When we set goals, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting a slow start. We can see the target, we know where we want to go, but we can’t seem to get traction.
That’s how I felt with our recent fall enrollment campaign for Platform University. We actually beat our goal in the end, but as I wrote earlier this week, it didn’t start that way. Based on the early results, we were going to miss big.
My team turned up the heat immediately. There wasn’t a single big breakthrough. We fought for every gain. But the gains came, and they were snowballing by the end. By the close of the campaign, it was our biggest launch to date.
The Dangers in a Quick Win
Throughout my professional life slow wins and uphill fights have been the norm. It’s difficult in the moment, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Fun, fast, and easy may be tempting, but becoming successful too quickly is usually detrimental.
As a publishing executive I saw it dozens of times. A first-time author would have an overnight hit and become impossible to work with. When their subsequent books would miss the mark of the first big win, they’d blame everyone else. Never mind that they missed the necessary opportunity to hone their craft, build a platform, and develop a network and team.
A slow start offers the time and testing it takes to build the right infrastructure for success. Without it our skills, resources, and character will all come up short eventually—usually sooner than expected and sometimes to disastrous results.
Why a Slow Start is Better
If you find yourself coming out the gates more sluggishly than you want, consider these eight blessings of a slow start:
- It forces us to rise to the occasion. Obstacles force decisions. Do we go on or not? Do we play full out or quit the field? If we answer the right way, a challenging start makes for a better win because it forces us to give our best.
- We find weaknesses we otherwise wouldn’t notice. Testing exposes fault lines. Whether it’s our systems, our product offering, our team, or our own character, the challenge of a slow start can help us locate areas in need of improvement. We all have them, but we rarely go looking for them on our own.
- We discover resources we didn’t know we had. Tough times put our creativity, endurance, and courage to work in ways easy times don’t. When Heather Kampf fell down in the 600 meter dash and still caught up to win the race, she said, “I hit a gear I never knew I had.” We only become aware of what’s possible when we try to do what seems impossible.
- We come up with unique solutions we wouldn’t otherwise have. Julian Simon called human creativity the ultimate resource, but sometimes—oftentimes—it takes outside circumstances to maximize that resource. When the Platform University launch moved slower than we wanted, my team came up with several initiatives that drove better results, but the circumstances inspired the extra creativity.
- It’s good for our teams. If we’re working with a team, a slow start can encourage collaboration as we formulate responses to the problem. We come to rely on each other in ways easier times don’t require.
- We forge new relationships. That extra reliance inside a team can fortify those relationships, but the same goes for external partnerships. As we seek to push through the slog, we often rely on outside help. But it’s get and give. And the more you give to help others in the same situation, the stronger those bonds become.
- It’s an opportunity to grow our leadership. Everything I’ve listed so far speaks to leadership. As we push past a slow start, we develop our leadership intuitions and skills—and not just leadership of our teams, partners, and affiliates, but our self-leadership as well.
- We develop resilience. The more times we overcome difficulties in business and life the more capable we are at overcoming whatever comes next. Long-term success requires resilience, self-confidence, and personal fortitude. Every slow start is a chance to develop the traits that will root us down deep and help us stand through life’s storms.
Growing Roots Down Deep
Whenever we’re tempted to fume or badmouth a slow start, it’s important to remember that the very challenges we face help us build the personal and organizational foundation we need for longterm success. Without it, we’re all tree and no roots. When a straight-line wind hits us, we’ll eventually topple.
What feels like a curse is really a huge blessing. Slow starts are to our character what winning can be to our finances. But if we jump for the win without developing the maturity to manage it, we run the risk of losing it all in the end.