When no one knows you (yet)

1. You can go all out

Being unknown early on can be advantageous. 

Did you know that many well-known people at times, wish that they could go back in time to the old days when their lives weren’t constantly under a microscope? Where every move, thing they do, dinner they have, or coffee they buy is captured by the media or scrutinized? Enjoy this time now, because if you become successful, more and more people around you will be analyzing. Others who don’t even know you, start judging what you do next (and maybe they have already). It’s not good or bad – it’s simply a different life. People around you may not tell you what they really think or what their true intentions are as you become successful. You may also start thinking about all the things that are at stake as you make your next move so you don’t jeopardize your success.

On the flipside, people around you will start voicing their strong opinions around what you can or can’t do for a myriad of reasons. They may all be right and you at the end of the day, have to choose the path you think is best. If you start to find a good thing, people (or you yourself) may start to encourage you to not “mess it up”. Preservation can be a good trait but also understand the bold and radical, fearless moves you made to get to where you are today, are part of what helped you get there. When you become conservative or simply worried about messing things up and simply surviving, it can lead to feeling unfulfilled or feeling like you’re avoiding or hiding out.

Right now, there’s no need to worry about hiding. You can make mistakes left and right, and learn and grow. When others, and the world as a whole, hasn’t recognized your talent yet, you almost always have to make big moves. Hiding out and shying away from your ideas won’t do you any favors. Because no one knows you yet, that’s even more reason to give it 100%. Hit the accelerator and keep trying things until you find something that works. You can make countless, silly mistakes and no one will notice or remember a few days from now.

High level

  1. Just do it – roll up your sleeves and get to work
  2. Go all out and don’t worry about looking good
  3. Trust your heart and it will energize you
  4. Doing things to appease others is energy draining
  5. Be fearless and get the ball rolling – just start

2. You can constantly launch things and fix them as you go

Reid Hoffman is famously known for saying ”If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Sometimes those authentic flaws or mistakes can bring authenticity and character to your product, service or offering. Launching an offering like an enterprise company might while you’re a startup is kind of a stupid objective because you don’t know if the core of your offering will even work yet. There’s no need to get things perfect and spend tons of time and resources on it without having product-market fit and customer validation.

Launch something and improve it. Land and expand. Do the MVP and don’t try to flush it all out on the first go around. Keep it simple stupid. Let people try your product or service and let them break it. See how they use it. Let them react to it and contribute. Do your best obviously, but don’t take forever. Time is the most valuable thing you have and once you use it up, it’s not something you can get back. Most companies only have the runway of money and time to make so many mistakes before resources are up. Launch it and fix it and evolve it as you go!

High level

  1. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect – no one is looking in the early days
  2. If it’s getting people’s attention, good – that means you onto something
  3. Do a bunch of small tests to discover and test demand
  4. People like being involved from the beginning
  5. Don’t create things as robust before you’ve discovered demand

3. It’s exciting to create something from nothing

These are the times where you’ll likely feel most alive! A lot of entrepreneurs wish they could go back to the early days. They enjoyed the process of creating something new and building it up. Even if you’re working a thousand hours a week, you’re working towards and building something from a little seed of nothing. You get to pave the way and make something progressive and world-changing. This goes for creating a business, making music, writing, performing, and a wide variety of other things you might choose to pursue.

This is your opportunity to get to deliver something fun, engaging, entertaining, meaningful (or anything else you can think of) into the world. It’s a chance to form deep and meaningful relationships with a variety of people and to learn and grow as a person. To live life to the fullest. 

As you become successful, you’ll start to have managers or employees, or advisors to answer to. Don’t get me wrong – those aren’t necessarily bad things. Those people surrounding you will often be incredibly smart and talented. It just means that you may start to have to answer to others and you may find you don’t have the freedom and flexibility you once did once you’re in a more structured environment.

High level

  1. You get to create this thing you’re building from scratch
  2. It can be whatever you want it to be
  3. No one said you have to do it this way or that way
  4. You can test, fail, succeed, and everything in between quickly

4. You can share yourself and your ideas everywhere and all the time

Every chance you’re around others is an opportunity to get people’s feedback. It’s a chance to create something and put it out there. You can try pitching a bunch of ideas in different situations and because you’re not well known, people will easily forget. It’s a chance to get your ideas expressed and see what resonates and how people react. You can then take those ideas, and go out and build mockups to see what sticks and what has product-market fit. There’s no reason not to share your ideas to find something that is compelling.

When you’re small and under the radar or not yet well known, people expect that some of the stuff you’re working on won’t pan out. They see it as courageous to get back up and keep trying things until something breaks through and works. Don’t be afraid to share what you’re doing. Don’t be worried about what other people think.

High level

  1. Share your ideas – you have nothing to lose
  2. You can a, b, and c test your ideas for feedback everywhere
  3. No one is expecting that you have everything figured out
  4. Don’t get frustrated if some of your ideas don’t land well with others
  5. You can make a ton of mistakes and no one will remember
  6. People will notice your tenacity
  7. Keep yourself busy finding solutions instead of worrying

5. You can move quickly – using time effectively is a great asset

Using time effectively can be applied to before and after you achieve success. It does become a bit more complicated to move fast as you grow your company or become more well known. Bigger companies steer like a large ship, not a jet ski. Before you become successful, you can move through things rapidly and without dwelling for too long. Use your ability to make changes and updates quickly to your advantage and don’t be afraid to hit the accelerator.  If you have become successful – the ultimate goal is to leverage and utilize all the resources around you to do exponentially more than you ever could alone. Success can scale impact, influence, and wealth exponentially in the best case scenario – for you and everyone you’ve partnered with.

As companies scale, you have more employees and you have investors and other stakeholders such as your customer base. There’s a slowness that comes with this and there’s often more red tape that everyone starts experiencing as a company scales. Many founders look back on the early days and appreciate being able to have one meeting with their co-founder and change the course of the company. Or to grab a quick coffee with their technical team to quickly make important decisions and implement them that afternoon. 

Now a founder or CEO may be faced with approval for a variety of changes or worrying about losing customers if they alter pricing or the service offering. Things become more political and less nimble in a way.  Large companies or leaders who are in the spotlight have a lot more to consider and more people around them to appease. Right now, you can fire through a ton of ideas and move rapidly without all the bureaucracy.

You may not have a massive budget and the team resources of a large corporation. What you do have is the fact that you can move incredibly quickly. It can take years to launch a new initiative or product at a company that’s listed on the stock market. If you’re running a startup, you can iterate and launch, and test new ideas, every week, day or hour if you so choose.

High level

  1. Move with velocity because you can
  2. Don’t try to fail and don’t be afraid to fail
  3. Make mistakes fast so you can get to what works quicker
  4. Embrace operating with speed today – you’ll miss it later

6. You can be bold

It doesn’t get any easier to be someone who makes bold moves in life. In fact, as you get older, you will probably become more risk-averse. Nothing is going to happen without vision, leadership, and action. Without you making big, bold moves, and creating it – life will simply fill itself in on default, wherever you are. It’s not like you’re conservative and shy today and then all of a sudden, tomorrow, you’ll miraculously live a fearless life and nothing can possibly get in your way. You have to choose a bold life for yourself, no matter what comes up along the way. Being bold and having a naturally unstoppable mindset requires that you get up again and again and you don’t let the inevitable challenges that will come your way, hold you back.

Being an entrepreneur or a successful performer, writer, or developer, for example, can benefit from big moves. It pays to work diligently and focus on things that matter to a lot of people. At the very least, you should be able to keep getting up again and again and you don’t carry resignation and cynicism with you if things didn’t work out the last time. It’s much better to build the muscle now of being bold and being unstoppable, letting so-called failures fall away and be left in the dust. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s inevitable and not worth going through your hours, minutes or years, worried about making mistakes. It’s better to make them quickly, learn from them and move on with velocity.

Being bold and fearless in sharing yourself and your talents will take you incredibly far. Getting to work and committing to these attitudes now, is like going to the gym. The more you take it on, practice and integrate this way of thinking – the more automatic it will become. Just like working out, lifting that first weight or stepping into the gym is the initial and critical step to get things moving. Once you get in the rhythm, you can expand your workout and focus on improving. Start somewhere and get the ball rolling. Since you are not yet known or successful, you can make lots of bold moves and see what sticks.

High level

  1. You can start being bold, here, now and right away
  2. More practice will engrain bold habits and make them automatic
  3. Don’t worry about always trying to look good 
  4. Focus on getting things done and creating real impact and value
  5. You can’t change the past, only learn from it and move on

7. Your idea or offering could resonate more

I get it. You’re trying to become successful but your idea hasn’t taken off. You may be working really hard and trying to create a product, service, or offering and it isn’t getting traction. Super frustrating, right?

Consider that you haven’t yet done something that resonates with others. Successful people create offerings that resonate with large groups of people and provide value. There may be a disconnect with what you’ve created, and what is important to people and society at large. One indication of your service, company or offering is valuable is that people are willing to pay for it and they want to talk about it. 

You may be working on something really cool but at the same time, it might not land well or be exciting to others. We have a tendency to get in our own heads sometimes and forget that we’re actually creating things for others. If you keep putting things out there and people don’t talk about it or “get it”, there may be a disconnect between what you are trying to create for yourself and what matters to others. 

Without customers, for example, an entrepreneur has no support system and the business will not survive. They owe it to their customers to deliver something that speaks to them and solves a problem for them or delivers something that is of interest and importance to them. It’s not about what you want per se. It is about solving a problem that others have and or delivering things like joy. When no one knows you yet, you can rapidly iterate ideas with customers and they are much more willing and excited to be involved with the creation of the business. These early adopters and passionate customers can really help drive the creation of a truly valuable offering and you can work directly with them in the early days.

High level

  1. Ask if people are willing to buy the offering
  2. If not, what’s missing that could make your product worth it or valuable?
  3. Are you making this thing for yourself as a hobby?
  4. Is this a scalable venture that other people find value in?
  5. Do people have other ideas for things that would be valuable?

8. Understand that you’re learning and growing

When no one knows you yet, don’t be too hard on yourself. Things will probably take longer than they should. You’ll make some stupid mistakes and there will be lots of ups and downs. You might be tempted to dwell on these things or have your self-worth be defined by your company or status. At the end of the day though, those aren’t actually the things that define who you are. Don’t do things just for appearances or only other people and don’t waste your time comparing yourself to others. Create something that you think really matters and find a way to be a valuable contribution.

Things always take less time, the next time around. While I was a student in Industrial Design at RISD, I had a professor who taught us that things always take less time if you do them the second time around. In metal shop for example, if you were fabricating a design on one of the Bridgeport milling machines, the first time around it might take you 8 hours. The second time, if you were to remake the same design on the same machine, it would take 6 or even 4 hours to complete. The same concept can apply when you create a company or produce a music album or write a book. The second time around is usually a lot more efficient because you’ve learned and grown.

When you’re starting out, things might take a while the first time around. Enjoy the journey and know that with time, practice and experience, things will move more quickly. Learn to enjoy both the results and the process. While you’re just getting started now, you may look back later and think fondly of these times where you’re making so many dramatic discoveries and exploring uncharted territories.

– Matt Grigsby

Comments (2):

  1. Stephen Haynes

    July 18, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    Matt, this is amazing! Thank you! Great encouragement for where I am stuck, right now.

    • Matt

      July 18, 2019 at 11:16 pm

      Great – so glad this was helpful!


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