“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at 9 AM sharp every morning.”
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a 10-year-old video by creator Marques Brownlee (MKBHD), one of the most popular tech Youtubers. He’s often pictured as the face of tech on YouTube, and has interviewed people like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates.
This video was his 100th video special. However, in it, he says “I’m planning to do a giveaway for my 74 subscribers.” When I heard this, it completely blew my mind. MKBHD made 100 videos and he only had 74 subscribers. That number is absolutely shocking.
When asked about his secret to success on the platform, Marques stated “if you do something for 10 years straight, chances are that you’re going to get pretty good at it.”
In most situations, we only see the end result. For example, when people look at the successful individuals in any field, you are only capable of viewing them at the top of their career. Otherwise, you wouldn't be looking at them.
Most individuals put in years of effort without seeing any results; you just don't see that part of their story.
There is no such thing as an overnight success. For most people, it takes years of consistent, hard work with little to no results to end up where they are.
“Effectively all of Warren Buffett’s financial success can be tied to the financial base he built in his pubescent years and the longevity he maintained in his geriatric years. His skill is investing, but his secret is time.” - Morgan Housel, The Psychology of Money
The most important indicator of success in almost any field is how long you’ve stayed in the game.
Think about Warren Buffett; he’s the richest investor in the world by raw assets, but not when measured by average annual returns.
Buffett started investing when he was 10 years old. Over the next 80 years, with an average annual return of 22%, his wealth has grown to around $85 billion. However, if he started investing in his 30s and stopped when he was 60 with the same annual returns, his net worth would be $12 million- only 1% of his real net worth.
This surprising effect takes place because of the power of compounding. Our brains don’t intuitively understand the massive impact that long-term input can have.
This doesn’t just take place within investing; it happens in almost every other area as well. All you have to do is regularly provide input and wait a long time.
In most areas of our lives, simply staying consistent is enough to become relatively successful.
Mr. Beast, another famous YouTuber, posted videos consistently for 6 years with no real success. However, now he has nearly 50 million subscribers and is one of the largest channels on the platform.
Long-term consistency, especially in creative fields, is so effective because of The 80-20 Principle. In most areas, a small minority of the inputs create a large majority of the returns.
This is especially true within content creation. A majority of subscribers often come from a few viral videos. The problem is that no one knows which videos will go viral. This is why the best practice is to consistently create videos, and wait until one of them blows up.
We often know something is valuable long before we actually start to do it. At this point, pretty much everyone understands that some sort of regular exercise is vital for a healthy life. However, it usually takes years of knowing this until it reaches a critical mass, at which point you start exercising.
The reason it takes so long is because you don’t see results right away. For example, you have to exercise for at least 3 months before you see any significant benefits of doing so.
One solution to this problem is to remove the optionality associated with a task.
Most people are pretty consistent about going to school every day. Why is that? Because it's simply not an option to choose not to. Similarly, if we somehow create a system in which we don't give ourselves the option to not stay consistent, it makes staying consistent a lot easier.
There are two reasons why going to school seems like a requirement. First, there's a punishment associated with not doing so. If you don't go to school, you’re punished by the school district. Second, the school system has created an artificial reward system for continuously attending and putting in effort.
This is why “grades” exist. The benefits of learning are not immediately visible, so schools created grades to motivate you to keep putting in effort, even when you don't see why. Without the immediate gratification of good grades, most people would not do any of the prescribed assignments.
Unfortunately, in our personal lives, we don't have an external institution to help keep us accountable. One way that you can bypass this is by creating an artificial accountability system.
You could give your friend $100 and instruct them to donate it to a charity of their choice if you stop being consistent. Or you could ask them to help keep you accountable, by bugging you if they notice you miss a day.
Another great way to stay consistent is to do something you genuinely enjoy. Most people struggle with the things they don’t like. No one has trouble getting through a compelling TV show or an excellent meal. One way you can try to be consistent is to align your interests with activities that provide long term value.
Sports are a great example. If you want to regularly exercise, you could find a sport you enjoy and play that often; you'll get the secondary benefits of staying in shape while doing something you like.
In most areas, consistency is essentially the only thing that matters. As long as you show up every time, you'll be fine.
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