“Build a 6-figure business in 60 days with my obvious framework that I copy and pasted from the other 100 people posting the same thing for too much money here!”– is what I’m greeted with on doom-scrolling trips on LinkedIn in particular over the last year.
I’m not here to moan about the ethics of such posts (I hope that’s obvious), but rather about the meaning behind the words.
These posts are part of a wider movement trying to suggest we can all create huge wealth and knowledge in x days by doing x obvious things which those who spent 40 years building a successful career didn’t know.
I don’t like the vibe of that. It’s too black and white thinking in a world that isn’t (what world is?). Outliers exist in life but come on, let’s leave the matrix for a few minutes.
And I think this connects with the whole movement of messages like I shared above and other narratives like “escape the rat race” and “do what you love and you’ll never work a day”.
A lot of content promotes urgency, speed and so much hyperbole about an impending apocalypse if you don’t achieve something in the next x days that you’re left on a heap of mental failure.
(Phew! I’m getting nervous just reading that back).
In the real world, everything takes time. That’s the kicker. The one thing we can never replenish is the exact thing we need to invest more in.
Whether it’s money, careers or our families – they need time.
Yes, I know we want everything right now, but it’s a fantasy we try to tell ourselves while doing the hard work. The good thing is a lot of success is found in the slow game.
Slow growth is highly underrated
When I first heard the term Slow Growth, I thought it was crazy.
I learnt about this from the aptly named Slow Growth Academy which focuses on the power of slow growth (obvs!). I instantly fell in love with the concept, especially with its connection to careers, skill-building and amassing experience.
In a world of instant gratification, people want results in 5 minutes, not 5 years. That’s not how life works, sadly.
Things take time to build.
You plant seeds, nurture them and harvest the rewards in the future.
Deciding whether or not to invest in something for 5 years matters not because those 5 years are going to come and go whether you do or you don’t.
We all look for hacks or secrets when in reality there isn’t one. Do the work, embrace slow growth and you’ll be better in the next 5yrs than you’re now.
That’s the non-obvious ‘secret’.
I share this as I believe it’s of value not just to my fellow L&D and Marketing friends, but to anyone. We’ve had this strange movement of productivity gurus peddling the “hustle” culture of quick results with low-quality outputs.
If you research some of the most successful businesses and people in traditional careers, you’ll find their growth was slow.
Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has spent her entire career at the company, starting as an engineer and working her way up to CEO over 43 years.
Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has worked at the company for over 25 years, starting as a member of the technical staff and working his way up to CEO.
Ginni Rometty, the former CEO of IBM, worked at the company for over 30 years, starting as a systems engineer and eventually becoming CEO.
These people are products of slow growth.
They consistently show up, do the work and acquire new experiences. They don’t preach any secret hacks to achieve this.
Patience, I find, is the most underrated thing with growth. We’re playing an infinite game, not a finite one.
I look at slow growth like a board game. There are times when you’re on a roll and accelerate, and others when you’ve hit a blocker and get pushed back 3 places (I’m looking at you Monopoly).
Let’s be clear, I’m not against the “move fast and break things” movement at the micro level. As long as we learn from those experiences.
But applying that to the macro level with an overarching strategy is dangerous.
An example of slow growth in action is Apple.
They’re mainstream now, yet we’re once the outliers of their industry. It’s hard to imagine, but Apple was not the industry’s de-faction leader; only a hardcore set of consumers purchased their products.
Apple blew up once the iPhone landed.
However, a lot of people only think about them from that time in 2007. In reality, they’ve been around since the 70s – scaling, falling and scaling again.
They grew slowly and now own the market.
Apple’s growth has been a 40-year-plus journey. It’s 30 years if we were to stop at the launch of the first iPhone. Think about it, they’ve been working 3 decades to have their best decade ever!
We just assume it’s always been that way. So, why do we think that we need to get there any quicker?
The concept of slow growth does not apply to just the working world. It applies to all areas. It strikes a chord with me as an L&D nerd. Learning to be a better human is the ultimate example of slow growth.
Continual development in an ever-changing world never ends. No one just gets the answers one day or figures it all out. It comes in time and with experience.
So, don’t panic if you don’t know everything, don’t have the skills or your business is not in the exact place you want it to be right now.
The power of career compounding
People want everything now. But, the overnight success story is BS.
The smart ones focus on decades not days. We often look at the end product, not the long journey that paved the way for the current success.
Compounding small changes over time leads to HUGE results.
This is true for many aspects of life. Most certainly for our skills and careers. I tell people to invest in their career currency as much as they can in the early phase of their careers.
Your career currency is made up of your knowledge and credibility in a subject. And guess what that needs? Yes, you know it – time.
This is a slow game too. None of us can cheat time.
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