Why Every Project Worth Doing is U-shaped


When we started our business people told us it would be hard.

I heard it, but didn’t fully understand it until I experienced it—the 70 hour weeks, the constant learning curve and wondering when or if, we’ll ever ‘make it’. They weren’t joking about the highs and lows.

Sometimes in the ‘low’ moments, when you’ve lost out on a job or are pulling your fourth late night in a row, you’ll daydream about throwing it all in for that cushy office job with all the perks like paid holidays, extra disposable income and time to binge watch 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. 

But, in these moments, you need to remember that every project worth doing is U-Shaped. Let me explain what I mean, because I read this advice recently in Todd Henry’s book, Louder Than Words, where he describes a U-shaped path or lifecycle that every creative project follows.

Todd likens the path to walking through a canyon. At the top, you can see the path ahead really clearly. You can see into the canyon and you can see all the way across to the other side. This is the beginning of your journey. At this point you’re full of optimism, your friends and family are cheering you on, you can see where you’re headed, what you want to achieve and you can see the end goal. This road ahead is going to be great! You are going to buy that Range Rover before you know it!

And then you venture into the canyon, and you can no longer see the other side. The path ahead is treacherous and it’s a hard slog, every bit of your body hurts. This is way harder than you thought it would be. You question why you started, what possessed you to even try? 

Maybe your referrals have dried up and that marketing campaign you ran was a flop. You’re wondering if you’re even good at what you do. You think about giving up and turning back, camping here, calling someone to bail you out, but, you’ve come so far. 


So your persist a little longer and finally, you see the path out, the uphill climb. You know that with a little bit of hustle, you can make it out before the sun sets. Your jelly legs somehow make it to the top and you’re in awe, you’re elated. Because you did it. You achieved something awesome.  

I loved this analogy because I think it’s applicable to every challenging project we encounter, including starting and running a business. There’s always a learning curve, a roadblock, an obstacle to overcome.

But, if you can remember that every new project has times of struggle, that everyone is likely to have a low point on their path, when you do encounter it, it’s much easier to persevere because you know that it's temporary and you’re on the right track. You know this is the bottom of your ‘U’ and the only way out is if you keep going, pushing for success. That view is going to be totally worth it!

Where are you in your U? Let me know in the comments.

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