Underdogs inspire me more than unicorns

We love their success stories.

They are the creators who share how they made it. The major tech sites, blogs, and podcasts feature these creators as case studies and invite them as guests. Their products make hundreds of thousands of Dollars, their books sell tens of thousands of copies, their newsletters have tens of thousands subscribers, they have huge and engaged social followings.

We sincerely admire these creators, buy their products, share their stories, and genuinely cheer up the success they deserve. But are they inspiring? Is there anything we can learn from them and apply to our creative journeys?

Not for me.

These successful creators feel distant and hopelessly unreachable. They seem closer to the fictional heroes of the movies and novels I love than to actual people.

My impression is these creators have something I don’t and can’t have. They are outliers, unicorns. Experienced professionals with unique skills and high-demand products that nail a niche, as well as massive, existing audiences with “buy first, think later” raving fans.

These creators discuss how they designed their landing pages and dissect the growth hacks they implemented. But my impression is they are so talented, charismatic, and well known they could have launched their products any other way with the same outcome.

They could throw anything at the wall and it’d still stick. Yes, they started from zero. But their talent blasted them to where they are.

Instead, the stories that inspire me most are those of the underdogs.

The lesser known, ordinary folks at the other end of the spectrum. The creators who sell a few hundred copies of a book, make a few hundred bucks or so per month off their creative work, have newsletters with a couple hundred subscribers, and no more than 3-5K Twitter followers. Those who earn enough to pay a bill or two or buy a new laptop.

These underdogs show the way to realistic, rewarding goals within reach in the medium to short term with reasonable effort, not in a lifetime of blood, sweat, and creative drive.

Even as a space enthusiast, I prefer to get down to earth rather than shoot for the moon. The underdogs make me reach for the stars higher than the unicorns.

  1. 6

    You're much more likely to learn from someone who's 2 steps in front of you vs. 2000. This is why I only analyze bootstrapped founders for my ZeroToUsers.com research.

    It's ridiculous when someone gives you a case study...here's what worked for Google and how they grew early. Dude, that was over 10 years ago! Things changed a lot since then.

    Plus, when interviewing those founders, the chances are high they forgot how it was in the early days vs. founders who got some success and are living in that moment.

    1. 1

      @zerotousers Side note: That's a great landing page right there. Value prop matches the target market. Great brand. All put together very well. I'll share it with some folks.

    2. 1

      Indeed, most case studies are too many steps away from average creators.

  2. 2

    Absolutely agree. I like the IH interviews with people like @czue the best because of this. Small, achievable goals incrementally.

    1. 2

      Hey, thanks for the shout out! I also love following the underdog stories.

      The other thing that can intimidate people getting started is that almost everyone has a filtered public lens of what they share that focuses only on the good stuff. I recommend finding people to follow who are authentic and share the struggles alongside the successes.

      1. 2

        This is true, survivorship bias is huge too.

  3. 1

    "underdog"..."less than 3k followers on Twitter" cries in 100 followers

    1. 2

      Well, 100 is technically less than 3K 😀

      I joined Twitter over a dozen years ago. Back in the day, everything was new and getting from a few hundred to a few thousand followers was relatively easy, like the 2.8K I have now. But I've been flat there for years.

      1. 1

        haha yeah I see, I just got my twitter groove on (followed you too!), grazie per i dettagli!

        1. 1

          You're welcome. By the way, you're +1 now.

  4. 1

    Subsistence farming vs industrial farming...

  5. 1

    I felt like you were talking about me. I've always felt like an underdog, as I go up against giants the fact that it feels like david vs goliath fuels me.

    Stay tuned on the journey I am on in building an online video editor https://storycreatorapp.com

    Twitter -- https://twitter.com/michaelaubry

  6. 1

    I agree on that. I don't want to be super successful and kind of famous, appearing on every podcast or be part of a trend. What I aim for is doing what I like and live from it, and knowing that I really help people. No more.

    I believe, as solo creators, that we have the advantage to look human, much more than big companies. I don't want to lose this image because I can't keep up with the 1000 people writing to me everyday. I want to engage with them, because they engage with what I make.

    1. 1

      There's nothing wrong with being successful and famous, it's just that it's something so distant and uncertain it doesn't help to guide the next few steps.

      1. 1

        There's nothing wrong with being famous, but it implies many things, and I'm not sure it's what I want.

        1. 1

          Sure, I don't want that and the associated stress either.

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