Discover more from Erica Drayton Writes
The Five Year Mindset Every Creative Should Have
Or why my one-week commitment will never work
I hear it all the time. I used to say it myself early on when I first started. “I implemented X strategy for a week and the results I expected didn’t happen so I’m moving on to another strategy.” Looking back on that statement now, I see how naive I was.
Every “successful” person I know, and I’m measuring success by the fact that they are earning enough as a creator that it’s what they do for a living, had a strategy from the beginning. And do you want to guess how long each and every one of them stuck to that same strategy? Not one week. Not one month. Not even one year. Five years! Some started seeing actual results and growth as early as three years (though that is rare and we’d have to take a deeper dive to uncover how/why that happened) but I’m going to focus on the five-year examples as they are the most viable.
Let’s dig deeper into what I mean when I say someone stayed the course for five years before seeing results:
They chose a strategy and maintained consistency for the entire five years. That means if they set out to post on Twitter twice a day, every day, they did it consistently for five years and may have only missed a day here and there due to illness. I’m using Twitter as an example here but you can inject YouTube videos, blog posts, write a song, publish a poem, whatever your passion is. You create it and share it somewhere for others to see on a regular and consistent basis.
When they saw zero traction after one week, one month, one year, they didn’t give up or change strategies. In fact, many doubled down and would do/produce more within the same strategy. Of course, making sure to keep that level of consistency at all times.
When I think about devoting myself to doing something for five years without any sort of results I cringe. Who has that kind of time? How do I keep myself going day in and day out, throwing my work into the void? How did they do it?
Speaking for myself I have yet to go that long with any strategy, proven or unproven. The longest I’ve gone is maybe one full year of delivering an email to my list on the first of every month. I don’t really count that, because growing my list would be my end goal. But anytime I start, for some reason, I think about how much older I’ll be in five years, and what always makes me stop my streak is when I say to myself, “I wish I had started sooner. When I was younger. When I had less responsibility and more time.” Then I stop my momentum. I blame the strategy as “not working,” and quickly pivot to another strategy before anyone else notices my failure. Sound familiar?
Now, I want to share some examples, but I’m intentionally leaving their names out because the last thing I want is for any comparisons to happen. Everyone’s journey towards their goal is going to be different and therefore we should never compare where we are in our journey to someone else. But we are human, with flaws, and therefore the comparison is bound to happen. So, to save you from yourself there will be no names associated with the examples. And before we get to that, I want you to keep some things in mind as you decide on a strategy you’re willing to go the distance with:
All too often we aren’t there and don’t see the long game that now popular individuals played for five years and they may never mention their journey (usually out of embarrassment because they were young then and not as good today in whatever their passion was as they are now) but that doesn’t mean they didn’t dedicate that time doing the same strategy hoping for results same as we are hoping to do now.
Some of my examples took longer than five years to see results. Nearly ten years!? So, while I’m saying five can work, it all depends on two things: your commitment and your growth. Only strategies that show improvement over time really ended up with lasting and meaningful results.
All of my examples have “positive” outcomes but there are at least a hundred failures who claim to have “tried” this person’s strategy and it didn’t work. I’d wager that in 100% of those cases they were not as consistent and did not try for five years. Be honest with yourself.
The five-year-long game can be applied to anything: growing an email list, YouTube channel subscribers, paid subscriber increase, etc. Whatever your goal is, you have to be willing to stick to your strategy and learn along the way for the entire five years or be satisfied with zero real results.
There are cases of people showing signs of success sooner than five years. Sure, that’s a possibility. They got lucky. But in almost all of those cases, that’s all it was, luck. If that happens to you along the way, great. But you can’t control luck. You can control how consistent you are with your strategy if you learn and grow along the way and your five-year commitment. Only worry about things you can control.
EXAMPLES | THEN VS NOW
I want to highlight strategies that people used over a decade ago and similar strategies that are still being used today to show that time and technology don’t always dictate how successful a person is able to become. Sure, the advancement of tools is great. But it’s all in how you use them. At the end of the day what really counts and matters is your commitment and consistency to whatever strategy you choose to implement.
An illustrator sets out to teach viewers how to draw with the promise of releasing one new video a week.
THEN - Nearly 15 years later their consistency of one video a week has amassed over 3M subscribers with a possible Patreon coming in the future.
NOW - Year three and they are nearing 300k subscribers just from releasing one video a week. They recently started a Patreon that has several hundred patrons and keeps growing.
A writer sets out to publish multiple quality self-published novels every year.
THEN - Nearly 10 years later and they have self-published over 15 novels, most of which are audiobooks, and they continue to produce quality novels. Their email list is 16k+.
NOW - Having spent nearly 5 years on one book the new strategy of releasing their finished novel as a serial is already showing results. High readership engagement through games and contests and prizes and word of mouth accounts for the growth and success.
Two things I want to leave you thinking about as you start to really strategize your creative future:
The first is that they all continued their strategy and added some new ones along the way. But they never stopped the strategy they started out with.
And second, they all started with zero. They all cringed at the idea of having to play the long game but were up to the challenge. They didn’t let those first couple years of posting and sharing with no engagement or comments or subscribers stop them. In fact, they capitalized on the years where no one was watching and used them as an opportunity to learn and improve upon their strategy so that when they were finally “seen” it was with their best foot forward.
If you liked what you just read, do me a huge favor and click the heart icon! Thanks!