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You'll never reach your full potential as a 'Lone Wolf' indie hacker.

“After 30 years of building and forging some of the best teams in the world, here’s the most important thing I’ve learned… If you’re going through life right now as a “Lone Wolf,” trying to achieve your most important goals by yourself, you will never realize your full 20x potential. This is true because human beings are hardwired to achieve our best results when we are part of a winning team.”

It was somewhere around the 22-minute mark of this discussion with ex-NAVY SEAL Commander; Mark Divine, the architect of this quote, that the realisation struck me.

I am that Lone Wolf.

More to the point; if I keep doing what I’m doing; attempting to design and manage every aspect of my purpose-led, boot-strapped start-up; Doing Epic Stuff, a Lone Wolf I shall remain.

Worse?

My big ideas will very likely never become the big executions and create the big impact which I am striving for.

Crap...

“As a leader you may not have the best perspective. You may be fatigued. So, you’ve got to get everybody’s weigh in. Everybody has a voice. But of course, someone has to make the final call, but, you know, you make that call based upon the input of everybody.”

There seems to be an efficiency to the way Mark speaks.
As though he uses the same words you or I do but he is able to wield them more effectively - able to convey intent far quicker than the average mortal. This is a harrowing realisation to have when the man is a guest on YOUR podcast and you’re meant to be leading this dance...

This ability to quickly and concisely convey information is no doubt one, among others, earned through 11 years of active service as a SEAL. 11 years of having to make split decisions and convey next action to your team mates, in life-or-death circumstances with do-or-die ramifications.

This isn’t Fortnight war we’re talking about, it’s the real, visceral, people dying, kind of war.

In this instance; his message was crystal clear; without a team there are no SEALs.

Without a team I will stay an Indie Hacker.

I, and no doubt the majority of Renegade Mavericks on this platform, have become EXTREMELY good at being self-sufficient and self-reliant. That’s why we’re here. We’re that rare-bird mix of dreamer and doer. Digital Idealists. Stubborn AF.

The problem?

It’s those same indelible qualities that threaten to constrain us AND our outcomes.

“…Psychological safety, you have that in the SEALs. People, from the lowest guy to the most senior guy feel completely entitled to tell you you’re screwed up. Your idea sucks, but don’t take it personally. You learn very early, as a leader; you don’t lead with your opinion. You don’t lead with the answer. You lead with the questions. How do you guys think we should do this? Where could we go from here? Give me your ideas? How can we do this better?”
At this point I’m not sure if I’m talking to the guy who finished top of SEAL BUD/S Course #170 or a business coach. How much time do I spend, every day, pressure testing next action with no perspective but my own?

How reliable is my mind as pilot, co-pilot and passenger given the hyper-monkey I know that lives there? Would you let the same dude who refuels the plane, fly it? Psychological safety?!

'That’s a negative, Ghost Rider.'

Human beings have proven their infinite capacity for fallibility.
Yes; also creativity, beauty, innovation and ingenuity, but predominately; fallibility. Knowing this, why would we trust ourselves to be both Master and Commander? Ash and Pikachu?

I realise I’m lost in thought, committing the cardinal sin of podcast hosting, when Mark SMACKS me back into reality:

“It’s the team that’s going to win the mission. It’s not about you.”
Hnnngh!

Check out the full episode of the Doing Epic Stuff podcast feat. Mark Divine, here: https://utm.guru/udESU

  1. 12

    To do big things you need a team. I've made huge >$100m products as part of a team. But the corporations that paid me own all of that. As an indie hacker I want to grow something smaller that is mine.

    1. 3

      I feel you Kodalia – after 15 years of working mainly in the private marketing/media sector with zero equity to show for it; the struggle is real! What I’ve learned through Mark (though) is that there’s GREAT potential to leverage team thinking, in all contexts. I don’t think this necessarily means we need to all go out and get co-founders – even creating a solid network of peers who you can bounce ideas off/pressure test your assumptions (such is the nature of Indie Hackers) can be a kind of ‘team’ in effect. Good luck with your project and thanks for reading! 👊

      1. 1

        That sounds great! My problem is that I'm having a hard time finding that network of peers. It sometimes feels a bit lonely. Is there something similar for IH? Like a slack/discord to meet like-minded people online.

        1. 4

          Hey Victor! check out @AntCas's Indie worldwide! It's a slack community full of indie hackers. I like the vibe in there, maybe it'll help.
          https://indieworldwide.co/

          1. 3

            Thank you Hua! I'll check it out! It looks cool 🙌🏼

            1. 4

              Thanks for the shoutout @huashu :D

              And you're welcome to check us out Victor, hope to see you at a meetup soon!

              1. 2

                Thank you Anthony. Talk to you soon!

        2. 2

          You tell me and we'll both know Victor! It sounds like we're in the same boat - my thinking was to leverage indie hackers to find my tribe, concious that there's so many kick ass creators and do'ers on here.. I'm relatively new to the platform so not too sure about an IH specific slack/disc. Worst case scenario; perhaps we just create our own! 👊

          1. 2

            I joined to the one @huashu recommended and I followed you on twitter, send me a DM there and let's chat! Nice to meet you Mike

  2. 8

    Most indie hackers, given the choice would probably have a team (speaking for myself, at least!). But most of use have no resources yet, so "lone wolf" is the only way to start moving ahead and grow our business the best we can.

    The tricky part is to know when it's time to have a team...

    1. 1

      Here's how a Navy SEAL would respond: 'no'. 😂 - I totally feel you, you've got to do what you can with what you have, right? My way of thinking is that your squad doesn't have to be full-time, even collaborating and discussing topics on platforms like IH is a kind of team-behaviour. Good luck with your projects dude!

      1. 2

        I've been thinking 'lone wolf' but i realize having a growth mindset helps one realize that there is still something one can do regarding team building, however slow the progress is.

        1. 1

          YES! @SteveMwesigye - the common narrative among IHs tends to be 'I will get to point 'x' then think about team' but I'm not convinced this is always the best mindset. There are too many potential early development hurdles that are better navigated through a team-based approach (even if that 'team' can only be an ad hoc one to begin with, like leveraging the IH community for feedback). 'Hooyah!' (channelling my inner Navy SEAL...)

  3. 7

    Most Indie Hackers don't want to make a big impact or "change the world". That's the whole point... take the pressure off, go at the pace you feel like and build things you think are interesting regardless of the impact.
    .

    1. 1

      This right here.

      Vast majority of indie hackers aren't trying to build the next big thing.

      They're trying to build profitable lifestyle businesses that provide for great work/life balance.

    2. 1

      Horses for courses my friend! If coasting is your style, that's cool too. Sometimes the joy is in the tinkering, right? Happy hacking and thanks for the read 👊

  4. 4

    Despite what most people think, studies have shown that solo founders tend to be more successful at starting businesses than founder teams, and they even have higher revenue.

    But that might not be a contradiction to your post: many of these solo founders hire people down the line to provide expertise in other areas. So although they might have started off solo, they are no longer "lone wolves."

    I think the real question is: what's your goal for starting the business? Is it to build a multi-million dollar company that impacts millions of people? Or are you just trying to make enough money to provide for yourself? Depending on your answer, it may be okay to start and continue solo. After all, there are lots of solo businesses that have done quite well for themselves.

    1. 1

      That's a good point, Richard. Getting clear on your purpose, outcome vision and principles before you start hitting the tools is a pretty smart way to avoid a sh*t-ton of double takes and frustration. What I'm beginning to think at this point in my journey though is that a good team will have application no matter what the context/outcome vision - as Mark Divine described his SEAL team: "like a swiss army knife"

      1. 1

        A great team that I can work well with is definitely ideal for me too. But if you can't achieve that yet, then it's better to work solo than to work with a bad team. I think sometimes people underestimate the amount of impact one person can have. If you're able and willing to be patient, slow continuous effort can yield major dividends.

  5. 3

    I definitely relate to this but... I've been Indie Hacking for 6+ years and my biggest struggle (even beyond finding customers) is finding people.

    I have no clue how to be social on the internet. How do you guys find digital friends?

    1. 2

      Hi @marclou - thanks for reading! If you scroll up a little ways there are some IHs with a slack group looking to connect with like minded homeys - worth a look.
      Hey Victor! check out @AntCas's Indie worldwide! It's a slack community full of indie hackers. I like the vibe in there, maybe it'll help.
      https://indieworldwide.co/

      1. 2

        Dope, thanks for sharing!

      2. 2

        This episode of IH podcast was inspirational too; a guy who moved to Bali and connected with a community of IHs: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1A0I5eY6VVAhe6xrNsj5TL?si=88e090081dba4201

  6. 3

    I love doing it all on my own and not having to manage a team. Yes, things go slow if you have to do everything, but that’s fine.

    You’re not building a billion dollar company as a lone wolf, but to me that’s okay, I don’t need that much anyway.

    When things get too busy I’ll probably start outsourcing the stuff that doesn’t give me energy instead of build a team.

    1. 1

      Sounds like a smart play. Thanks for reading and happy indie hacking! 👊

  7. 2

    Sounds like you're ready for the the themes from Who Not How: https://medium.com/stephs-business-bookshelf/the-three-big-ideas-from-who-not-how-by-dan-sullivan-and-dr-benjamin-hardy-14680704bcb

    I too struggle with this. I comfort myself with knowing the constraint is not that I want to be the Lone Wolf, it's that my product's current form it does not generate enough revenue to permit hiring more Whos.

    Post revenue the game changes.

    1. 1

      I wonder, agarithm if the financial bottle neck you're facing might be solved by looking at it through a fresh pair of glasses? This is the potential beauty of teamwork; perspective. I'm finding the more liberal I am with sharing my ideas and frustrations, earlier, the sooner I am finding solutions. Thanks for the reference by the way - looks super interesting.

  8. 1

    I have the same feelings as someone already may have shared. Is it really bad to be a "Lone Wolf" while you're still developing a product and can't afford to pay the team.

    1. 1

      Hi @Parthjani7 - thanks for reading! I'm not sure whether it's a question of being a 'good' or 'bad' approach to do everything yourself so much as accepting that when you do (do everything yourself) you are constrained by the perspective of one. Platforms like IH give individuals the oppurtunity to gain that macro perspective - one of the reasons it has been so popular and the community here is so engaged, I assume. Good luck with your projects!

  9. 1

    They are valid points. Just the other day I was thinking of this but in terms of a service business, (I don't know how I wondered into that thought, maybe I saw a sidewalk that needed fixes lol) But I had thought.
    1 person can do this in 3 hours and gets $100. But if he gets a partner, they could finish it in 1 and do 2 more sidewalks, dividing the rev in a half, that 1 person would still have made more money in the same time.

    Now, I think that in terms of IH it is hard to apply the exact same thought, and these are a few of the reasons.

    • In the example I shared, the work can be done quickly and one can get paid right away. In terms of IH building something, it usually takes a while to build something, and then even longer to make money. So, getting someone else to help during that process for the "promise" of returns is much harder unless they start something together. (Which I've seen some people do here, so I guess there is a chance of people finding something to work on together.)
    • The skills required would be a bit more advanced, and people that have skills don't usually want gamble on their returns for their skills.
    • Another one could be that they might find it harder to share their "baby".

    But I agree, ideally I'd like to get to a point in my projects where I could scale and outsource some aspects so that I can focus on scaling and work more ON the business rather than IN the business.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

    1. 1

      #SideWalkInsights - love it. Re example 1: you're forgetting the added benefit (producing sidewalk signs as a duo) that you're 100% less likely to go bat-shit insane by yourself doing sidewalk repairs all day... RE IH use case: Another way to look at it could be; rather than get two chefs in the kitchen (engineers), maybe I could be the chef and my team mate could be the front of house (marketing? bd? other?). In this way you're covering more basis from conception, not treading on each others toes (from a professional integrity viewpoint) AND getting the huge value multiplier of different, relevant perspective at every stage of project development, from ground zero up! Thanks for reading Kev

      1. 2

        Definitely! The key is finding people that would share a similar goal, or that would care enough to take the risk in being part of that project.
        I guess it is good that there's also NT people here in IH that might be interested in collaborating with others and that have skills in other areas.

  10. 1

    I can totally relate to this. Thanks for sharing.

    1. 2

      Yo! My pleasure - thanks for reading! Lot's of likeminded people rooting for you and others like you, my guy! 👊

      1. 2

        🙌
        Reminded me of a quote from game of thrones:
        "When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives”

  11. 1

    Certainly a "Lone Wolf" can't build something as big as a team can build - but you can still build something that directly impacts thousands of people, and get paid really well to do it all on your own.

    You just need the skills in every direction to pull it off correctly.

    1. 1

      Absolutely jdnoc! This platform is full of lone soldier creators who have financial success. I think, though, that the risk of burnout is much greater and perhaps by trying to do everything the path to your goal might actually end up a lot longer than you'd hoped/planned. Different strokes for different folks 👊

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