Ever watch a rocket take off?
At first, it looks like the rocket is barely moving. It ignites in a thunderous roar and begins to inch up really, really slowly from the launch pad. Even though there’s massive thrust, the rocket is too heavy to move fast.
If you took a snapshot of a rocket right after ignition, you might assume it’s going to fail. Progress becomes visible only if you watch the rocket over a longer time period.
Life works the same way.
When you first start a new project or launch a new business, it often feels like you’re pushing, pushing, and pushing—and nothing much is happening.
When I first started writing online, I spent a good 2 years talking to a tiny audience. I kept writing, week after week, and saw little audience growth. There were numerous moments where I didn’t think I’d make it as an author. I felt heavy—much like a rocket at take off—intimidated by a load that I was sure I couldn’t carry.
“We wouldn’t criticize a seed for not having any roots. We’d give it the time and the water it needs to grow.”
The founder of Pinterest, Ben Silbermann, says it took him 4 years to build a successful company after leaving Google. “That’s a four-year period where things weren’t going awesome,” he says. “But I thought: That’s not that long. That’s like medical school before you go into residency.”
Most people don’t even get on the launch pad because they fear creating something lousy. And that’s a valid fear: At early stages, your creations will be unimpressive. Despite appearances, nothing springs to existence perfectly formed. Every creator must push through these early, embarrassing stages to reach the great work that lies beyond them.
If things feel heavy at first, it’s because they are heavy. You’ve just ignited your rocket—and it’s going to take a while for you to find your way to your destination.
So stop comparing yourself to other rockets who’ve already reached escape velocity. They’ve been at this for years, if not decades. A budding tree wouldn’t look at a full-grown tree and feel ashamed. We wouldn’t criticize a seed for not having any roots. We’d give it the time and the water it needs to grow.
Do the same for yourself. Focus on your own trajectory. Move up one inch. And then another. And then another. The higher you climb, the lighter things will feel.
A small thing, repeated, becomes a big thing.
Ozan Varol is a rocket scientist turned law professor and bestselling author. Click here to download a free copy of his eBook, The Contrarian Handbook: 8 Principles for Innovating Your Thinking. And download the Next Big Idea App to enjoy a “Book Bite” summary of his latest book, Think Like a Rocket Scientist.