December 11th, 2012 by Steve Pavlina
If you want to start on a serious career path, don’t even think about giving up during the first year. Very little happens during the first year in terms of results. Most businesses aren’t even profitable in their first 2 years; it takes them that long just to become sustainable, even for fairly small businesses.
So many would-be pro bloggers give up in their first 6 months. They get bored, lose interest, or get a “better” idea for some other venture. I see them change topics or URLs and start over once or twice a year. After five years of this kind of dabbling, they’ve still barely gotten anywhere. They keep erasing what little progress they’ve made, so they never have the chance to develop anything serious and enduring.
When it comes to building any sort of business, either online or offline, this dabbling approach is a bit ridiculous because the real payoff from business comes from consistency over a period of years. It takes time to build a following, attract customers, develop products and services, gain links and search engine placement, generate referrals, develop good business sense, acquire expertise, and figure out how to generate income from your work in ways that feel congruent to you.
It took 25 months from when I started blogging to pass $10K/month in income from it, which happened in 2006. In the first 6 months, however, my blog only made $167 total, mostly from Amazon’s affiliate program. If I gave up during that time and started over, I’d never have enjoyed the long-term benefits of this path. Most professional bloggers, however, give up well before they reach this point. They see weak financial results during their first year just as I did, but they conclude it’s not worth continuing if they haven’t made it sustainable by then.
In addition to earning abundant income from blogging (mostly from affiliate and joint-venture deals these days), blogging has also created opportunities in other areas, like speaking (I have talks coming up in Las Vegas, Rio, Germany, and Washington DC), getting a book published (ongoing royalties), coaching (started at $997 per coaching call, now at $4997 per call), free travel, amazing social connections, etc.
If you want to generate serious income and enjoy an abundant lifestyle, it’s crucial to get past the dabbling phase. For starters the incessant dabblers are perpetually broke. They keep giving up and changing their minds well before they’d otherwise begin reaping the long-term benefits of sustainability and growth. Before they even have a chance to experience serious results, they pull the plug.
The truth is that you can generate serious income from just about any form of creative work — writing, audio, video, art, music, programming, design, etc. Others who came before you have already made millions from these paths. But most of them didn’t get very far in their first 6-12 months. It’s the ones who stuck with it for 5+ years that are reaping the biggest benefits. They’re builders, not dabblers.
A pattern I’ve noticed in my most successful friends in business is that at some point they made the decision to get serious about their work. They decided to stop dabbling, stop drifting, and stop coasting. They committed to a particular path and doubled down on it, intending to stick with it for years so they could really master it. Consequently, those same people are enjoying serious results. Meanwhile, the dabblers are still looking for that next Get Rich Quick idea that can grant similar results within a matter of months.
If you ask your friends what kind of work you’ll be doing 5 years from now, what will they say? If you’re not sure, go ask some of them. If they give you answers you don’t like, or if their answers are inconsistent, why is that? Are you broadcasting that you’re a dabbler? Do you have a history of dabbling? Are you being wishy washy and noncommittal? If you think you’re committed, but the people around you don’t perceive that commitment, you’re probably not committed.
If you’re on a strong and successful path, the people in your life will likely be able to predict what field you’ll be in 5 years from now. It will be the field you’re committed to right now.
If you want to build up some abundant income streams and enjoy the long-term benefits of stick-to-itiveness, pick an interest that you expect you’ll still be passionate about 5 years from now. I picked personal growth since I’d already been passionate about this field for more than a decade before I started blogging, so I had good cause to believe I’d still be into it 5 years later. It’s now 8+ years since I started blogging, and I’m still passionate about personal growth. I still love the work I do and have no desire to quit and switch to something else. The specific details of my interests change from year to year, but my core passion remains largely the same. If I’d made a less conscious choice or more impulsive choice 8 years ago, I might very well have dumped it within the first year.
Don’t overplay today’s fleeting interests when you think about making a serious commitment to a career path. Look instead to the interests you had 5 years ago that you’re still seriously interested in today. Chances are you’ll still be maintaining those interests 5 years from now. If you’re going to have these interests anyway, why not bet bigger on them and commit yourself to mastery?
Doing something for a long time isn’t the same thing as committing to mastery. I’ve been into disc golf for about as long as I’ve been into personal growth (20+ years), but I never committed to improving disc golf. I never got serious about it. Even though I play disc golf most weekends with friends, I’m probably no better at it than I was 5 years ago. My skills hit a plateau, and I’ve stayed there for years. For me disc golf is a hobby I enjoy for fun, and I haven’t cared to improve at it thus far.
If you’re okay being no better off in your career 5 years from now, then there’s no need to commit to mastery. Keep dabbling, or keep doing what you’re doing without making a serious commitment. But if it’s not very palatable to you to stagnate, or if you desire much stronger results 5 years from now, then it’s time to think about getting serious.
If you want to dabble for the sake of exploration, that’s fine. But don’t pretend you’ve chosen a career path. You’ll only look foolish when every 6 months you’re telling your friends that your career path has changed yet again. Know that you’re exploring, and do it to learn. Then when you’re ready to get serious, commit to building something that endures, and don’t even think about quitting during the first year.
Rule of thumb: If you can’t make a serious 5-year commitment to a given career path, it’s not your path.