WDS Episode #3: The Swan Effect

My recap of the World Domination Summit continues! If you missed episodes one or two, you can find those in TheMillionTo1Club blog! 

This week I wanted to write about a fantastic talk given by Vanessa Van Edwards of Science of People (which, if you’ve never heard of – I hadn’t, either – you should definitely check out). It’s basically a resource for making life less awkward, so, yeah, everyone needs it.

Anywho, my absolute favorite thing about Vanessa’s talk was that it was EXACTLY the kind of talk I decided a long time ago I would give if I we ever invited to share about my “success,” whether that be as a writer, or an entrepreneur, or something else.

Her talk was about telling the truth. Or, in other words, dispelling “The Swan Effect.” What’s the Swan Effect? It refers to the idea that, on the surface, you see a beautiful swan gliding peacefully across the water, but – just under the surface, ugly feet are paddling like crazy.  

Because that’s how successful people (or at least the inspiring, relatable successful people) become successful. Their journey has some ugly bits and a whole lot of work goes into propelling them from Point A to B.

To illustrate the effect, Vanessa pulled up her Twitter Account to show off thousands of followers.

              “Looks like a nice swan, doesn’t it?”

For, me, someone who’s just dipped their toes into the murky waters of social media…yeah, yeah, that does look like a swan.

              “Well, look again. Look at the date. I started using Twitter ten years ago. It took almost ten years to blow on social media. And guess what else? I’ve made zero dollars.”

Alarm. Then relief. Then more alarm. Ten years is a long ass time.  

              “See all those YouTube subscribers? It took almost nine years for me to gain traction on YouTube. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and made zero from those videos.”       

WHAT? Now you’re probably like, wait, is this person actually successful? And the answer is yes. She’s published multiple books and done a TedTalk (watch it!). She’s got a loyal following and is in demand as a speaker and coach at conferences and corporations.  

And yet…those revelations aren’t pretty. Ten years to really get going? Zero dollars? Could we go as far as to say that sounds a lot like…failing?

Van Edwards said something very important to audience full of people hoping to build successful, impactful brands. She said:

“Shame fuels the fire of worry. And worrying isn’t an investment in failure protection. Failure still happens.”

And failure is part of the climb.

I found her revelations so very comforting, because they affirm what I think most of us suspect.

The goals that matter most to us – the ones that guide our lives and work – will simply take time and consistent effort. Lots of time, and lots of effort.

There’s no magic pill. There’s no shortcut to real significance. And there’s really no shame in failure.  

When you fail, you know you tried, and that means you’re moving forward.

And what’s the rush? Enjoy the climb.