As far as creators go, it’s hard to argue that Matt D’Avella is pretty successful.
On YouTube, he has more than 3.5 million subscribers.
His podcast, which he produced from 2017-2019, has more than two million downloads.
His newsletter is read weekly by more than 145,000 subscribers.
Oh, and he’s also produced two documentaries on Netflix, most notably, The Minimalists.
Throw in his courses, community, and other products and that adds up to a lot of successful creative projects.
So what’s his secret?
According to Matt, it all boils down to what he calls The Three Year Rule.
The rule is simple.
“If you’re going to do something, plan to do it for 3 years.”
The actual number of years is somewhat arbitrary, but the idea behind the rule shows up again and again in the mindsets and approaches of successful creators.
Josh and Tommy of The Daily Talk Show, who Matt features in his video on The Three Year Rule, started their podcast with a commitment to do it for 5 years (which they later upgraded to 10) before assessing whether it was worth continuing.
Danny Miranda has been steadily building his podcast based on a similar 10-year commitment.
Tiago Forte, creator of the multi-million dollar online course (and now book) Building A Second Brain has shared that the first nine cohorts of his course, spread across 5 years, were essentially all beta versions.
The list goes on and on.
In fact, perhaps the most reliable predictor of creative success is how long you’re willing to consistently commit the majority of your focus to a single project.
The reason is simple.
Every creative project presents its own unique learning curve that must be ascended before it starts delivering significant returns.
In my experience, it often takes at least a year to figure out the mechanics of the project.
With a podcast, that means finding your voice as a host, learning how to present the content in a compelling way, and mastering the editing and production style.
It then often takes an additional year or more of experimentation to figure out how to effectively market the project.
Every project is different after all, and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another.
Even then, once you’ve figured out how to effectively market your work, it will likely take an additional several years for it to permeate your niche or industry.
This is all normal.
It’s how it’s supposed to work.
A three-year (or longer!) commitment to a project expects and accounts for this learning curve.
A long-term view has the added bonus of diffusing the risk, pressure, and stress that often accompany a creative project like a podcast over the longer time frame, as well as offering an antidote to the comparison game that haunts so many of us as creators.
Sooner or later, share Josh and Tommy, you’re going to have “the humbling experience of realizing that you’re not that great, and there are probably people better than you. But if you can do it the longest then you could still potentially win.”
Of course, none of this is to say you need to adhere to The Three Year rule with every project you pursue.
If you’re producing a podcast that you don’t actually enjoy the process of creating, best to pull the plug and move on to a more fulfilling project.
When it comes to long-term commitments, loving the process is a non-negotiable.
But when it comes to creative success, so is putting in your time.
Best to plan for it in advance.
And set your sights, and expectations, accordingly.