It was a few days before I turned 14.
My parents had just left on a trip, and as I waved them off, I already had plans in place for what I would do later that night.
Soon enough, I turned the lights off, turned the computer on and waited patiently for the 33.6kbps modem to finish its ritual song. (“Pidoom pidoom piii-khrrrrrr!”)
Then, I got to work.
By 7 a.m. the next morning, I was ready to press “Publish” on the website – the first of many to come – that I had spent all night coding by hand.
It was 1999. Before WordPress, before drag & drop and plugins and widgets, it was even before Windows XP. Back then, you either knew how to code or you didn’t have a website.
And I wanted one.
I went deep into the source code of websites I liked to figure out what all those duckbills did (these guys: < >). From then on, I spent all my free time after school to make stuff I saw on my PC screen look like the image I had in my head. Over the years, I got better at it — constantly learning, practising my writing, editing, learning new ways to code, and not giving a damn about learning Flash (which today I thank my intuition for!).
18 years and tens of millions of page views later, I now run an online course business in two languages with 3,000 students, so those hours were well worth my time and energy. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, and back then I had no idea I would end up here.
The point of the story is this:
That single night back in 1999 was pure magic. I had the momentum, I had the motivation, I had the will, and I had no distractions so I could work on the thing I wanted more than anything.
In the 18 years since then I never had a night like that ever again.
I had glimpses of it, yes, and also different types of momentum, but this perfect storm of presence, will and energy never came back. I don’t know if it ever will. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I know I don’t need it to be exactly like that to get where I want to be.
Because if I had waited for the momentum to come back to start working on a project, I would never have achieved anything in my life.
Real success doesn’t come overnight
I started urban:eve in 2008, almost a decade after I ventured out onto the wild wild web. I was 22, at university (as an English major), freshly engaged and in my first own home. All I wanted was to create a space to share the things I was figuring out after moving away from my parents — I wrote about how to clean a toilet, how to cook quick & tasty meals that don’t break the bank, what nail polish I was in love with at the time.
There was no strategy behind the blog, and it wasn’t meant to become a career or to sustain my livelihood. It was a hobby I deeply cared about. One I couldn’t NOT do.
It took a year of writing to reach 81 daily visitors, and on one of the many bad days I could have easily thrown in the towel and declared the project a bust. But my need to share was stronger than my fear of “will anybody even like this“. So I kept writing and pressing publish each and every time. Month by month, year by year, my small community grew until one December I had 150 000 people visit the site.
By 2011, I had my own company based on the blog. I got invited to TV and radio, to write a magazine column, to write a book – a real, hardcover one that would top the Personal Development bestseller charts of Hungarian booksellers. In 2015 I released my first online course, and two more since then.
For a lot of people, I seemingly came out of nowhere. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took a thousand steps, one after the other.
It had to begin with me, hand coding that little website, starting from zero, learning and growing every day. I had to keep on moving, not letting setbacks become the end of my story, instead, I made them stepping stones in my journey.
And now I’m doing it all over again. See, all the above — the blog, the business, the book — was in Hungarian. And now I’m doing the same thing in English — here, on the English incarnation of urban:eve. At first, of course, nobody read this either. But if you are reading this, I’ve already made progress, and I thank you for being here.
And you know that little voice from so long ago, the one that says “what if nobody even likes this“? That’s still here, and I don’t think it will ever go away. But as long as my will to keep writing is stronger, I know I will be fine.
A toolset for the harder times
I know this truth through growing my blog, but it’s true for any career or life path: whatever your goals are, you will have hard times. And, every once in a while, life will throw curveballs that tip you off balance.
In times like that, it’s hard to muster up the momentum, motivation, and will you need to move forward. And it’s easy to get stuck and feel like the only thing you can do is give up.
Common self-help lingo has little to offer other than telling you to “Just do it!”, or “Keep going!”, and that’s not really helpful when you don’t know the “how”. You need specific tools you can turn to so you can get yourself back on track — or just off the ground.
These tools are what I talked about this week on the latest episode of Dare To Dream Bigger, a podcast run by author and business mentor Clare Josa. Clare has spent the past 15 years working with entrepreneurs all over the world, and last year, she asked me to share my journey in her book. On the first anniversary of the book’s release, Clare invited me to talk more about my journey, the “overnight success” 18 years in the making, and how I keep working towards my goals even when the going gets rough.
In the episode, we talked about:
Why anger is actually more useful than apathy when you’re stuck
Why your definition of ‘success’, ‘happiness’ or ‘your role in life’ can’t come from anyone but you
Why showing up and being visible is important even if you’re so scared you’re shaking
Why walking your path for a long time requires you to stay humble and keep reinventing yourself
The two sentences that have helped me get up from the floor over and over again
Why the common inspirational quote of “Just keep going” doesn’t work when you’re truly stuck — especially when you’re in the middle of a big life change
What questions to ask yourself when you’re stuck in your Swamp of Misery
Why you need be careful when selecting the people you share your goals and dreams with
The exact techniques we used to keep going when my husband & I implemented the biggest change in our lives — moving ourselves and our business 1500 miles from Hungary to the UK
Why it’s not selfish to be proud of yourself
How to avoid the comparison trap — and the one comparison that does matter and is healthy :)
And finally, why you shouldn’t try to avoid mistakes (and what to do instead)
(And while the episode is called “The Key to Overnight Success“, the point is how no real success comes overnight, but rather depends on whether you can keep going when the going gets rough.)
So if you feel like you’re in your personal Swamp of Misery and need a helping hand to climb out, or thinking about starting down a new path in life (like starting a side business, launching a blog, or chasing up a long-buried dream) and want to prepare for the road ahead, the tools in this podcast will help you in your journey.
As always, I’d love to know what you think! What’s the technique you’ll add to your “keep going” toolset? Let me know in the comments below. :)
And thank you for being here and being part of my journey. ♥