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.
I often see this with people looking to build businesses on-line. So many would-be pro bloggers / online entrepreneurs / social media consultants etc 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.
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 us nearly 7 years from when we started our family business in 1994 and doing $50 000 / yr to to pass $1 million/year in income from it. The first few years were really tough, with lots of long 14 hour days, lots of stress about meeting pay roll, being able to pay vendors, wondering where the next customer would come from. It would have been easy to stop during those time, and give up, and start over, but we would never have enjoyed the long-term benefits of the business.
For some reason , online entrepreneurs and bloggers on the other hand give up well before they reach this point. They see weak financial results during their first year or first few years , just as we did, and they conclude it’s not worth continuing if they haven’t made it sustainable by then.
In addition to earning abundant income from leading our business , being an entrepreneur has also created opportunities in other areas. Being a businesses owner – i am obsessed with figuring out how the great companies became great and how they created great workplaces and engaged employees. Because of this obsession, i ended up leading HR for Starbucks across 12 countries. I have had opportunities to visit amazing places for work and have made many amazing social connections, etc.
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 or how to lounge on the beach in Costa Rica working only 4 hours per week.
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’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. When I left our family business, I picked Executive recruitment and Leadership development , since I am already passionate about helping companies find great talent, and building engaged workplaces – and because my wife and I , both have extensive experience helping companies across the globe find talent.
I had good cause to believe I’d still be into it 5 years later. It’s now 3+ years since I started a recruitment / business coaching business, and I’m still passionate about creating great companies. 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 3 years ago, I might very well have dumped it within the first year.
Is It Time for You to Stop Dabbling and Get Serious?
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 programming (majored in computer science)for about as long as I’ve been into business development and entrepreneurship (20+ years), but I never committed to improving my programming skills. I never got serious about it. Even though I continuously update my programming skills, and dabble in writing code most weeks, 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 programming is a hobby I enjoy for fun, and I haven’t cared to improve at it thus far. Or to become the next Mark Zuckerburg
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.