November 2, 2023

Getting over the hump


In the beginning of any endeavor, you rarely have enough data to draw significant conclusions about performance.

There’s always going to be a learning phase while you’re new. The goal is to acquire enough repetitions to get over the hump and optimize your way into fruitful territory.

I have a friend who’s switching careers right now, and he’s struggling to get traction with his job applications. Four weeks of searching and not a single callback.

And his initial thought was that his materials weren’t positioned properly. Between his portfolio, cover letter and resume, he’s been wondering if his package isn’t compelling enough to earn a conversation with a hiring manager.

That’s possible. But another explanation is less about marketing and more about math. It could be that he simply doesn’t have enough of a dataset to know for sure. Hell, it’s only been a month, and finding a new job requires a certain volume of outreach to bear fruit.

Consider the recent numbers from a popular job search website. On average, it takes between twenty to eighty job applications to get one offer. If you’re submitting two per day, then it’s going to take you a minimum of two to four weeks before getting any traction.

Which means prior to hitting that critical number, there’s virtually no way to attribute the lack of response to your resume, or to your limited data set.

For this reason, in my job searches over the years, I’ve historically submitted fifty to a hundred job applications each day. By exponentially increasing my activity level, I’m able to learn what’s working faster, and ultimately book a ton of interviews.

Many are wrong for me, but that’s okay. It’s part of the process. That’s what happening when you treat a job search like a marketing campaign. You’re just building a pipeline. Creating a funnel. Playing the numbers. Boosting volume to tip the odds in your favor. Creating a tight feedback loop so you can iterate on the fly.

Anyone who’s ever worked in marketing before can relate to this principle. Because in a given digital campaign, each time an advertisement is shown, the ad delivery system learns more about the ideal audience and places to show the ad. The more that your ad is shown, the smarter the algorithm becomes at optimizing its performance.

And once you exit the learning phase at around fifty or so optimization events, performance finally stabilizes. Only then will you be able to draw significant conclusions about your performance.

What project in your life would benefit from more repetitions? Where do you need to put in an exponential activity level?

I’m reminded of a mantra my mentor gave, one that I’ve repeated to every team I’ve ever worked on:

You haven’t written enough to know what kind of writer you are yet.

The vast majority of creatives don’t understand the implications of this principle. They do low output work and wonder why they’re not learning and growing.

But volume is the key differentiator. They’ve got to throw a lot of spaghetti against the wall to know which noodles are the most firm. Otherwise the learning phase will take too long.

It’s one of the reasons I advocate for more rather than less when it comes to shipping creative work. The more you practice your craft, the more you believe in yourself. The more things you put out into the world, the more feedback you gain about your value. Both of which equip you to optimize toward your ultimate goals.

Now, this level of speed and volume might result in a temporary drop in quality, but that’s the small price to pay for getting out of the learning phase. Sometimes you have to eat shit in the beginning of the process, if only to gain the necessary perspective and skill so you can consistently elevate your execution down the road.

Beatles fans know this well. The reason every album the fab four made was a classic is because by the time they officially launched their careers, they had already written enough to know what kind of writers they were.

The lads spent those two fateful years playing at strip clubs, three sets a night, eight days a week, which honed their performance skills and ultimately led to the first recording. Nobody’s first album was better than theirs, because they gave themselves a running start. They exponentially increased their activity level.

If you’re struggling right now to get over the hump in some kind of endeavor, my recommendation is to lean into the power of volume. Trust the math. Play the numbers. Boosting volume to tip the odds in your favor.

A tight feedback loop will help you iterate on the fly and grow faster. Use velocity and volume to afforded you opportunities that most others will never get.

Give yourself numerous interfaces to run into the wall and have faith that amazing things will happen.

And remember, this isn’t to suggest that evolution is a hackable element. There are no shortcuts to success.

Somebody somewhere has to put in the time.

But it is possible to unlock new levels of growth through dramatically increasing your output.

What project in your life would benefit from more repetitions?