Growth January 9, 2021

A lesson in sticking with it / perseverance

Mick @Primer

I often go on about how "slow and steady wins the race" but I stumbled over something tonight that I think serves as an excellent example of this. It's something that we as Indie Hackers and bootstrappers should take to heart (in my opinion).

I went back in time tonight to the very beginnings of a couple of my favourite youtubers. It doesn't matter who they are, but they are tech reviewers.

if you tune in today you see subscriber counts in the tens of millions, amazingly produced videos, one on one interviews with superstars and legendary business people, videos about their latest Tesla or Porsche purchases etc. Lets face it, it can be kinda sickening lol

I went back to watch their first videos and it immediately hit me that these guys have stuck at this for over 10 years to get to where they are. They slogged it out, starting with shitty webcam videos in their bedrooms. Shit audio, shit lighting, shit backdrops, shit products... and as you go through their feed in chronological order you can see that they were putting out this "shit" for a LONG time before all of a sudden there is a better camera being used, better audio is present, they have lighting now.

Then maybe its ANOTHER few years and they now are out of their bedroom and in a small studio space. They're doing interviews at CES.

A few years later and they have a better studio space and multiple cameras...

You get the picture.

I married up their timeline to mine. When they started I was bumming about trying to be a musician. All that while they were putting out "shit" videos every week from their bedroom. A few years later when they have a noticeable change in quality, where am I? Oh that's the year I started that job...

Fast forward another few years, these guys are now getting their YouTube silver play button (100,000 subs). Where am I? Oh that's the year I left that job and went to work at that place.

Another few years, these guys are now in the multiple millions of subscribers and are clearly enjoying all the trappings of their success. Where am I? Oh that's the year I got made redundant and decided to start SongBox.

For me, the moral of the story here is that these guys and many more like them slugged it out for YEARS with nothing but very modest (at best) success. But they just kept going. Video after video, week after week, month after month and year after year. Not seeing any real rewards for years, and then it comes.

I think it's a lesson for those of us who jump from project to project when it doesn't pan out after a few months. I'm guilty of it myself.

  1. 5

    It takes years to become an overnight success :)

  2. 4


    First of all. I just remembered something I read recently. In Russia we have a popular designer (everybody knows him). Kind of contoversial personality, but still. I found out that he was posting in his blog EVERY day for ~20 years.

    I checked his blog caneldar and clicked on random days, and every day there were a few posts (2-3 posts per day). Not very big, but still. 20 years. I haven't checked every day of course, but still the blog existed 20 years and probably every day there was at least one post.

    Now, regarding what you wrote. This is why I don't like the thing about "hey, check the idea, validate it, if it didn't work start a new thing". I mean, if someone invented an idea and there is no competitors at all, then there is a high probability that the idea is worthless. Okay, it might be still brilliant.

    But what would you guys chose:

    1. 1% probability of super success (e.g. earning $1 000 000 monthly. Untill somebody kills you and stole your money :D)
    2. 99% probability of less success (e.g. earning $10 000 monthly), but you selected some area, and kept working on it for years?

    Also, VERY similar for what you wrote is when I found few posts on HN which were made 5-10 years ago. E.g., one guy wrote about "dropbox". Got his portion of blaming (hello, hacker news :) ), and where he is at the moment? Same for Calendnly for example.

    Of course you should maintain the balance between finding a perfect idea and just doing something meaningless.

    But indeed, if it didn't work in 1 month, are you guys sure if you have tried enough?

    1. 1

      Agreed. I feel there is not enough people going "long"

    2. 1

      Exactly. I think you should try for 2-3 years. If it's not a success after that timeframe, pivot, kill it, or sell it (if you can).

  3. 3

    Brilliant post. Success is an iterative process. 🤟🏻

  4. 3

    So true! I've done the exact same analysis with my favorite youtubers and found the same thing. That's why I think passion is so important. You have to do something that is it's own reward, otherwise you won't be able to stick it out. My own attitude with my project is, I want to be popular and make money, sure, but if I never do, oh well, it was fun anyway.

  5. 2

    Hi, here's my first comment on IH. :) I completely agree, our product is already 9 year sold, and the first years where harsh. I often think how different the story will be now if my co-founder or me would have abandoned on the early years.

    Now is generating us a decent living, and allows us to explore new projects. People tell us that we pick a good idea, same people that would have told us that the idea was not good enough if we decided to quit and call it a failure.

    If you feel like the product has real value, stick with it.

    ps. sorry for my English, obviously I'm not a native.

  6. 2

    This is massive, it gives everyone the perspective of time. Everything takes time, don't give up after 6 months.

    Thanks Mick @Primer

    1. 1

      You're welcome. And thanks.

  7. 2

    I find myself doing that and it is the one thing I do not like about myself. Would you have any fix or savvy trick?

  8. 2

    Great post!!! Sometimes progress feels so slow. Sometimes I spend 2 days on a stupid bug instead of developing new cool features. It's so demotivating. But you shouldn't give up too fast. Success comes in waves.

  9. 2

    This is a very complicated subject. My wife has 0% interest in any thing risky - starting a new business, running a podcast, anything like that. She's an engineer for NASA and believes in double and triple redundancy to avert risk.

    I feel even if both of these things I've been trying fail, I'd rather have tried and failed than to not pursued my dreams at all. And I firmly believe that I've learned more in the last 2 years than I did in the preceding 10.

    I also think that you need to try something and if it isn't working or doesn't work, you need to try for a pivot. Personally, I think being willing and able to pivot is what can sometimes make the difference between success and failure.

  10. 1

    The problem is: everyone who studied business in college will tell you that if a SMB doesn't start generating some money in 6 months, it needs to be killed. I mean we need money after all, and working on something that's not generating money is a cost of its own.
    But if you're making some money, then yeah I guess one should persevere. I guess not making any money is why people would quit in the 1st place.

    1. 1

      That's a common strategy. I believe there is an opportunity in doing the opposite since there is less competition.

  11. 1

    I'm in that journey currently. I fall into the category of someone who is either very stubborn or have a lot of perseverance. I ask myself that question a lot after almost ten years of working on a humble little personal finance app called Savings.

    Savings is a labor of love, and I have gotten to know hundreds of users over the years who have benefited greatly from this app. Yesterday, I just got a letter from a retired lady who has been using it for ten years, and she said it allows her to live comfortably in her retirement.

    One thing I have never paid much attention to is sales and marketing. Being an engineer, I focused all of my time on programming and almost no time on marketing. It's clear now looking back that, no wonder my app is doing poorly commercially. It is so hard to switch to a selling mindset for an engineer, but I am forcing myself to do so now.

    One of the things I am starting to do, and is relevant to your post, is I started a YouTube channel to teach people how to manage their personal finance using Savings. Right now, it's in the "shitty" stage as you stated in your post. But my hope is it will get better over time, as I learn to produce better but more importantly become a better speaker.

    As an engineer who used to be very shy, I was afraid of putting myself out there in the world. Now, I become more engaged in social media (Twitter) and even YouTube. I feel it is necessary to put myself out there to marketing myself and my product.

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