5 min read
The other day I was knee-deep in a YouTube rabbit hole when I stumbled across this video of NBA player Steph Curry making 93 out of 100 three-point attempts during practice:
This video is mesmerizing. Steph makes it look so easy. And to those who are unfamiliar with basketball, it might look like making three-pointers actually is easy.
What most of us don’t see, however, are the decades of practice that it took for Steph to get to this level of proficiency. As evidence, check out the clip below of Steph as a little kid shooting threes on an NBA court before a game when his dad was a professional player:
He’s been doing this since he was a kid. His three-point shooting prowess didn’t develop overnight. It didn’t even develop over the course of years. It literally took decades, from playing in youth basketball camps to competing in high school, then college, and eventually the NBA.
As onlookers, we see the product of Steph’s work. We don’t see the underlying work itself. That’s why it’s easy to underestimate just how long it takes to reach his level.
It Takes a Lot of Hard Work to Make Something Look Easy
This applies to most fields. When we see the greats, we see how easy they make it look. We see how effortlessly they’re able to perform their craft. What we don’t see are the years they spent refining their craft, improving their skills, and trudging through failures and missteps.
Whenever I watch someone who is excellent at their craft and I feel the temptation to think to myself, “I bet I could do that too,” I’m reminded of this story that I came across in Basic Economics:
A tourist in New York’s Greenwich Village decided to have his portrait sketched by a sidewalk artist. He received a very fine sketch, for which he was charged $100.
“That’s expensive,” he said to the artist, “but I’ll pay it, because it is a great sketch. But, really, it took you only five minutes.”
“Twenty years and five minutes,” the artist replied.
It takes years of work to make something look easy.
Fast Growth is a Myth
In most domains, “fast growth” is a myth and anyone who promises to sell you some product or service that will allow you to achieve fast growth is likely looking to profit off you.
As Naval Ravikant once tweeted:
There are no get rich quick schemes. That’s just someone else getting rich off you.
Sadly, in the world of business, marketers are literally paid to come up with advertising campaigns that promise consumers a fast path to:
- Losing weight
- Increasing their income
- Raising their status in society
But truthfully there doesn’t exist a fast path to achieving any of those things. In reality, these things can’t be bought. They must be earned.
Losing weight and keeping it off takes time. A crash diet might help you shed a few pounds quickly in a week, but it’s unsustainable over the long-term. Only a permanent change in your diet and exercise habits will lead to lasting weight loss.
Increasing your income is dependent on your ability to use a rare skillset to provide tremendous value to others. And it turns out that building this type of skillset often takes months or years, not days or weeks.
Raising your status is largely a myth in itself. Status exists only in your head. You have no clue what other people actually think of you. In reality, most people don’t think about you as much as you think. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
Next time you’re tempted to buy something that promises to quickly deliver you a better body, a higher income, or a more prestigious position in society, just remember there’s someone on the other end of that purchase whose goal is to profit off of you.
Slow Growth: The Realistic, Sustainable Way to Get What You Want
Rather than chasing fast growth, the more realistic and sustainable way to get what you want is to embrace slow growth. Specifically, identify the few important things you need to do and simply do them over and over again for years.
Here are a few examples of how I’ve personally embraced slow growth to get what I wanted.
In my course Simple SEO for Bloggers, I share that learning SEO is one of the best decisions you can ever make as someone who owns a website because it enables you to write content for your site one time, and then you get to earn free recurring traffic every single day once your article reaches the front page of Google.
Unfortunately, most people don’t succeed with SEO because they seek fast growth, then become discouraged when they don’t see immediate results, then quit. The reality is that SEO does work, but it takes time. You simply need to understand the basics of how to succeed with SEO, then practice these basics over and over again for years.
At its most fundamental level, you only need to follow three steps to succeed with SEO:
1. Identify keywords to target.
2. Write articles that target those keywords.
3. Optimize your articles for SEO so that they rank for those keywords.
This process is not complicated, but even once you publish an article that follows these three steps, it can take Google up to eight or nine months to reward your article with its final ranking in the search results.
That’s the definition of slow growth. But given enough time, it works. I’ve followed this process to grow my own organic search traffic from zero to over 6,000 sessions per week over the past couple years.
I tutor high school and college students in statistics. I typically charge between $40 and $50 per hour. Whenever I tell people this, I often receive the following reaction:
1. First, people are surprised that I’m able to charge such a high hourly rate.
2. Then, people want to know how they too can start tutoring for such a high rate.
The way to start tutoring isn’t actually difficult. Just throw up some flyers on Craigslist, Facebook, or your local Starbucks advertising your tutoring services for a specific subject. You’ll likely get a couple leads within a week.
The reason that most people aren’t able to get into tutoring, though, is because they lack rare knowledge that people are willing to pay them for. Rare knowledge often takes years to acquire, which is the reason that tutors can charge so much for their time.
Personally I took five years of college statistics courses, which gave me the stats knowledge I have today and provides the underlying reason that I’m able to charge a high hourly rate.
By most standards, my knowledge acquisition in statistics was the definition of slow growth. However, if I had attempted to cram all of that learning into six months, it’s highly unlikely that I could have done so because I would have gotten too frustrated and would not have been able to keep up the neccesary studying regimen.
Net Worth Growth
I’ve shared before that I was able to grow my net worth from $0 to $100k in about two years. While I’m proud of this feat and I consider it to be a quick path to $100k, there are plenty of programs, products, and services out there that claim to be able to get you to your first $100k in much less time.
The problem with most of these programs, products, and services is that they’re either outright scams or they offer unrealistic paths to generating income through activities like day trading or picking penny stocks.
For most people, the more realistic way to grow their net worth is through following a simple process:
Spend less than you earn.
Invest the difference.
Repeat until wealthy.
In terms of how you can actually pursue this path to wealth, the following steps can help:
- Get your “big three” expenses of housing, transportation, and food under control.
- Acquire a rare skill set and use it to earn a high income.
- Buy and create assets that pay you over and over again.
No matter what net worth goal you want to hit, implementing these three steps over and over again for several years is a reliable way to build wealth.
Embrace Slow Growth
While the rest of the world obsesses over pursuing fast growth and finding hacks to achieve success as fast as possible, recognize that slow growth is the more realistic and sustainable way to get what you want in life. Identify the one or two most important things you need to do to improve each day and simply do them over and over again for years.
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.