Quiet Success

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I want to talk to you for a minute about quiet success.

This is something that started as a conversation between me and Tara Swiger -- she's also made a video on this topic -- because for the past few months I have been feeling really pressured to have a big year long goal. This pressure came about because of a couple different reasons.

For whatever reason, 2016 was the first year that I was really aware of the progress my friends and peers had made over the course of the year. I remember really clearly in January 2016 people starting podcasts, or making the intention of focusing on their Instagram account, or starting up a Facebook group. And I watched them over the year really grow and develop on those platforms that they picked. Seeing that growth got me thinking about how I don't really focus on anything for a full year. I mainly do quarterly goal setting and I sort of just pick bits and pieces to focus on and I do that really well for a few months before moving on to something else. And I as I was reflecting on my friends' success, I was kind of maybe even feeling ashamed that I didn't have any huge growth that I could point to and say "oh, in 2016 this is what I did. I quadrupled my Instagram following" or "I finally grew to 10,000 subscribers on YouTube." I didn't have any of those milestones and so I kept thinking in 2017 I have to set a yearly goal.

The second reason why I had been thinking about this was because I had recently read the book Grit. The main thesis of this book is that consistency and sticking with things even when they're tough is what eventually leads to success. It talks about how consistently working hard and improving at something is far more important to success than just pure talent. And so again that made me sort of feel guilty -- have I just given up on everything when it got tough? Have I failed to stick with something? Is that why I have no success story I can point to?

So, I kept trying to put all this pressure on myself that this was going to be the year of a big  goal and I was going to focus on one thing and I was going to have these amazing results that I  could tell everyone about. I just couldn't decide what to focus on. And so as I often do when I'm conflicted, I ended up asking Tara for help. "What do you think I should focus on for the year? What would you really like to see me do?" And as she always does, she flipped the question back on me and asked me about my goals and what I wanted to achieve over the course of the year. But all I could come up with was that I wanted to achieve something measurable, something I could show people.

We kept talking and eventually started talking about how some businesses start out by growing really big on the outside (i.e. on social media). Then usually at some point they have to pivot from focusing on growth to focusing on how to make money. There's nothing wrong with this approach by the way! It's just one kind of success.

However, I realised that's not me. I started with a product and social media has always taken a back seat to growing and selling my courses. And suddenly I saw that I have focused on something for the past year. I focused on my business and in fact I did see measurable results. My profits for my business for the past year tripled over previous years -- that's massive growth! The "problem" was that the growth was not visible from the outside.  I can't, unless I open up my books to everyone, say "look at this! It grew!" It's been internal. The business internally has grown and it's been, what we ended up calling, quiet success.

Quiet success is not measurable or visible to anyone on the outside. I don't have crazy-high Instagram numbers or Twitter followers or even YouTube subscribers and I'm okay with that.

My social media numbers tell you nothing about the success of my business. I don't need 20,000 Instagram followers to have the business success that I want.

What I need is close and meaningful relationships with as many followers as I can and sometimes that means nurturing the relationships I have, nurturing the followers I already have, and not focusing on growing.

I think it's so easy to fall into the trap of comparing just outward success versus outward success and coming up feeling inadequate. The truth is I'm not inadequate and I'm not rubbish at focusing on something for a year. I have stuck with my business -- we're going into seven years now! Have times been tough? Of course! Have I continued to work on my business, growing it and shaping it into something that makes me super-proud and super-happy? Yes, I have! So I need to lighten up on myself and I need to accept that for my business to succeed and for the success that I want, it doesn't make practical sense to just focus on one platform for a year and growing my audience on that platform.

I actually want to focus on finding parts of my business that make me happier than all the other parts and figuring out how I can do more of that and less of the parts of my business that maybe stress me out or I don't enjoy as much.

And so my goal for 2017 is to experiment more.

For a while I've just been very thankful for my whole business because as a whole I love my business. I love what I do. I love that work for myself and I'm super passionate about helping other people realise their dreams, whatever that means for them. And so I want to, on a macro level, keep doing all of that. But now it's time to focus on the micro level and the day-to-day tasks and doing more of the tasks that I really love and am really good at and really passionate about and outsourcing or doing less of the tasks that I don't enjoy. 

The goal for 2017 is to experiment and so at the end of this year I will not come back to you and say I quadrupled my YouTube followers but hopefully I will come back and say I've discovered what really makes me light up and I get to do that all day every day.

That's the dream anyway. 

Joeli KellyComment