Portland doesn't get a lot of snow.
An occasional dusting, from what I've heard. Maybe an inch or so of slush once in a while.
But this was a weird winter in the U.S., and in mid-Feburary, a storm dumped 12 inches of snow on Portland.
That evening, a couple of students at Reed College decided it would be fun to make a snowball.
As they rolled the snowball across the quad, it started to gain mass. 100 pounds, then 200 pounds… As they strained to keep it moving, it grew and grew until it was nearly 900 pounds and almost 4 feet in diameter.
Then the inevitable happened.
Gravity took over, and the boulder of packed snow started to roll down the hill under its own momentum.
It ground its way down a path, faster and faster, until it finally smashed into a nearby apartment building, cracking a bedroom wall and startling the occupants.
That reminds me of how real breakthroughs happen.
You work at something, maybe for a long time. Nothing seems to happen at first, or maybe you see just a little progress.
You keep at it, though, even when you're discouraged and you wonder if you're wasting the hours you're pouring into this undertaking.
And then suddenly, almost out of nowhere … breakthrough. Something totally unexpected happens. Things come together in a way you couldn't possibly have anticipated, and you're propelled forward so fast your head spins.
I've seen this pattern time and time again over the last few years.
It's gotten to the point now where, when I'm feeling really discouraged, I start to look around and wonder when the breakthrough will happen.
It always does.
In fact, I had one just this week.
For two years now, I've been grinding away at learning to write and sell books on the interwebs. Struggling to improve my writing process. Studying copywriting. Losing my shirt buying ads that didn't sell any books.
I'm enjoying this learning process, but more often than not it feels like I'm going nowhere. The past few months, I've felt like my progress has completely stalled. My book income is stagnant, and my other projects have been struggling as well.
Then couple of weeks ago, I get a tweet out of nowhere:
“Hi Josh! I'm looking for help with a new project on SitePoint and think you'd be a great fit.”
Intrigued, I followed up.
As it turns out, the tweet was from the editor in chief for SitePoint.com, one of the largest web design and development blogs on the Internet.
She was looking for someone who might be interested in serving as editor of their business channel, and she wondered if I was interested in the (part-time) position.
Let's see … Would I like the opportunity to write articles about a topic I'm deeply interested in, on one of the biggest sites on the Internet, while networking with highly successful entrepreneurs and marketers who I've been following for years … And get paid as part of the deal?
So I turned it down … I kid.
When we met on Skype to discuss the details, I asked her how she found me. Turns out, she happened to stumble on the Entreprogrammers Podcast, which John Sonmez, Derick Bailey and I just launched a couple of weeks ago.
What's the point?
You can't foresee where your breaks are going to come from.
But know this: If you show up every day and keep doing the little things, the breaks will come.
They will surprise you.
And the results won't be subtle–they'll come in multiples of 10 or 10,000.
If you're interested in learning more about how breakthroughs happen, I highly recommend So Good They Can't Ignore You (affiliate link). It's an interesting look at how consistency and practice leads to success–not “following your passion.”