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The importance of celebrating success. And why it is so hard for indies.

August 1, 2019

indiedev milestones business performance lifestyle mindset

Dislaimer: this post was written on August 1st, just a couple days before YouTube decided to revoke YT Tracker’s API access, effectivelly making my life hell until I get the situation fixed. I didn’t update this blog post on purpose to make sure my mindset at the time of writing is captured as it was, stays intact and doesn’t get biaised by events that occurs later. Happy reading.

July 2019 just ended and I smashed my previous all-time-high revenue generated on the AppStore. For the first time, my indie revenues reached a milestone I have been aiming for since I quit my job to dedicate myself fully to my apps. This July I earned more than my monthly income when I still had a corporate job.

This is a major milestone towards my larger goal to build a lifestyle business and free myself from the need to sell time for money, be it to a company or freelance clients.

It effectively took one year. Last year yesterday I was quitting my job and a promising career to embark on an entrepeneurial journey and a rather bumpy road to freedom. And I have to be honest, if someone had told me I would reach this within the first twelve months, I wouldn’t have believed it.

When I left my job at the end of July 2018, I was not confident I’d sustain more than a quarter before diving back into job hunting to stop seeing my savings deplete.

So today I should be very happy. But here is the deal, and it might sound arrogant or difficult to believe, but I didn’t manage to feel ‘happy’ about July’s success.

It didn’t sound right to feel this way so I thought I’d lay down the reasons why I felt like that.

Why is it so hard to celebrate success?

1. The curse of the first day of the month.

When you essentially get paid everyday, the first day of the month is psychologically setting the tone for the rest of the month. I’m trying hard to stop checking my proceeds every morning when I wake up and instead adopt a more long-term mindset. But honestly, it’s still one of the hardest things for me since I decided to get indie full-time.

Imagine your salary would get paid to your account everday and it would also vary significantly everday… would you manage to not look and wait two weeks or even a month to check how much you got paid overall? Personally I can’t.

So each first day of the month puts me in a weird mode. A bad (sales) day to begin the month can really impact my motivation. I know it’s a stupid mindset and it just brings some unecessary stress, yet many iOS developers in my close network struggle with the same issue.

2. If you don’t, no one will.

When you work alone, celebrating success is harder because you need to be the one deciding that it’s time to celebrate. You won’t get an email from your boss who heard your latest results and wants to congratulate you. You won’t get a breakfast offered by your colleagues or clients because you just delivered a big project. You won’t have a summer party or a team outing organized every year to reflect on the work achieved within the last few months. All these things aren’t done for you when you’re a solo-founder. So unless you take action yourself, they don’t happen at all.

Personally, in the last 12 months, the only major milestones I can recall were shared on my @edouard_iosdev on IG. They generated quite a big wave of comments, nice messages and cheerful thoughts which made me feel really good. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you may be part of the folks celebrating these moments with me on Instagram. That said, celebrating online doesn’t have the same effect as taking a step back and celebrating in real-life.

Since there is always more work to do and more things to achieve, celebrating generally falls back quite low in the list of priorities. And that’s a mistake many of us make.

3. The endless buckets of issues and todos.

No matter what you did yesterday, there will always be things to do tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if you fixed the biggest bug, launched the biggest update, made the biggest sale, hired the best freelancer, had the best new idea… tomorrow is a new day and you will have things to do.

To bring it back to how I felt today, the fact that I reached my all-time-high in July is very quickly eclipsed by the next challenges I’ll be facing in August.

  • YouTube’s API is changing in a way that will impact my main app and main income stream. This brings stressful thoughts on a daily basis.
  • For the first time, I’m starting to get server and backend scalability issues because my user base is growing faster than I thought it would. Arguably, this is a great problem to have, I definitely don’t deny that. But when you rely on Google and YouTube’s data to power your service, there is always a part of you that stresses about how dependent you are on giants for whom you are nothing.
  • iOS13’s general availability rollout is getting closer and closer and I haven’t had time to dive into the new features I want to support in September.
  • I hate the idea that my revenues could drop significantly in August if my product’s features get impacted by external factors, and that’s constantly bugging me. This feeling is even stronger when I’m on holiday and not actually spending time working on my product.
  • My roadmap is packed with features for YT Tracker. YT Sticker is due for an update that will bring much more value to users after a successful v1.0 launch. My idea bucket is full of app I want to build and I can’t get myself to dedicate time to them.

There is always more to do and it’s very hard to stop when you see this mountain of work in front of you.

Many will say “Stop being such a workaholic, you put this mountain in front of you, nobody asked you to, now deal with it” and they would be right. Being solo-founder is also that. You set your own goals, define your own priorities and write your own todos. Having nothing to do should be a major red flag and should scare the hell out of you. Providing each item is coming from carefully selected priorities that can impact your business in a meaningful way, having a chunky to-do list is generally healthy.

Why is it so important to celebrate successes?

1. Celebrating feels good.

When you set goals for yourself and achieve them dopamine is released in your brain and you feel good. As a result you want more of that and that creates a virtuous circle.

2. It is good for motivation

Running a business is like running a marathon. You will need to reach hundreds of milestones, no matter how small they are. Staying motivated on your way up will be crucial if you’re in for the long game.

3. It is good for knowledge & creativity

Taking a step back and reflecting on what you achieved is also important to learn from your own experience. Making sure you separate the things that worked from the things that didn’t is also super important as your success cannot simply be attributed to an overall period spent working. Some things you did contributed directly to your success, others simply didn’t work as expected and your job is to make sure they turn into a learning experiences. If you found something that didn’t work, you effectily saved yourself some time in the future since you won’t have to repeat trying it out.

4. It will probably prevent yourself from burning out

Taking breaks is good for your own physical and mental health. If you’re like me and had a 9-5 job before, you will probably agree that launching a business leads to longer working hours (at least initially) and less holidays taken. It also feels weird to stop and take time off.

Personally the first few times I took ‘days off’, I had mixed feelings. On one hand it felt amazing to not have to get holidays approved or to be limited to a certain amount of days per year. But on the other hand it felt weird and uncomfortable to stop working, knowing that in my absence, nothing would get done.

It’s also great for productivity and creativity. Celebrating milestones by taking breaks will allow you to pause and think about your next steps, give your brain some space, regain focus and get back to work with a clear mindset ready to knock off the next targets. I definitely do not apply this one enough, but I will in the future hopefully. #alwayslearning

Wrapping up

So what am I undertaking to get better at celebrating successes and milestones?

Writing this post is my way to force myself to pause and think. As I’m writing these words, it already makes me feel better about this “achievements vs. future challenges” situation.

Blogging might be a form of therapy for solo-founders who do not necessarily have colleagues to share these things with. Family and friends can help to some extent but they can never fully understand the intricacies of what you do like colleagues, peers or business partners would. That’s the difference between supporting someone who runs a business and running the business itself.

There are other things I’m currently doing to learn the skill of celebrating success.

Instead of tracking my progress month on month, I’m starting to look at the average growth over the last 30 / 90 / 365 days… It gives a different approach to your progress and it’s motivating to see that the business is growing. That said, I still haven’t managed to stop looking at my daily proceeds. If you have tips on how to improve my mindset on this front, I’m all ears. DM me Instagram or on Twitter. and let’s talk about it.

I also talked about my goals to my girlfriend, friends and family and openly asked them to help me celebrate these milestones “in real life” to create memories that I will be able to look back at and feel happy about.

What about you? How do you celebrate your success? Did you learn something from this post? If so, please think about one person that could benefit from reading it and share it with him/her.

If you have any questions about this article and/or if you want to get in touch, you can find me on Instagram here or on Twitter here.

Til next time, code on!

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