"If you never sold another piece, would you stop doing it?" Kevin asked me this question one night as he listened to my frustration about the slow growth of our young business.
"No," I said, knowing that I would always want, no need, to create. But I'm also realistic about how I spend my time and what I need to get out of it.
Not realizing it at the time, I was in what author James Clear calls, "The Plateau of Latent Potential." It is "the time gap between the results we expect and the reality. It generally takes longer than we think to reach the outcomes we desire." Simply put, building anything - a new skill, a business, a habit - takes longer than we usually expect. This time gap is further forgotten amidst non stop social media videos and stories about overnight successes, but the secret is that no one really talks about the slow months leading up to that one (or, more likely, few) break(s). On the way, we may find ourselves in what Clear calls, "The Valley of Disappointment," that place where our motivation wanes as we witness slow, or no growth, and find ourselves plagued by doubts, fears, and low confidence. We are tempted to give up, but giving up can only yield one result, and it's not the one we intend or desire.
I've spent more time in this valley than I care to admit. I've gotten frustrated by pieces that went sideways, merchandise that got dusty, and bills that exceeded my sales. But when I read "Atomic Habits," I was at least able to recognize the pattern as a common one.
Awareness didn't always quell my disappointment and temptation to give up, but I have had a partner who never ever stops encouraging me. He built me new shelves, organized space for me, helped me with supplies and tools...in short, he didn't let me quit.
He calls me the "Bamboo Specialist" alluding to Clear's metaphor of the bamboo plant, which seemingly grows overnight, but in reality, it builds its root system for years underground and out of sight. I've done a lot of the underground building, but he's the fertilizer that keeps me going. We hit highs along the way that bring us out of the valley for a bit: a few good days of sales, a piece that works out as intended, or a nice note from a client. These are the things that fuel us. We recognize the up and down...and we keep planting, keep trying, and keep doing what we love.
If you're starting or building something, be a "Bamboo Specialist" and find someone to push you through the valleys and plateaus or, better yet, be that person for yourself.
I often think back to the question he posed to me that night: Would I stop? I don't think I can.
So we keep going, we keep creating, and we look for the young shoots signaling the breakthrough bamboo.