There I was sitting in the soft glow of the lamplight, alone on my couch, hunkered over my computer like a dog who just found his prized bone. It was probably close to 11:00 pm, and everyone else in my house was asleep. That really was what I should have been doing, but I was too excited.
I quickly clicked on the blog post titled something like "How I Grew My Email List to 15,000 Subscribers in Just 2 Months." My entrepreneurial heart was about to explode with anticipation. Seriously, picture Ralphie from The Christmas Story awaiting his Official Red Ryder, Carbine Action, 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. That was my level of excitement!
Almost immediately, though, I had the "you'll shoot your eye out" moment. I eagerly started to scan the post...only to realize this writer began these life-altering-email-list-building steps with 2,000 subscribers. You know when Ralphie tells his dream gift to the people in his life only to be crushed with, "You'll shoot your eye out." I know how he felt.
2,000 SUBSCRIBERS! That is the starting point for this article?!
What??!! What about 0 to 2,000? Quite a gap. There are a lot of numbers missing!
My naive self thought this post was going to teach me to get my FIRST subscriber AND my 15,000th AND in 2 MONTHS.
I know what you are thinking--what planet is this girl living on?! And now that some time has passed, I realize that I was a bit delusional. I choose to say optimistic.
I learned a few things about this entrepreneurial journey and myself from this "you'll shoot your eye out" moment.
1. You can't get 15,000 without starting at 1.
I mean, we all want 15,000 people who have invited us into their inboxes each week (or 15, 000 clients or 15,000 units sold or whatever means you measure your success). You get the point...we all want success.
But the reality is it takes time to get there. This ol' girl doesn't like to hear that and, even worse, to live out that truth. It does a number on the ego.
Many articles today lead us to believe that if we throw up a website, announce on Facebook that we are in business, or tell a few friends about our entrepreneurial dreams then 15,000 people will jump at the chance to do business with us.
One of my main goals with Inspire to Engage is to crush those cloud-nine expectations. I know that sounds harsh. Hey, if someone quits because she realizes it is really her dream, that is fine. But if someone quits because success doesn't come quick enough, I don't want her to live with those regrets or questions.
I want anyone joining the entrepreneurial community to live in reality...the reality that escaped me at first. I want people to realize the fortitude it takes to succeed.
Just know, you have to start at 1, then move to 2, and so on. The first ones are always the toughest and will probably be someone who already loves you like your mom, sister, husband, dad, or mother-in-law.
2. There is purpose in the process.
What a blessing that my email list started with 2 people (my sister and my husband)! I had no clue what I was doing when I sent out my first newsletter.
As I was hunched over my computer, trying to find the courage to press Send on a newsletter (to my HUSBAND and SISTER!), I realized how relieved I was that it was going to 2 people. And those people love me and have seen me in much more embarrassing moments than an error-filled email.
My point...sometimes we think we want something (for me 15,000 email subscribers), but we wouldn't really know what to do if we got our wish.
See, there is purpose in the process of growing slowly. The little lessons that we learn with each new subscriber, client, unit of sale, etc. are what brings growth and the next subscriber, client, unit of sale, etc.
3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I call myself an optimistic realist. I am naturally a glass-half-full kinda gal, but I strive to live in reality every day. Obviously, I don't some days, hence the story at the beginning of the post.
The truth...if somethings sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. It hurts to write that because we all want fast results. But think about it, Ponzi schemes and fad diets/pills promise "too good to be true" results. From those things come financial ruin and health crises. Do we want our businesses to be anything like those things?!
So remember lesson #2...there is wisdom, and I argue safety for you and your business, in growing at a realistic pace.
Plus there is going to be some failures along the ways. Failing is a natural part of life and of success. (You may want to read Butts and Failures. It details an embarrassing loss I experienced in middle school and talks about Sara Blakely, creator of the butt shaping phenomenon Spanx. She definitely experienced failures before her success.)
This post is about patience. It is about appreciated where you are and your business are (Rachel!). It is about recognizing the beauty in the growing process. No one wants to talk about it because patience is hard. Our society has trained us to want (and almost need) fast results.
We all have heard the sad stories of lottery winners who only a few years later were completely broke. Some even homeless. Why does this happen?
The answer: those individuals became millionaires in an instant, not in a slow build over time. They had no mental, financial, or physical structures in place for handling that kind of money. It was like trying to take a drink out of a fire hydrant! Too much. Too fast.
If we want to create a business that is sustainable over years, then we have to appreciate the slow moments. It is in these uncomfortable times, the most learning occurs. It is where we dig deep mentally and emotionally and spiritually. Fortitude is forged in these fires. It is where we think the most creatively because we are desperate and because we have the time to.
So...here's to all of the Ralphies in the world! May we always keep our excitement, optimism, and exuberance about our dream while living through the "you'll shoot your eye out" moments.
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