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The Habits of Successful People: Let Your Dream Grow Alongside Your Journey

In my recent travels around Asia, I’ve had the great opportunity to meet a lot of local founders and aspiring entrepreneurs.

A few themes that seemed to come up many times are questions like “What triggered you to become passionate about company culture and transparency?” or “How did you know you wanted to build Buffer to what it is today?”

One of the most memorable moments for me was talking to a super smart lady who is having a lot of success at a large company and longs to work on something more meaningful. She told me this about a friend of hers:

“My friend has her own fashion startup and is doing well. She is so passionate about what she is doing. I want to do a company in fashion too, but I don’t feel like I have the same level of passion as my friend. What should I do?”

There is a lot of advice out there that says “You must be super excited about what you’re working on; otherwise you won’t stick with it.” I think there is a lot of truth in that.

At the same time, if I look back on my own journey, I don’t think that’s how it worked. It would be easy (and incorrect) for me to say that I always imagined creating a company with full transparency and no managers from Day 1. Or for me to say that I had a vision to build a SaaS startup that helps companies solve their social media struggles and reaches 30,000 customers with $5m in annual revenue.

It’s OK to think small at first

The thing is, when I started the company four years ago, I didn’t even start a company. I just had a side project. I had to work full-time for clients to pay the bills. It was almost incomprehensible that I could dream about those things—I had much more immediate needs.

But I did have a little dream. My goal in the earliest days was simply to build something that truly solved a problem for people and make money online with a product. My earnings had always been tied to my time, doing contract and freelance work. I was passionate about moving from that to creating a product that someone would pay for.

Back when I started, having someone pay $5 for my product was as big as the dream got. It didn’t involve having a team, creating a movement around transparency, raising funding or building a unique workplace.

Your dream will form over time

Once I achieved that first dream, my horizon became much clearer. It’s like the fog lifted and I could see ahead and the next dream came into my head. After the first customer paid $5 for Buffer (in the first month we had total revenue of $20), my next goal was to make $1,000 per month so that I could drop my freelance work and focus completely on Buffer. This was the dream I pursued for the next few months.

The dream forms over time. It’s OK if you don’t have a world-changing vision from the beginning. The key is to follow that tiny dream. That little spark, the idea in the very back of your mind.

Once you pursue that, you are on the path to your most meaningful and fulfilling work.

How do your passion and dreams intertwine with your work life, projects and goals? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments.

  • Dominik Bleilevens

    I like your approach of following this tiny little dream.. and that it’s good to have it as a side project at first.
    In my case I’m currently finishing my bachelor degree, meanwhile I’m attending a training ( in which we get taught how to build a great product by using Design Thinking. In the end we will get the opportunity to found a company and get supported by doing that. This is the side project in which I’m investing my time. My ‘tiny little dream’ is to build a company which helps people and has a positive influence on as many lives as possible.

  • David Galloway

    Joel, thank you so much for the awesome insider perspective! I’ve tried to apply the advice to “imagine one’s passion at the 30,000ft view and work down from there”, and while that is certainly a valuable viewpoint I tend to find more resonance in stories like yours where passion grows organically as your product/service matures.

    I guess there are as many paths to fruition as there are avenues of thought. Thank you and all of Buffer for everything you do to empower us all to find our own passion through self-improvement and perseverance.

  • Yuvrajsinh Vaghela

    I mean, this is awesome Joel.

    I know, I’m not going to achieve my goal, overnight !

    I’ve dedicated time in a day, to take a small step, persistently.

    That ‘persistently’, is more important for me.

  • mzzmare

    Wow! Absolutely what I needed to hear Joel. It’s so easy to make the mistake of getting too far ahead of yourself. Then, feeling overwhelmed, one can lose focus, and get lost in the minutiae. Poof! Before you know it, there goes the dream.

  • I have recently begun a blog with the idea of inspiring people to live more passionate, fulfilling lives while discarding the classic path to “adulthood” (i.e.: ‘Pursuing Neverland’). Through the process of simply starting I’ve began to narrow down my idea to tangible products and resources I can create to bring value to peoples lives. Despite this, I still feel like my dreams are a scatter shot and my ideas aren’t feasible. This article has made the process feel a bit more “normal” and not so hopeless. Thanks for sharing, I look forward to reading more insights and chatting with someone about being a rockstar Happiness Hero ;)

  • archie arora

    Wow! Amazing read. Do you know UC web recently launched its reward program for freelancers. here is the news –

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