Mitchell Harper
Dec 22, 2015 · 3 min read

Knowing “how” to do something is just 50% of the equation.

Creating anything that has a shot at becoming great (like a company) takes at LEAST 5 years. In most cases it takes 7–10. Ask anyone whose done it.

When you start anything new, it’s tempting to focus maybe 3 years out at the most. “We don’t know how things will change beyond 3 years”. That’s a valid point, but building something great is as much about sticking it out as it is doing the work (such as creating a product and finding customers).

You can’t win a marathon unless you put in the work and have stamina. It’s the same with creating something that will eventually be great.

Most modern companies you think of as great took at least 5 years to get on that trajectory and some took 10 years. Think Uber. Airbnb. Hubspot. PayPal. Tesla. SpaceX. Chobani. GoPro. Spanx. The list goes on.

It took us 6 years to get Bigcommerce to any level of scale. And it will take me at LEAST 5 years to get PeopleSpark to a comparable level of scale. The good news is, I like to play the long game. Because that’s the only game worth playing when it comes to achieving greatness at anything — business, relationships, health, you name it.

Don’t believe the get-rich-quick gurus or the lose-20-pounds-tomorrow infomercials. They are outright lying to you. Nothing good happens without insane amounts of consistent, focused work.

I truly believe that when you start anything, you should do it with the intent of becoming the top 1% in your field, ideally the top 0.1%. And do you think that’s a realistic possibility in 1, 2 or 3 years? No way.

There are heaps of great videos, lectures and presentations online about “how” to be great. How to be a great musician. How to build a great company. How to be a great manager. They teach the mechanics of success, or what to “do”. But that’s it.

You know what absolutely none of them talk about? The time decay of your passion, interest, patience and emotional energy. That’s hard to maintain over 3 years let alone 5 or 10 years, let me tell you.

How often have you ended up bored with your workout routine? Your partner? Your diet? Your daily routine? Your company?

The path to creating anything great is filled with doubt, fear and frustration. People will screw you over, talk sh*t about you and try to stop you from achieving what you set out to do. You’ve got to have the emotional and mental fortitude to deal with that. Every. Single. Day.

The people that create greatness instill in themselves a daily ritual of self-belief, patience and performance. They know greatness comes after 10 years of work. Whether it’s affirmations, setting goals with a compelling “why” or via a coach, they train their emotions like most people train muscles in the gym. And that’s what gives them stamina.

The next time you see a great person or company, don’t refer to them as an “overnight success”. Realize they got where they are with at least 5 but probably 10 years of brutally hard and emotionally draining work that most people simply couldn’t handle. They made mistakes. Course corrected. Asked for help. Kept at it when things got hard.

But never lost sight of their vision and their goals. That’s why they’re great.

Get my new book “SANE: How To Build Your Business Rapidly Without Going Insane” at 📚

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Mitchell Harper

Written by

Co-founder BigCommerce & Insane Growth. 8 companies, $200M in total sales. Startup growth advisor 👉👉👉

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade