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If you’ve ever put a lot of work into something, you know what it takes. You know the long hours it takes to get results. You know the investment of time and money it takes to accomplish your goals.
And then there comes those times when you need to make a choice: do you keep investing and pushing and working, or do you let it come to an end?
Nobody wants to be called a quitter. The idea of wasted time, money, and energy is enough to make any of us uncomfortable. How do you stop, pivot, or end something with grace and confidence?
On today’s episode, we’ll be talking about knowing when to call it quits, when to double down, and times when we personally decided to end something to make way for other things.
Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
- Choosing to quit isn’t the same as giving up.
- If your audience is interested in you and they believe in your mission, they will follow you after you quit something or change directions.
- Any time you choose to quit something, there are going to be consequences.
- Evaluate what you’re doing and whether it’s bringing you closer to your version of success.
- When you quit before you quit, you’re preparing your audience for the fact that something is going to end soon.
- Celebrate quitting if quitting brought you closer to success.
- Quitting now doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re quitting forever.
- When you have a new focus, start by figuring out who you want to help.
- Communicate with your audience if you’re considering quitting something.
- Even if you’re very focused, there are niches within your niche.
- Reevaluate your brand every month.
- Evaluate what you’ve done to get to where you are and why where you are isn’t where you want to be.
- Keep the big thing in mind that you want to work towards, but do small things to validate your direction.
- 05:19 Cory: The word “quit” is loaded with preconceptions, baggage, and negative connotations. It’s something we need to address with care. There are a lot of people who are in a place right now of trying to figure out what to do in this moment. “Do I carry on? Do I double down on what I’m doing? Do I just keep pushing, or do I need to stop, pivot, and end something?” That can be really tough.
- 05:55 The context of this show needs to just be Kyle and me having a good conversation about it. We have some good questions that we’ll talk about, but I think this is important for a lot of people. Kyle and I have experienced this. In any realm of life, you’re going to experience the moment of quitting. I don’t even like saying “quitting,” because it feels like you gave up on your dreams, like you’re the worst. There’s all this stuff attached to it.
- 06:37 As we get into this, just know that we want to give a lot of grace to you as a listener, and we hope you’ll extend that grace to yourself. We know that this is a difficult conversation, especially if you’re in industries like Kyle and I are in, where there’s this emphasis on hustle, showing up every day, doubling down, putting in the work, and working hard to accomplish your dreams.
A hustle-focused context has a lot of merit, but it doesn’t always offer the grace needed when something needs to come to an end.
Quitting vs. Giving Up
- 07:28 Kyle: One thing to keep in mind here is that there’s a distinction between quitting and giving up. Quitting is a choice. You decided to stop doing something. Giving up is still a choice, I suppose, but it’s where you stop doing something just because you’re frustrated. Quitting can be a positive choice. For example, stop smoking. If you’re an alcoholic, stop drinking. There are certain things in life where, if you quit them, it has a positive effect on your life.
- 08:09 Quitting doesn’t always mean that you’re quitting something significant and important, that you’re lazy or something. Giving up is when you move towards laziness. Giving up means that you don’t have a clear direction for what’s next.
- 08:30 Cory: That’s a really great distinction, Kyle. That’s so good. When you give up, all you can see is right in this moment. It’s all mindset. Giving up is saying, “This is too hard right now. I can’t see past where I am, so I don’t want it to be hard anymore.” Quitting, pivoting, changing, or ending—maybe it’s just semantics, but it could help you to put those things in two separate boxes.
- 09:19 Tobi just dropped in the chat, “Quitting is a decision to say no to one thing so you can say yes to something that is better aligned with your values, goals, etc. Giving up is saying no to something because you don’t believe you can do it.” Yeah, I totally agree with that.
If you have clearly evaluated your situation and you want to do something about it by quitting, that’s better and different than just giving up.
Knowing When to Quit
- 09:41 Cory: Why do people give up?
- 09:44 Kyle: People give up because they don’t know the direction. They don’t know what’s next. They see what’s in front of them, and there are a number of things that could happen. Let’s say that you have an audience built for your brand, and they’re not resonating with what you’re sharing. They’re not interacting with you. It could be easy to give up and say, “I guess this isn’t a thing I should be doing.” Alternatively, you could quit things you’re doing that aren’t getting a good response and saying, “Maybe I should be doing different things. Maybe this isn’t the right way for me to go about this.”
- 10:24 Cory: It also might be something where you had clarity and direction, it was clear, and suddenly something comes out of left field. That’s a baseball reference. I shouldn’t talk about sports on this podcast. You’re doing something, you have direction, and there’s a lot of success there, but then something happens that you didn’t anticipate.
- 11:30 For instance, this is very relevant in our moments right now, in 2016, Samsung released a device called the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. You know where I’m going with this, Kyle. I don’t know the exact date after the release, but they released this device, it was great, and suddenly, one by one, they started going up in flames. They were smoking, hazardous for your health. The batteries were starting to fry.
- 12:15 There was a plane that was on the tarmac that had to be evacuated because someone’s phone started smoking inside the cabin. When it first started, there was one report. It wasn’t a big deal. Then there were two or three. Sometimes companies send out those press releases that are like, “A small number of customers have been affected by this issue, and we’re looking into it,” and you think it’s three people, but it’s really 1,000 people.
- 12:44 Suddenly, there’s this “small number of affected devices” where, and every time you get on a plane right now, no matter where you are in the world, over the announcement they say, “If you are carrying a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, please alert a flight attendant so it can be taken care of.” They don’t want those things on planes. When you’re going through security and through the airports, you’ll see posters specifically about that device.
- 13:24 You’re Mr. Samsung, and you’re like, “We just put billions of dollars into this device.” They’ve put billions into their brand, building that up, becoming this massive electronics conglomerate, and suddenly they’re being equated with explosives.
- 13:50 Kyle: And not in a good way of being explosive.
- 13:54 Cory: “Hey, you’re on fire!” It’s not good. They issued a full recall of all of the devices. They have lost not only billions of dollars on this next product, but over the full span of their life, they will lose even more, because of the negative attention and press over this device. You know what’s even worse than that? Soon thereafter, reports started coming in of some of their washing machines exploding.
- 14:37 Kyle: I’m trying to imagine a washing machine, that relies on water, exploding. Fire and water…
- 14:46 Cory: It was more like there was a misalignment inside of the machine, so it was spinning too fast or something. I don’t think it was a full explosion. They had to recall a ton of top load washing machines because the top could unexpectedly detach. They have this huge, billion dollar recall of this device, and almost a billion dollar’s worth of washing machines, and then billions and billions in brand devastation.
- 15:53 Kyle: Scott said, “The washing machine’s doors rattled off.”
- 15:57 Cory: Yikes. Here you are, you have a small number of people, even if it was only 10 people with exploding phones or 20 people who’s washing machines explode in their utility room, how do you know when it’s time to pull the plug? Short term, billions of dollars out the window. That’s hard.
When something goes wrong unexpectedly, you have to regather yourself, your company, and your brand, and figure out where to go from here.
One of the hardest parts of calling something quits is the money and time investment that’s “wasted.”
Sunk Cost Fallacy
- 16:46 Cory: Actually, that’s a logical fallacy. The Sunk Cost Fallacy is the idea that there has already been all this time or money invested, so I need to invest more or the original investment will be lost. Therefore, the new investment is justified. That’s a fallacy. Let’s say you put $1,000 into your project, device, or product. You say, “It didn’t take off. I lost that $1,000. If I put in another $1,000, I’ll be able to make $3,000, so I don’t want to let it go.”
- 17:37 Even though it’s in a declining market or there’s no attention, you pour more money into this thing. You don’t want your initial investment to have been wasted. It’s not about seeing opportunity. It’s about not wanting all of that investment to have been wasted. It’s a fallacy. That’s where people get stuck. They think, “I spent all this time, money, and energy on this thing. If I pull the plug…”
- 18:15 Kyle: We see this all the time on TV shows where people are trying to get investments for things, and they continually put more and more money into this thing. Maybe they got to a point where they realized that they couldn’t really sell it for a profit. The audience they thought wanted this doesn’t really want it, but they continue to put money into it. Now, they’re in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for this thing, and they’re at the point of desperation.
- 18:53 “This has to get into the market! This has to sell!” But maybe it won’t. Maybe the brand was structured wrong. Maybe the product was wrong. Maybe they’re going after the wrong audience. Whatever it is, they’ve sunk a lot of time, energy, and finances into something that’s a sinkhole for money.
- 19:23 Cory: Do you have an example of something that you had to quit or give up? We’re using the term “quit.” Do you have an example of something you invested time or money into, and you had to evaluate whether or not it should keep going?
- 19:38 Kyle: Yeah. This one is interesting, and it speaks to anyone out there doing client work. This sounds weird, but years ago, I had a really terrible process. I think I may have mentioned it on this show before, but back when I completely failed my first business and had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t have good contracts in place for clients. I had pretty much non-existent contracts. Typically, I went through a project, and it was fine. Things would continue and we were done, and the service was completed. Everyone was happy.
- 20:27 But there was this one client that I got, and the project went for over a year. It was supposed to be a couple of months or something. It was an app development project. They’re working on building an app for iPhone. During this time, because it took over a year, there’s a new operating system, so now they’re trying to figure out all these new things they can do. They’re trying to figure out how to switch certain features.
- 20:58 That meant more UI work, which was what I was working on. That’s the user interface for it. This project kept going on and on. I committed to finishing this project, but there wasn’t a contract in place saying, “If you keep dragging this out, then…” or, “We’re only going to do this amount of work,” or, “We’re only going to make this many pages.” In UI terms, each screen you see is basically a different page.
- 21:37 There wasn’t any of that in place. Eventually, I got to a point where I had to go to the person and I said, “Look, my business is tanking in a large part due to this project. This project was agreed to at a certain cost. That cost has gone for over a year.”
- 22:04 We had to quit this. I had to finalize what I had and give it to them. My entire future was going into this project that doesn’t cover any of my costs of living or things I’m experiencing while working on it.
- 22:25 Cory: That’s so tough.
- 22:27 Kyle: Fortunately, the person I was working with woke up to it. They said, “Wow, you’re right. I didn’t realize this. We’re on this development mindset of getting this project done. I didn’t realize what this is doing.” They had a client that came to them for an app, and then they approached me to do the UI work. They ended up doing the same thing with that client, because that was part of the issue. It was a chain reaction. They didn’t have good contracts in place with that client about when they stop talking about what features to add or take away and actually develop the thing.
- 23:10 It was a good lesson. It was interesting. We’ve been talking about projects or products, things you work on, but this also happens with clients or situations where you need to make a transition or do something in your best interest. Be fair to those people. I’m not suggesting that you quit a client project without giving them what you agreed to do.
- 24:01 Cory: Yeah. It’s so hard. The key part of that is looking forward. Don’t look at it and say, “I put all of this investment into it! I’ve lost all of this!” Evaluate what you’re doing and whether it’s bringing you closer to your goals, your version of success.
- 24:29 Kyle: That’s definitely true. In that case, it was not getting me closer to goals at all.
It was my fault that the project grew out of control because I didn’t put boundaries and contracts in place like I should have.
If you’ve put yourself in a bad place with client work, there comes a time where you have to quit, give the client what you have done, and move on.
Handling Your Audience When You Quit
- 24:40 Cory: Sarah asked, “How do you handle your audience when you quit? Should you just say, ‘It’s over, so… bye!’ or is there something you can still do to help them?” That’s a great question. It depends on what you’re ending. If you’re ending your entire brand, you need to do more than have them log onto the website and see something that says, “We don’t do this anymore. Bye!” Sometimes it’s like that.
- 25:11 There have been times that I’ve gone to coffee shops or places I’ve known were in business, and there’s just a sign in the window saying, “Sorry, we had to close up shop.” That’s hard. When you’re dealing with an online audience, you have a greater capability to communicate that. It varies from situation to situation. When I came to the conclusion that my first business needed to end, I didn’t run a sale.
- 25:47 I just said, “Hey, just so you know, I’m moving on to different things. I’m going to bring you along on this newsletter, so you can unsubscribe if you want. If you would like to follow along on the journey of what I’m shifting to, you can stay connected. I’m closing the store, so you have 10 days left to buy a shirt.” I gave a link and everything like that. At a certain level, you have to understand what your audience is there for.
- 26:29 If they aren’t interested, they’ll unsubscribe or unfollow. It depends on what your next steps are. Having a next step or something you can direct your audience to is preferable. If you don’t have that, a nice exit letter, newsletter, or blog post works. I’ve seen all versions of that. It’s more helpful to a reader if they know that you’re not just saying, “Hey, this didn’t work. See ya!”
- 27:11 When there’s a little bit of story there, you can bring along some authenticity and transparency that helps with that transition. The key is ultimately that any time you choose to quit something, there are going to be consequences. There will be both positive and negative results. Some of that might be losing audience members or losing revenue. Look at it from a long term perspective rather than a short term perspective.
- 27:53 “Is me stopping this thing, is my brand quitting on this product or this idea right now, is that going to be better for us in ten years than if we waited?” There are going to be those things. Samsung is losing billions of dollars. Maybe you lose a little bit of face with your audience. Maybe it hurts, and you have that gut-churning feeling in your stomach for a few weeks. Those things are going to happen.
If your audience is interested in you and they believe in your mission, they may still follow you after you quit something or change directions.
- 28:26 Cory: I don’t want to say that if you change your mindset, quitting is easy. That doesn’t happen. You have to be prepared for those kind of things.
- 28:51 That might seem very strange. Imagine yourself years down the line looking back at that moment, going, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad that I cut that off when I did.” If you’re thinking in a long term mindset and you decide that this is something you just need to stop, that’s a cause for celebration, because it means that you can focus on doing the right things—work that matters in the long run. You can best serve the people you’re trying to reach or impact.
- 29:31 Certainly, there are going to be those pains. It’s like ripping off a bandaid. Of course that’s going to happen. It’s short term discomfort for long term gain and success. Put those things together. I would recommend that any time you quit something that you deeply care about that you know is in the way of your goals, throw a “quit party.” Why not? Go out on the town, get your significant other or your buddy, and have a celebration. Say, “I don’t want this moment to be represented as failure. I want it to be represented as refocusing toward success.”
If you’re changing what you’re doing to get closer to success, that’s cause for celebration.
Quit Before You Quit
- 30:30 Kyle: I want to bring in some practical advice for this. Since we initially talked about this topic, I’ve done a lot of thinking about it. You need to quit before you quit. I know that sounds strange. Currently, I’m positioning my brand towards teaching. I know that’s where my passion lies, and that’s what the majority of my audience really wants from me—teaching how to make icons. I’ve had this split focus of trying to attract clients and get people to buy products while trying to teach things.
- 31:31 Although I’m still going to keep all of those things in place, I’ll definitely still take clients and sell products, my focus is going to be on teaching and getting products out there that can help people. I realized that in order to do that, I need to slow down and get rid of some of the things I’m doing right now. I’m making a lot of free content, which feels really good, and I like to help people a lot, but I also know that there’s a need to remain justifiable to make all of that with my business.
- 32:11 There needs to be profit there, or I can’t continue that. I also know that I’m robbing my audience from some really valuable content, because I’m not putting together a high value paid course or other learning material. I’ve decided to slow down my output on social media and other places. I realized that I need to understand that I’m going to quit before I actually quit. I didn’t necessarily do this the right way so far, but I’m definitely going into the future with this mindset.
- 33:06 You’re saying, “Hey, this is going to slow down. This is what’s happening. I want to let you know. It’s not going to happen all at once. We’re going into this in a slow way.” It’s a boiling down process, not necessarily just stopping something today. That gives people a smooth transition. I noticed this from a case study that’s great. I don’t know where to point you to see a case study, but I experienced it. Do you remember the Mailbox app?
- 33:45 Cory: I remember Mailbox. They got bought out by Dropbox.
- 33:54 Kyle: Mailbox was a pretty cool email app, and I used it. One day, I got an email from them saying, “We’re closing down.” I thought, “Oh great. They’re going to close down. I have to figure out how to move the emails I’ve saved in their system and find a new app to use.” What was great was that they said that they would be closing down in several months. It was months away.
- 34:27 Cory: They closed down in February, but it was announced several months prior.
- 34:31 Kyle: It think it might have been even six months or something, way early. They continued to send newsletters to me, saying things like, “Here’s how you can transfer the emails you saved with us to another platform and get them in the same folders. Here’s how you can move over any contacts you’ve had with us.” All these transitional things.
- 35:02 They wrote about what they hope the future is like for email. It was really great. It gave a smooth, final goodbye to something I was using on a daily basis. Surface level, you can see it as an app that’s one of hundreds of email apps, but they had a deeper connection with their audience. They had people that were dedicated to using it, and I was one of those. The transition was them saying, “We see a lot of the features we originally implemented to help people as something that Apple has put into their default mail app. They’ve made it a lot better.”
- 35:46 Their original goal was to make the email app better, and that’s not really what they were accomplishing anymore, so they decided to quit doing this. They didn’t need to run this anymore. They became part of Dropbox, and Dropbox has a lot of the things they need to focus on to help their audience make file sharing and cloud storage better, so they moved away from email. It was really good.
- 36:16 Cory: It’s so tough, though. Imagine being the people who originally came up with the Mailbox app idea. I remember when that was announced. It was revolutionary way to use email that was finally making email amazing, which no one has really been able to do. Can you imagine? They’re like, “Oh my gosh. This thing we started, we sold it to Dropbox, and then it’s gone.” That’s got to be so hard. It is so hard.
- 37:03 That stuff is really difficult, making those kind of calls, and not even just for Mailbox. Dropbox invested $100 million into purchasing Mailbox. That’s $100,000,000 you could look at and say, “Oh my gosh, we just lost that.”
When you quit before you quit, you’re saying that something is going to end soon and you’re prepping people for that.
Mailbox talked about why they were shutting down and how their audience could move away from their system in a good way.
Don’t Quit for Yourself
- 37:27 Cory: What are the things you can learn? How have you grown as a person, a brand, and a company because of this thing that you need to say goodbye to? How are you better because of it? Just because you have to stop this thing doesn’t mean that it hasn’t made you better. Maybe it has taught you certain things. Maybe it introduced you to certain people that you never would have met before. Maybe it opened up avenues for you.
- 37:57 You have to take those things into consideration. You can use that for your quit party—look at that and go, “I have grown in all of these ways, so it’s not a waste. I’m different. We’re better. Our brand has grown because of this.” How many shows do we know—podcasts, TV shows, web series, whatever—that take a hiatus or go on pause? That’s something we also need to address.
- 38:48 What if we’re sitting there going, “Okay, is what we’re doing with this show, with Invisible Details, my newsletter, and blog posts, actually helping the people that we want to help? Is it helping them the best way that we can?” I ask that because Jonathan asked, “I’m in the middle of transitioning into a new area of design. I’ve built a following of around 600 based on the illustration work I’ve been producing for two years, and I even did a three day exhibition this year sharing these illustrations.”
- 39:26 “I care about the people who have had one-on-one conversations with me about my art, but I fear I risk losing them because of my new focus. Is my audience small enough for me to break away from what I’m currently known for?” Here’s the thing. First off, 600 is not small. One is not small. The fact that you’re connecting with anybody at all is huge. Secondly, you need to think about them first.
- 40:30 That’s what it comes back to. You have to start by asking yourself whether this thing you’re doing is truly helping your audience, or the people who are following you, get to where they want to go. If you’re transitioning, Jonathan, and you have a new focus, you’ll probably lose a portion of the people following you right now. But think about this—that just means that your new focus isn’t what’s going to help them reach their version of success.
- 40:59 If them not following you helps them, then that’s a win. Start there. Then, start adding on the other things. Your new focus, pivot, product, or direction… Narrow down who you’re trying to help. If those 600 people aren’t who you’re trying to reach or impact, that’s fine. They can go. That’s okay. Get them out. Maybe that sounds harsh, but they need to find their own version of success.
- 41:48 That’s where it all comes back, at least in my head. It’s time to evaluate all the things. I had a Skype call with my friend Daniela, who is in the Community. She was helping me get clarity about some stuff. She said, “List out all of the things you want to be doing.” I listed all of these things. I was like, “I really want to work on this big project. I want to work on this big project, this massive project, and I want to do these things to help me get there. I want to add in one or two things.”
- 42:22 I wanted to cut out one or two things, too. I was sitting there looking at that list, and I was like, “I could do so many things, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those things are helping the people I want to help effectively. Maybe me cutting out some things might help them better, because I can focus more specifically on the bigger things, the more helpful things.”
- 42:50 Kyle: There’s a definitely clear process here. Sometimes, that’s overlooked. You first have these revelations to yourself. Even if it’s a company with a board of directors or whatever it is, you’re in a meeting in private when you have these realizations. “We are not serving our audience the best way possible, and this is not really what’s best for them.” If you understand that your audience members are real people and you really care about them, the initial gut reaction is to say, “Let’s just go pull the plug on this, because this isn’t helping them, and we need to focus on this other thing.”
- 43:35 Everybody within the organization understands it. They’re all on board, because you’ve just had this meeting and these conversations. Maybe you’ve had these conversations for months, talking about ending something, starting something new, or moving in a different direction. Everyone’s on board on the team. They’re like, “Yeah, this is the best way to go. This is what we need to do. This is right, and everybody in our audience will benefit.”
- 44:02 The problem is that your audience hasn’t had those meetings. They don’t know why you’re deciding to do something different. They probably don’t understand that it’s better for them, why it would be better for them, or what they will benefit from with you changing. There also has to be a public meeting of you saying, “We’ve been talking about this internally, and here’s where we’re going from now on. Here’s why. It’s going to help you, and we’re doing it because we have your interest in mind, not because we just want the change.”
Quitting now doesn’t mean that you’re quitting forever—you might just need to put something on pause.
When it comes to quitting, if it’s all about you, that’s a red flag.
Ask yourself who you’re trying to help and whether this thing is helping them in the best way.
When you have a new focus, start by helping the people you want to help, reach, or impact.
Gauge How Your Audience Feels
- 44:41 Cory: That ties into a question from Tobi. She said, “People are much more likely to be vocal when they’re unhappy than when they’re happy. Because of that, it can be easy to believe that a product, service, brand, etc, isn’t resonating with people, when in fact, all you’re seeing is the unhappy minority, and not the much larger, silent group out there that’s loving what you’re doing and being affected by it. How can you more accurately gauge the genuine, complete feelings of your audience before you pull the plug on something you think isn’t resonating?”
- 45:21 Kyle: That’s so tough.
- 45:25 Cory: Part of that is just conversations. There’s old school, sending out surveys, not having leading questions, but with genuine questions. Of course, engagement on that is going to be low. It makes me go back to whether you’re actively having conversations and communication with your audience as a whole. Is there a place where they can connect with you? Where you can connect with them?
- 45:53 Kyle: Ask questions. It’s so funny. It’s often overlooked. I’ve been guilty of this, too. There’s a point where you say, “I wonder how things are going? I wonder how people are liking this?”
- 46:17 That silent majority that loves it isn’t thinking about telling you how much they love it. They’re just enjoying it so much that they consume or purchase it, and until they’re asked, they’re not going to say, “I love this.” I remember when I was younger, I had a friend who didn’t own a TV. It’s a long story, but they didn’t believe they should have it in their house. When they would come over to our house, his parents were fine with him watching TV at our house.
- 47:02 As a kid, that’s super new. If you haven’t experienced that, it’s like, “Woah!” You’re just staring at the screen. When he would come over and watch something with us, he had the most intense stare you could think of, mouth open and everything. He was really into watching something, because he hadn’t had that kind of entertainment. He didn’t say, “This is amazing. I love this. This is a good show. I don’t care for this show.” He was just intent on it.
- 47:42 Until you ask him, “Do you like this?” He would respond, “I love it. This is really cool. I like doing this. I wish I could do this at home.” He wasn’t going to volunteer that information, because he was so enthralled with how good the experience was. He wasn’t giving feedback openly.
- 48:14 Cory: I honestly think that you shouldn’t overthink that question, especially if you’re sending out newsletters or you’re doing a blogpost. On this show, we ask for people to go leave us reviews. Nobody does, because they don’t care. We’ve obviously not helped them enough, and they’re fine if this show goes to the dust. They wouldn’t want to go to BehindtheBrand.com/itunes and leave us a positive review so other people could find the show and be helped, but that’s okay.
- 48:45 I wonder what it would look like if I just send out an email to my subscribers and said, “I’ve got a quick question for you. Can you write back one or two sentences on how this newsletter or this podcast has helped you? Thank you!” That’s a quick reply, and it gives you an idea. Of course, you have to consider what kind of question you ask, one that only gets positive feedback. Is this leading? Is it not?
- 49:33 Cory: I wouldn’t recommend only basing your decisions on whether everyone is happy or unhappy, or at least the people you’re connecting with. It comes back to knowing what your audience needs and wants, knowing what their version of success is. We talked about this a few episodes back (Related: e050 The “Aha!” Moment in Understanding Your Target Audience). That “Aha!” moment is knowing what their version of success is. You’re helping to bridge that gap.
- 50:05 You should already have some kind of idea of how to get them from A to Z. If that’s messy for you, you’re going to have a bad time. You don’t know how to actually get them where they want to go. You’re shooting in the dark, hoping something sticks. It’s about communication and knowing about your target audience before you try and help them. That’s why it’s so hard to start with, “I’m doing this thing and I hope people like it.” That’s really hard.
- 50:47 Kyle: First of all, yes. I’ve come to realize over time, and I think everyone needs to realize this, that there are segments of your audience. That’s okay. Even within my audience, some of them want to learn about making icon sets. Some of them don’t care about that at all, and they want to make app icons. Some of them don’t care about either of those. They just want to see the process of building a company.
Ask your audience how they are feeling about something you’re considering quitting.
Establish communication and connection with your audience.
You’ve got to know the people first, because it’s all about people.
Segments Within Your Audience
- 51:25 Kyle: There are different segments of your audience. Knowing the right things to quit is about understanding the majority of your audience, but it’s also understanding where you should connect first. Know that you’re not going to connect with everyone the first time around. I’m not naive to the fact that once I make the icon sets course, LearnIconDesign.com, some people won’t connect with that in my audience.
- 52:02 I’m aware that it’s not an all-encompassing solution. That’s why I’ve decided to quit a few things that I’m outputting and focus on some other products that can help people with other situations that they’re in, but it’s still in the same niche market. Look for those segments. I think where I’m coming from here is that it’s easy to see that you’ve niched down to something. From there, you’re like, “I’ve already narrowed myself down to this thing, so everyone who joins my audience is 100% on board with this thing I’ve decided to call my niche.”
- 53:15 I don’t really know where I’m going with all of this, except to say that you need to understand that there are segments within your audience, and sometimes, when you ask for feedback—like we mentioned a little while ago—you’ll get some different answers. Some people will say that they’re not there for learning about whatever it may be. I have had people in my audience say, “I don’t want to become an icon designer.” Then we get to talking.
- 53:46 I ask them, “What do you mean?” They’re a UI UX designer, and they want to learn icons. They think that I want them to call themselves an icon designer like I am and focus on that only. There are stil people in my audience that want to learn icons but aren’t calling themselves icon designers. Have conversations! Humans will always have conversations, and those conversations will bring to light what you should be focusing on.
Even if you’re very focused, there are niches within your niche.
The Quitting Trigger
- 54:29 Cory: Final question here from Scott. This question is so good, but I don’t have five hours. He asks, “How the seanwes saying goes, ‘Show up for two years without expecting any results.'” He’s referring to how on the seanwes podcast and on Lambo Goal and as a saying in the company that Kyle and I work for, there’s this idea that you need to show up for two years.
- 54:59 Especially without expecting any results. Put in the work and don’t expect big things right away. It’s going to take time. You need to be patient. He says, “The saying goes, ‘Show up for two years without expecting any results.’ I’m about six months away from that, and I don’t foresee a big increase in results at the end of two years. How much time should I give it after the two years before calling it quits?”
- 55:23 I have a resource that I was going to try and modify, but I would rather just send people there. There’s a woman named Marelisa Fabrega who wrote a fantastic article called How to Know When to Quit—The Knowing When to Quit Cheat Sheet. In this article, it’s really fascinating. Read it. About halfway down, she talks about this formula for knowing how to quit.
- 56:04 Part of that is called a Quitting Trigger. The Quitting Trigger is when you say, “What is the threshold of when I’m going to decide to quit on this thing?” You have to decide at what point you’re going to give up if it turns out that achieving that goal is more difficult and requires more resources than you had previously anticipated. She made a pdf that’s fantastic, so look at that. It helps you analyze pros and cons, you give those things a score, and you figure out if those things meet the quitting trigger or if it’s worth doubling down.
- 56:55 Is it worth continuing to push on? Is it worth fighting for that thing? There is a lot of wisdom in having this idea in your head. “My version of success is X, but if I lose Y in this amount of time or I haven’t quite reached that, then it’s time to reevaluate.” That’s another thing we didn’t really hit on, Kyle, and we shouldn’t get into too much—this idea of evaluation. A lot of people think that they should just quit.
- 57:43 Every single month on a small scale, every six months to a slightly larger scale, and every year to a very large scale. You need to have constant evaluations of these things and think them through. Having a resource like this from Marelisa will be really helpful. I want to push people that direction. If you do need to quit, pivot, or change, then do that evaluation, but I would wait until up to those six months. If you go two years and you haven’t seen any results, then it’s time to ask yourself why.
- 58:26 Why haven’t I seen any results? Why is this thing that I’ve made, this vlog that I’m doing, this YouTube channel, or this product that I’ve made, why isn’t it producing results? I’ve put all this effort and energy into it. Why isn’t it there? You need to evaluate what you’ve done to get to where you are and why where you are isn’t where you want to be.
People should have brand evaluations of what you’ve done, are doing, and are going to do every single month.
Evaluate Your Results
- 58:54 Kyle: When Cory mentioned reevaluating your brand, I’m going to get harsh here. I’m speaking to previous me, and I’ll explain why in a second. If you’re not seeing results after two years of really putting effort into something, there’s something wrong. There hasn’t been a proper reevaluation over time. There is a common misconception with this fantastic phrase, “Show up for two years without expecting any results.” It’s a great thing to live by. Keep doing what you’re doing.
- 59:45 The point is, don’t expect something crazy to happen for about two years, because people need to find you, connect with you, and understand what your brand is. The misconception is that you can start a brand and not reevaluate. You can just keep going on this thing, and eventually, people will latch on to what you’re doing and, eventually, it will be fine. I had this problem, too. I continued down a specific road. It wasn’t necessarily audience growth, but it was an issue of the financial growth of my business. After two years, I wasn’t seeing crazy income numbers.
- 01:00:32 You hear all these other people saying that they went two years and then hit their first million dollar product launch or something. That wasn’t happening for me, and it was because I wasn’t building solutions to things that my audience wants to have. Now, I’m backtracking and getting to that. There are various aspects of my brand. I consider it successful from an audience growth and relationship standpoint, but from a profitability and my ability to continue long term standpoint, it’s not a success after two years.
- 01:01:06 There are reasons for that. It’s not that the concept I’ve built doesn’t have merit, but I haven’t been approaching it the right way or providing the right solutions to people. Or maybe I haven’t been promoting things the way I need to or talking about the things that can help those people.
- 01:02:02 “If I had had this thing when I started… Today, I use this thing… I believe in this so much that I would easily pay for it… I have purchased my own product…” You have to believe in it! You have to have conviction behind it. A lot of people want to call it quits because they haven’t seen results. It’s fine to quit or move a different direction, but when it comes to an entire brand, that’s significant. Before you change an entire brand, evaluate what you’ve been doing.
- 01:02:49 What are the products out there? What have you been pointing people to? Where have you been sending people? What have you been saying to people? Sit down and have an intense evaluation of things.
- 01:03:06 Cory: Another aspect is that you may have results, but they may not be the ones you expected. Maybe after two years, you wanted to build a certain kind of audience. After two years, you realize that you’ve built up an audience of 10,000 13 year olds who have $0 and don’t want to buy your $15 shirt. That might mean that you need to look and say, “Why do I have those results?” Why do I have 10,000 13 year olds with $0? That’s not going to sustain me.
- 01:03:54 What’s that gap? What is in the middle there? Are you marketing to the wrong people? Do you have the wrong kind of product or thing for sale? Have you not done enough collaborations? Do you need to make phone calls? Do you need to look into investment? Do you need to look into donations? Do you need to bootstrap some more? Do you need to throw in some of your own money? Do you need to bring on more people?
- 01:04:19 Do you need to cut people? Do you need to change the kind of content you’re producing? Do you need to add a product or take away a product? Look at what the results are vs. what you hoped the results would be and figure out why that gap is there. Who is your audience now? Who did you want them to be? Do they have money? Do you have something to sell? Are you trying to sell something? What is it that you’re trying to do? What is that gap there?
So many people are scared to be sales people, but if you really believe that what you’re selling will help people, you have to keep telling people about it.
Evaluate what you have, what the results are, and how they’re different from the results you wanted.
Don’t Be Romantic
- 01:04:51 Cory: I know that Scott has been doing this YouTube channel, Two Button Crew. He and a couple of guys are doing this YouTube channel all about Nintendo, and he calls it daily Nintendo of fandom. It’s great. Go check it out. Scott, if you wanted to be profitable within two years, who is your audience? What are you doing? Are you selling something to them? Are you selling products to them? Are you not selling? Are you trying to do something else?
- 01:05:42 Evaluate that. It was the same way for me. I have had to go through those moments where I’ve said, “The people I have aren’t the people I want. The money I’m getting is negative, so I’m losing money. What’s the gap there? What do I need to do? What do I need to change? Is there something in my output?” Determine if you’re being romantic about what you’re doing. Gary Vaynerchuck talks a lot about how you shouldn’t get romantic about how you make your money.
- 01:06:34 He uses this example of how he had a bunch of family friends in the taxicab business. When Uber first started, he called them all up and said, “You guys need to look into this and be careful. Get on top of this.” They were all like, “This isn’t going anywhere. We’ll be fine.” Within six months, they were out of business. They had been running these services for decades. They became romantic about how they made their money.
- 01:07:07 For me, I look at the things I’m doing and I go, “Could I stop doing this thing if it meant that I could refocus on greater success later?” That’s really hard, and I acknowledge that. It may require getting somebody from the outside to look at it, evaluate it objectively, and say, “Yeah, you need to stop,” or someone to say, “Don’t give up now. Don’t quit. Change this thing and that thing. Push a little bit that way. Here’s how you can make money here, give this a try. Try it for four, five, or six months, and see what the results are.” Then make a decision.
- 01:07:58 That’s what I would say. Evaluations aren’t necessarily there so you know whether to quit. They’re there so you can see what’s working, what isn’t working, what you should cut, and what you need to add. These are the three major questions:
- Are you effectively reaching the people you want to reach?
- Are you getting closer to your goals, your version of success?
- Is your brand getting closer to its goals or its version of success?
- 01:08:26 You may need to stop the thing that you’re doing. The other aspect is that maybe it’s time to double down. If you have six months left to go until your two years, it’s go time. Amp it up. What can you do in six months? What can you get done in six months? Can you build a membership site? Can you make relationships with people that have 150,000 subscribers? Can you do collaborations? Can you double down for a small pocket of time, a few months?
- 01:09:13 If you’ve got 600 subscribers, what is it going to take to get to 10,000? I was talking to Charli about this the other day. I have like 200 subscribers on my YouTube channel right now at corydhmiller.com/vlog. She has almost 34,000 on hers. I was like, “What is it going to take for you to 10X your subscriber amount?” She was like, “That’s 334,000!” I was like, “Yeah. What’s it going to take?”
- 01:09:48 Do you have constant reminders? Do you have a plan? Have you sat there and said, “Here’s a list of 100 companies. I’m going to call each of them on the phone, and we’re going to get this done.” Kyle, I’m working on something right now. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. It might take a year or two years, but I’m convinced that it’s going to help, in a significant way, a ton of businesses and teams. I’m really confident in that. It’s going to be a four figure product.
- 01:10:23 I need to write out a list of 500 companies for me to call on the phone. I need to get on the phone with somebody. I need to walk into the facility and say, “Who’s the guy/girl/person I need to talk to to make this thing happen?” I need to make it happen. If 40 out of those 500 buy in, that’s a pretty good percentage. I would say that if you feel like you’re coming up to that last little bit of time and you don’t know if you should call it quits because you don’t see the results, here’s what you should do.
- 01:11:30 That’s what I’m saying. Give yourself six months, but see what traction you get in 30 days. I think that will help to give you an idea of what you’re capable of and what your brand is capable of.
- 01:11:49 Kyle: If you’re thinking of going in a new direction and there’s any way to do so, do small, helpful, relevant things. Keep the big vision. Keep the big thing in mind that you want to work towards, but do small things to validate your direction. I mentioned the course I’m working on. That’s my new focus, but I also know that when people sign up for my newsletter, they’re asked, “What are you struggling with right now?” A lot of people ask about color, specifically.
- 01:12:41 They ask, “How do I make color choices with my designs?” I’m writing a guide to choosing colors, my whole process for color selection. It’s going to be a low cost paid product, but the point is to put some teaching out there and see what the response is. Realize that the big thing you’re working toward is going to have a much bigger impact than that little product that you’ve built.
Give yourself a short amount of time to double what you’re doing right now—cram a year’s worth of investment into six months—and see what kind of traction you can get.