his site after leaving yours, and I was surprised to see it took him 19 months to break the $1k a month barrier. That makes me feel sooo much better about my measly income from the past 9 months.
I find it quite intriguing that many IMers forget to mention the hard work and the very steep learning curve they put into their business in the beginning. I know for sure, I won’t be able to forget all the months I’ve slogged away into the small hours of the morning trying to build websites and watching things fail spectacularly.