On Inspiration, Aspiration and Expectation

Never settle. That hustle life. If you’ve spent any length of time on the Internet following online content creators, then you’ve surely come across some variation on this core message. Dream big and reach for the stars, because anything is possible. And, in this climate of a democratized Internet where practically anyone has a voice to reach practically everybody else, anything is indeed possible… fickle algorithms aside, of course.

At the same time, we’ve also seen how such a positive outlook on infinite possibilities can lend itself to disappointment too. If you really think that you’re going to wake up as an overnight success because your first YouTube video went viral, you’re probably going to be in for a rude awakening. More likely than not, your first YouTube video is going to be met with crickets unless you already have an established audience elsewhere that you can point toward your YouTube channel.

It’s a sad, hard truth.

Overnight Success, Years in the Making

It’s often because of this harsh reality check that so many would-be online creators bow out of their endeavors so early. Whether it’s a YouTube channel, a blog, a podcast, a webcomic, an Etsy store, an Instagram account, an online course, an ebook, or any number of other possible creations, when these creators aren’t met with immediate and astronomical success, they get discouraged. So discouraged that they might give up only a few months or even a few weeks into the game.

Or, maybe you’ve been slugging it out in the trenches for years, just waiting for that big break that seems like it’s never going to come. You try to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook, but the numbers just aren’t where you want them to be.

Or, maybe you keep moving the goal posts so you never quite feel like you’ve “made it,” even if you’re well ahead of the game compared to so many others (especially those that have already thrown in the towel). There aren’t too many bloggers who are still around from when I first started taking this thing seriously 14 years ago.

Even among the original “Dot Com Pho” crew here in Vancouver, which was largely made up of online entrepreneurs and bloggers, not too many are still in the game. Most have moved on to more traditional day jobs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course. It’s just a different path.

The Biggest Dreams

There’s nothing inherently wrong with ambition. You will not achieve great things unless you dare to dream big. Whatever “success” looks like to you can be set as a goal, whether that’s earning a certain amount of money each month, reaching an audience of a certain size, claiming the top spot as an Amazon best seller… the actual metrics are completely up to you. However, we mustn’t equate our aspirations with our expectations.

I want to make it big on YouTube. I want to have a million subscribers and have every video break one million views. And, for a time, I worked on these big goals as if they were feasible… because, on some level, they are. Anything is possible in the age of digital lifestyles and social media. If you don’t dare to dream big, you’ll never give yourself the opportunity to make it big.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I expected to get a million subscribers. Aspirations and expectations don’t need to align, necessarily, so long as you go about such endeavors with the right mindset. Dream big, and work toward getting there, but don’t necessarily expect that you’ll ever get there.

Reframing Your Mindset

It’s a strange twist of mentality, and one that will take some time to internalize, but it’s worth approaching. Lowered expectations on their own will lead to mediocre results. Lofty aspirations on their own are probably going to lead to disappointment.

But, if you just make the thing, combining great aspirations with tempered expectations, you give yourself the chance to open the door when opportunity knocks. Because you never know when that might happen.