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Want the secret to success? Grow slow.

Flower In Dirt - Secrets to Success

Children ask funny questions.

Just the other day, my daughter picked and then ‘planted’ a flower in soil and wanted to know why it wasn’t growing.

‘Hmm,’ I gently explained,

Flowers don’t grow just by putting them in soil. You first need a seed, that grows into a plant with roots, which if given the right conditions, produces flowers. It all takes time — only then do you get a flower.

Naomi accepted my comment and quickly abandoned hope that her wilting flower might one day become a blossoming tree. She wanted more flowers quickly, not an education on how to grow and sustain a plant.

Yet this interaction made me think.

How often do I make the same mistake by trying to ‘plant a flower’ directly into dirt? Am I chasing flash-in-the-pan success (a wilting flower), instead of persistently working towards results that last (seeds and roots)?

Slow Beginnings

When we joined Facebook last year, Tim and I dreamed about getting thousands of likes. Look at us! We’re so popular… aren’t we? Instant success!? In reality, like most new businesses, our growth has been much slower.

Similarly, when Spacemakers first launched our blog, I dreamed about seeing 500 new subscribers in the first year. We started with 10, then 12, then 20, then 40 etc. It took over a year to reach our first big 100! Not such a glorious start… more of a crawl, then a clumsy walk, moving towards an awkward run.

Yet on reflection, our slow, measured growth has actually been a great gift.

We’ve had the freedom to make mistakes without too many people noticing. We’ve had time to learn by trial and error. Slowly, we’re learning to write better blog posts. We understand our audience better. We’re learning how to value critique and deal with unfair criticism. There’s increasing clarity about who we are, what we value and where we want to head next.

Slow is good.

It has given us the space to build a strong business foundation.

Crawl, walk, run

‘Good To Great’ author, Jim Collins, researched this phenomenon in US companies.

His research team compiled data for nearly 5 years to discover what makes a company truly great (as defined by sustained, outstanding results for at least 15 consecutive years). Every ‘great’ company was compared with a statistically similar ‘good’ company to find emerging patterns.

Here’s what Collins’ team found[1];

Great organisations don’t start by running. First they crawl, then they walk, then they run.

In a similar vein, Jason Fried, entrepreneur and author of ‘Rework’ writes[2];

You will not be a big hit right away. You will not get rich quick. You are not so special that everyone else will instantly pay attention. No one cares about you. At least not yet. Get used to it. Trade the dream of overnight success for slow, measured growth…. In a few years, you too will get to chuckle when people discuss your ‘overnight’ success.

Overnight sensation or slow, sustained growth? Everyone loves instant success, yet it’s the slower path that more often leads to greatness.

Wilting flowers or deep roots?

Are you trying to plant a wilting flower into dirt? Or are you planting a seed and growing deep roots, to eventually produce something that lasts?

Do the simple, ordinary, unseen things today.

Give up the dream of quick success in exchange for slow, measured growth. It’ll take longer. It might be less glorious and more invisible. Yet you’ll be more likely to experience real success that feels complete and actually lasts.

PS. Hey, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t Join the Tribe (below) or like our Facebook page. We value slow, sustained growth… but not too slow!

Have you ever experienced a quick success that didn’t last long? Tell us about your experiences…

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Collins, J. (2001). Good To Great – Why some companies make the leap and others don’t. Random House, London, p.145.
  2. Fried, J. & Hansson, D.H. (2010). ReWork – Change the way you work forever. Random House, London, p. 196.

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