On Putting Forth Effort Even When You Don’t See Results

3 min read

Each night before I go to bed I type out a short note to myself on my phone. I write about  whatever happened that day, how I’m feeling, any concerns I have, and any random thoughts floating around in my head.

This is a habit I started a couple years ago and it’s one that I’m glad I practice because it’s fascinating to go back and read old notes from months or even years ago. 

This morning, out of curiosity, I read a note that I had written exactly one year ago on April 26th, 2017. Here it is:

“I feel stuck. It literally feels like it’s impossible to make any money from blogging. It’s fun to write but I don’t think it’s something I can earn money from.

These stats finals suck too. If I don’t pass them, I’m screwed. I can’t imagine taking any of these classes again.

I wish I could get a salary bump at ***** too. I feel so antsy, I just wanna make some visible progress and see some results. I’m tired of feeling stuck. I think I’m doing the right things, but I hate feeling like I’m not getting anywhere.

I’ll keep writing on the blog, keep trying to earn a higher salary, and hopefully get through these damn finals.”

It’s almost funny to read this note now, one year later, and see how stressed out and anxious I was about making progress. At the time, I had three concerns, all of which worked out just fine.

1. Passing my finals – I studied my ass off that week and fortunately passed all of my final exams.

2. Earning money from blogging – this was something I severely underestimated the timeline on. I thought blogging would be an easy income stream to develop, one that I could build up in under six months. I was sorely mistaken. At the time, I had earned a total of $0 blogging. It took at least another six months to see some real income. Fast forward one year later and I’m on pace to earn over $1,000 from blogging this month. 

3. Landing a higher salary – I never did get the salary bump I wanted at my old company, but fortunately through blasting out my resume to several companies last summer I was able to eventually land a higher-paying job, increasing my salary from $52k to $80k

I ended up getting everything I wanted, just not as quickly as I had hoped. I was putting forth the necessary effort to pass my finals, grow my blog, and earn a higher salary, but I wasn’t seeing any visible results. At least, not immediately. The rewards started to come, I just had to be patient.

I experienced this “delayed recognition” most recently when I applied for a dream job at a data visualization company. One of the pieces I submitted as part of my application was an interactive data visual that showed the net worth of Americans by age. I spent 15+ hours on this single visual, so I felt pretty discouraged when I got denied for the job. I ended up publishing the interactive visual as a post here on the blog that same week.

About a week later, the post got featured by J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly and then by Tadas Viskanta at Abnormal Returns. Shortly after, Barry Ritholtz gave me a shout out on Twitter:


These three guys drove thousands of eyes to my blog during those two weeks, which lead to 50+ new subscribers and hundreds of dollars in ad and affiliate revenue. So, although the effort I put forth making the visual wasn’t rewarded in the form of a new job, I still received the payoff in an unexpected way.

If there’s one lesson I have learned over this past year, it’s that effort is always rewarded, but rarely as quickly as you would like

Sometimes the skills you spend time building up – writing, coding, website-building, side-hustling, public speaking, etc. – don’t always have an immediate payoff, but the effort that you put in to acquire those skills will always be rewarded at some point. 

I still get discouraged when I don’t experience success as quickly as I would like, but I take comfort in knowing that the effort I put forth is rarely wasted.

I’ll leave you with these three charts that I shared in an old post titled “Success Is Not Linear”:

What people think the path to success looks like:


What the path actually looks like:


Time & Effort always meet up with success at some point:

(The red bars represent “hidden success”, the blue line represents “visible success”)



Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.

Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.

His favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, a site that allows him to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free, has no trading or maintenance fees, and even allows him to set up automated target-allocated investments.

His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.

His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.

His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.


Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.

2 Replies to “On Putting Forth Effort Even When You Don’t See Results”

  1. Hey Zach!

    Just want to give you a quick shout out on this great motivational piece!

    Thanks for listing your timeline of events of where you were last year, vs. where you are today.

    That’s one thing I have had to learn as well – if you write it down, your struggles/goals/misses in life, and reflect back on it, one can almost give themselves a palm to forehead wondering why I spent so much time stressing on X, when it worked out for Y.

    Have an awesome week and keep rocking it!

    1. Thank you! Just jotting down even a couple notes in my phone each day to myself has proven to be such a useful exercise. I’m a huge fan of writing (or typing) things down just to get thoughts out of my head and onto paper (or a screen haha). Thanks for the kind words!

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