After college, I spent three years in a gray cubicle in Nebraska. I learned how to live in the “real world,” I built financial padding, and I spent nights building web design skills. Then I got discovered by a Silicon Valley startup.
I spent three years in Silicon Valley, learning how to believe in myself and my own ideas. Then I was ready to go out on my own.
I spent three years experimenting in a cold Chicago apartment. I left Silicon Valley in the midst of a boom just to follow my ideas. Then I got a book deal to write my first book.
Now it’s been about three years since I moved to Colombia to double down on writing and podcasting. My book is starting to do very well (Seth Godin endorsed it), and my podcast is gaining traction, too.
Yes, you can get a lot done in a year. You can get a lot done in a day. You can even get a lot done in ten minutes. But it takes three years to really accomplish —to build and combine a mixture of new skills, and get buy-in from the rest of the world.
The first year, you’re trying to find the right direction to go. The second year, you’re going that direction. The third year, you’re trying to get someone to notice.
I don’t know if Abraham Lincoln really said this, but he said it in the movie, Lincoln: “Time is a great thickener of things.”
To really accomplish something, not only do you have to change your skills and mindset, but you also have to change those of the people around you. At first, they don’t believe in you, if they notice you at all. You’re not that good, anyway.
It takes time to believe in yourself. It takes time to get good enough to earn that belief. If it takes time do that, imagine how long it takes to change the opinions of others.
Unfortunately, three years feels like a really long time. When you’re in the midst of something new, struggling to feel like you have any idea what you’re doing, it seems as if you’ll never get anywhere. That’s when you can remind yourself: It takes three years to accomplish anything meaningful.
When you get there, I promise: The view of the path behind you is beautiful.
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