Today I’m going to be talking about delayed gratification.
If you saw my second post on Facebook Live (How I Grew My Podcast from 0-80,000 Downloads), it was about how growth works. The takeaway: it took a very long time for me to grow my first podcast, Growth Everywhere. Every single day of the first year I was getting maybe nine downloads per day. In year two, it jumped up to 50 downloads per day on average.
Keep in mind that I was spending about one hour per week interviewing and an additional 5-6 hours editing. That’s seven hours per week, 28 hours per month. For nine downloads per day. Many people told me that my time would have been better spent elsewhere, because a lot of people expect ROI to happen quickly.
This is the VC-driven world we live in. Investors pump startups full of advertising dollars because they want them to scale really quickly. There’s very little patience for success.
But, oftentimes, the people who are very patient win the battle. Going back to Growth Everywhere as an example:
Then there’s Marketing School, which Neil Patel does with me, largely because Growth Everywhere impressed him. Marketing School has only been around for about seven months, but we’re about to hit 589,000 downloads a month. So growth has a cumulative effect.
Now, had I just given up at the one-year mark and said, “Well, you know, I’ve tried podcasting for a year. It doesn’t work…” I would have left success on the table without even realizing it.
So stick with whatever you’re doing now, as long as you’re passionate about it and as long as you are providing real value to interested customers. Learn to be patient and to delay your gratification.
Napoleon Hill, who wrote Think and Grow Rich, says that patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.
I think it’s really important to stay patient, myself included.
Oftentimes, I just want things to happen quickly, but just look at the Patriots, for example (those of you that follow football). If they can get the ball, they’re going to defer the ball to the second half, right? It’s because they can score right before the first half ends and then they can score again when the second half happens. They get a feel for the texture of the game. How’s the game going? How do they want to play it when the second half comes up?
That’s what you call it when they defer the ball, but this is basically delayed gratification, right? You don’t need to receive the ball upfront. You can wait a little bit and then see how things play out.
When you think about it, you’re already willing to do this with other aspects of your finances, like your retirement account. Compound interest is incredibly powerful, but requires a ton of patience and delayed gratification.
Let’s say you put $10,000 into an index fund and you’re returning 7% a year. After the first year, you get $10.7K, which is not bad, but if you just leave that money there, if you let it sit for 40 years, at the very end, that’s going to be worth $149,000, assuming you don’t add any additional on top of the principal.
Now let’s say we start with $10,000 and we just keep adding $10,000 a year, so guess what? In 40 years, that becomes $2.2 million. Even if you’re not familiar with investing, I’m just saying, it’s really the same thing. You’re basically just waiting patiently and delaying gratification.
I’m just using investing as an example because a lot of people understand it and are doing it in a smart way. But to me, the safest investment is business success. Being able to invest in what I can control, the team that I want to put together, what I want to work on—that’s the most powerful type of investment. And it’s also worth waiting for.
One of the businesses that I started with my friends was stagnant for about a year and a half. We could have easily thrown in the towel. We could have easily given up, but even after spending $100,000, we said, “Okay, let’s keep going.” As of last month, we finally generated revenue for the first time. And I think we finally found a model that can scale well for us.
When I became the CEO of Single Grain, we were basically insolvent. Then, a couple months in, people started to quit. When people quit, that basically means they’re firing you as their boss. That felt really crappy.
I think the worst period was when my accounting company called — it was the accountant and the two founders — and they said, “Hey, is it time to give up? Is it time to throw in the towel? Things aren’t looking good right now.” I said, “No, I think we should keep on going.” I think that’s what it takes.
The first quote that I mentioned—that patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success—I honestly think that’s true because I’m never the smartest person in the room or anything like that. I just keep going.
There are other situations with other companies that I’m going to list in the Growth Everywhere book I’m working on (called Leveling Up), where they waited many years. We’re talking maybe 10 years to really start seeing a breakthrough—all while working full-time jobs or scrambling for investments.
You should also check out my podcast interview with the founder of HireVue, Mark Newman: How to Almost Go Bankrupt 10 Times and Emerge as a $30 Million Dollar Company
Ultimately, success isn’t a race. It’s really a ladder. And we’re all just trying to level up at the end of the day.
This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post: