The Power of the Hockey Stick

Why should you keep going when it doesn’t look like you’re making any progress?  

That’s a question that all of us face when we’re working on a long-term project that doesn’t result in immediate success.  

I recently received a great reminder of the power of persistence in a group of podcasters of which Ivy and I are members.  One of the podcasters posted this graph:


As you can see, the average number of downloads for this person’s podcast stayed roughly the same for two years.  Then in 2016, the downloads start growing.  The podcaster said that they did nothing new or different in 2016; they just kept putting out good content.  

This image is sometimes called a “hockey stick” graph, and it also frequently appears in discussions about financial investing:

As demonstrated, almost nothing happens for the first 15 years of compounding interest (where the “interest” you make in a savings or investment account is reinvested in the account, rather than paid out to you in cash).  Then, the growth slowly starts to pick up steam, until the final 5 years when it leaps up 75%.  

The key in all of these scenarios is to stay the course, even when it feels like nothing is happening.  This is such an important reminder when we’re trying to do anything new or different.

Learning a new instrument or a language?  Stick with it, even if it feels like you’re not making any progress.  

Starting a new job or business?  Give yourself time to get settled and start to master the concepts and practices that help you succeed.  

The tricky thing about the hockey stick graph is that the time horizon for success is often longer than we would hope.  It would be great if we fit the story of the magical startup that soared to 50,000 customers overnight or the brilliant person who learned Spanish in 21 days.  However, it’s much more likely that we’re going to be the person who put in the time and repeated the small steps for days and weeks and months and years until a breakthrough finally happened.

What in your life is making you feel impatient?  How can you take a “hockey stick” approach to this process to give yourself a longer-term and more sustainable mindset?  Drop us a line on our Facebook page and let us know!