Creating Content is Creating Startups with Lower Stakes

One Friday afternoon, you have an idea.

During the next two days, something takes over you. You barely recognize yourself. You barely lift your head from the keyboard. On Monday, you come out with a prototype.

You made the prototype to convince yourself that you could do it. But some show interest. You start thinking you could work on this one more weekend.


The idea now occupies your mind, so it occupies your time. You’re tired of working for someone else. You think maybe you can make something out of this. So you look to expand.

To reach people, you need to build trust. To build trust, you need to reach people. You get stuck in beginner hell.

There are some who make a living out of believing in people like you. So you look for one to give you some of their resources and put you in the spotlight. Through a mix of ability, luck, and persistence, you find one, and their belief in you gives you a kick start.

You gain some traction, and it becomes that little bit easier to believe in yourself. You know, however, that traction is feeble. Earlier, you were scared of never getting it. Now you’re scared of losing it. You start thinking maybe you’ll never stop being scared of something.

You reach a plateau. Could it be that there’s just not a big enough market for your product? So you make slight alterations, or change it completely. You get nervous, because there’s people who have invested in you. And even if they’re not many, there’s people who like what you do, just the way it is. They are your early adopters, you have an attachment to them, you’re grateful to them. But you grind your teeth and experiment. You make some angry, hoping you’ll make many others happy.

Some days you want to quit. Some days you question whether you really had to get into this. You question whether it was worth your time, and all the stress that it’s put on you. You think about everything else that you could have done. You think about the time you had to spend away from your partner.

But you know that fortune favors the persistent, so you show up to work every day.

End: Apotheosis

Your work starts to compound. The trust you so desperately wanted and needed finally shows up, and builds itself faster and faster. People start talking about you to other people. Thanks to network effects, there’s more interest in you than you can handle. You feel the pressure to deliver. But now you have a track record, you know you can deliver. So you do.

Others join your cause, and you realize that you don’t have to do so much busywork after all. Your time is freed up so that you can spend it on the things that matter. The larger vision, the big pieces. You’re the face of the project, but really, it’s a team effort.

You have all you think you needed. Except more happiness. So you want to spend time on what matters to you. You want to create again, contribute again, discover yourself again. As your reputation and revenue reach escape velocity, you make your exit.

End: Retreat

Your work stands still. The trust you so desperately wanted and needed came dripping as if through a straw, and never broke through. Some get value from what you do. But like a town that has no roads leading out, you feel like you can’t push further no matter what. These are the limits of your world.

You realize your days are filled with samey busywork, because you can’t afford to offload it to someone else. Since your creation is not growing, the work takes a toll. While you try to be grateful for the experience you’ve gained, you understand the effort is not worth the return. You started with the understanding that one day, it’d make sense to do this full-time. But now, you realize you will never reach that stage. Not like this. You close up shop, and go back to the life you had before.

Until, one Friday afternoon, you have another idea.