I lost count. That’s probably my 8th site. The other 7 are no longer present. And while I poured my soul into creating this particular website, and I continue to do so, the graph that measures my monthly visits and the number of new course members I get remains disturbingly sSimilar questions circle one’s mind whentill. But it’s not the slow progress that upsets my focus. There is something else beneath the metrics that’s ruining my day – the lack of feedback.
Ever thought about why people stop working on their side hustles? Why do artists who can transform plain white paper into a colorful piece of art throw away their brushes? What unknown force convinces you that it’s no longer necessary to do your work obligations?
Well, I did. A lot.
I wanted to understand why, despite my enormous efforts to create the go-to place for reading books my mind was continuously shouting, “There’s no point in pushing further! Go do something else!”
Why was I feeling uninspired? Depressed?
I knew from the start that it will take time. That I’ll have to write for several years, at least, to get good returns. Yet, there I was, once again, questioning my efforts and my goals with this site. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how this thing that was trying to convince me that I should stop, is the same insidious force that was persuading millions of others around the world to abandon projects and/or end relationships.
What Is The Main Reason You Abandon a Project?
Most folks think it’s the lack of resources. Others are convinced that because they failed at product-market fit. A third group believes it’s because the competitor has a better product.
But often is something else.
Yes, you do need to have a good product. To satisfy a demand. To have an advantage over your competitors. But you also need emotional resilience.
The main reason you quit your boring 9 to 5 job, give up on the project you worked on for years, and even file for divorce is the lack of feedback.
Allow me to explain…
Let’s imagine a typical relationship between a man and a woman. At first, the couple is constantly giving feedback to each other in forms of hugs and kisses. They talk for hours, go out, and are inseparable. At times, they even finish each other sentences – like in the movies.
But after the initial honeymoon phase, after the thrill of the relationship vanished, they start to feel irritated from the smallest thing. Yes, at this stage, even a single unwashed dish can cause an argument.
It’s not so much that they stopped caring for each other, they simply stopped showing it.
Similar things happen when you start a project.
At first, you’re “in love” with the idea you want to materialize. You tell folks around you. You create mockups. You read stories of other people online who did similar things and, of course, succeeded.
All of these things are feeding your enthusiasm, giving you hope and more reasons to start the project. Invest money. And, even purchase online courses that promise to take your idea “to the next level”.
After the initial excitement, though, things start to take a different route. If you’re not part of the lucky 1% who are able to make it big on their product launch date, your passion slowly starts to decline.
Because not getting enough responses from other people about your work sucks.
While in the planning stage the feedback you received was mostly feed by your own desire to create what you wanted to create. When the project is live, you now rely on outside people to encourage you. If good comments are not present – there are few or no orders, no one is liking your photos, people don’t reply to your emails – you start to lose motivation.
That’s why you want to quit and go do something else. Something more exciting. You convince yourself that this new thing will be “way better” and people will love it.
Why Receiving Feedback is Important?
As in a regular 9 to 5 job, if you work for a boss who doesn’t provide feedback, it’s easy to feel directionless. You start to wonder all sorts of things, “Is my performance good enough?”; “Should I focus more on A instead of B?”; “How can I get better at my work?”
Similar questions circle one’s mind when the caresses from their spouse stop, “Does he still love me?”; “Why I’m no longer receiving lovely texts from him?”; “Am I getting older?”
In ancient times, when our ancestors first discovered fire, and even before that, tribes relied on cues from the environment to find food, useful tools, and avoid injuries from wild animals – a.k.a. losing an arm or being killed.
But there is more to that…
From a biological standpoint, it makes sense to anticipate external feedback all the time. After all, the main function of the brain is to keep you well and alive.
During wars, people were constantly alarmed and conscious of their surroundings because they wanted to prevent themselves from being killed or badly injured.
This feedback loop is present all the time in different shapes and forms. Fortunately, getting caught in a crossfire or attacked by a wild animal is unlikely to happen nowadays. Our brains are now mainly worried about not getting validation from our own kind.
If you share a picture online and you get zero or not enough likes – whatever enough means for you – this translates into, “I’m not good enough.” The pressure to be socially accepted, online, can create a lasting feeling of unworthiness.
But measuring your self-worth by the number of likes is not a new discovery.1 Yet, few people realize that the same thing carries over to other important areas in our lives:
- Your spouse is no longer talking to you – that’s why you look for other partners.
- Your boss is rarely talking about your performance – that’s why you want to work for another company.
- Your business is just a dusty place no one enters – that’s why you want to quit and try something else.
No wonder you want to bail out. Go do something else to associate your I, your ego, with something “better” hoping that you’ll get recognition.
That’s also the reason people indulge in careless scrolling. If the project you’re working on is not getting the desired traction you start to doubt your own existence. That’s why we enter the artfully curated social media feeds to feel good about ourselves and escape the harsh reality.
But here’s the interesting part: The more time you can bear working on a project without getting external feedback the higher the chances of this thing to thrive and succeed.
The same applies to your relationships. If you can endure the arguments and don’t seek comfort in other people’s arms (i.e. cheat), you have a chance in creating a long-lasting marriage.
It’s quite a paradox. Half of the brain is logging for positive feedback to feed the ego while the other half is trying to stay reasonable and sane even when the first is not present.
Getting Positive Feedback is The Main Desire of The Brain
But it’s not only projects and relationships. Our brain is constantly seeking for positive cues. After all, the main goal of the body is to keep you alive, and make you feel good. All of this, so you can survive for longer, and pass your genes along.
What does this mean for our long-term goals?
That if you want to make some positive changes in your life it will surely require enduring through long periods that are absent of any feedback – in a lot of cases both good and bad.
Want to lose weight and add a nice six-pack to your abs? It might take you months of starvation and hard exercises. During this transition period, the guy who stares at you back in the mirror is still going to be fat and asymmetrical.
Want to create a profitable online business? Despite praying to Google to show your content a bit higher in the search results you also have to write extremely good essays over a long period of time.
But I’m not here only to warn you about the loneliness and the years of hard work without immediate return. I’m here to help.
Here’s what you can do to make your journey to what you want to become, create, or whatever, a bit more bearable…
How Can You Cope With Not Getting Feedback For Your Project?
Create Visual Feedback Loops
“Don’t break the chain!” said Jerry Seinfeld when asked how he was able to keep delivering amazing jokes to people around the world.2
He’s famous for his practice of writing jokes daily and checking off boxes on a calendar.
Jerry Seinfeld famously said, “Do something related to your craft every day, no matter how small the action is.”
That’s the first tactic that will help you cope with the lack of feedback when you want to create a business or adopt a new habit.
The idea is to create a visual representation of the progress you’re making.
Writing or exercising regularly is a good idea on paper, but you can easily lose motivation when you feel tired or when the weather outside is giving you the blues.
Things feel quite different once you have a graph that shows your progress. You’ll feel obligated to put another checkmark. After all, you don’t want to feel like the previous days were wasted, right?
That’s the simplest strategy you can create, today, to move the needle closer to where you want to go.
Find a Support Group
The second tactic that you can use to handle the dry periods that are absent of feedback is to join a group that will keep you accountable.
I know. You probably heard it before. But having someone waiting for you to get the job done is a butt-kicker. You can handle disappointing yourself in most of the cases. But disappointing someone else? You don’t want to do that.
Temper Your Emotions by Reminding Yourself Why You Started
The reasons you started a project often fades after months or years of execution. You started because you wanted to make reading more available to others? Or, because you wanted to inspire more people to exercise?
Soon enough, though, you forget why your project exists. You are carried away by the daily tasks and “trendy” methods you obsessively try to grow your business.
Your eagerness to make it consumes you thinking and you forget why you’re doing what you’re doing.
I’ve been there. A lot of times.
The emotional pain is so great that it starts to dictate the vast majority of my decisions. From a relatively reasonable person, I become an angry ball of nerves which makes my presence in a room unbearable.
Reminding yourself why you started can be a good way to handle periods of crisis – times when it seems like no one is liking your art.
Probably you wanted to express yourself. To make something cool. To help others. Or an existing tool wasn’t particularly good and you wanted to create a better version for the people around you. Whatever it is, revisit your about section. Write down a manifesto where you explore the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing.3
Some Closing Thoughts
When it comes to making a project successful, your attitude is the most important thing of all.
The initial excitement to start something can be a kicker but the adrenaline rush quickly fades. You have to be prepared for the times when no feedback is present.
Long periods of time without getting any comments about your work can result in a decline in motivation (see more in my post on motivation vs. discipline). But instead of letting the lack of positive vibes dictate the rules. Use this absence to your advantage.
If you still see potential in what you’re doing, don’t give up until you start to see returns. Don’t quit till the “desired” state is reached.
Apply the same principles in everything else that is worthy. If you see potential in your relationship, give feedback to the other party. Show them that you care. Don’t let them wonder, “Am I good enough?” Give input in the form of comments, hugs, and kisses freely. What you get in return will usually be enough to help you handle every obstacle.
Do yourself a favor:
Join Going Further: A 13-day email series on how to keep progressing in a world tirelessly pushing toward regression. Great for people who feel stuck in the endless loop of not doing.