Next Level(s): Achieved

Aaron Hoos

It’s been an interesting few months.

I’ve felt for a little while like I was stuck in my business. Not in a terrible way; not that my business was doing poorly; rather, I was doing well and wanted to grow more… yet, I felt I was hitting my head on a ceiling of what I could achieve.

There was growth (i.e. I hired a writer in the fall of 2017, and another one in the spring of 2018). But it was slow progress, in the same way that inflation rises by a small, predictable level every year. I didn’t just want predictable growth, I wanted to push for more.

And then suddenly it happened.

… And then a second time.

… And then a third time.

Three “new levels” in three months; very rapid growth that, each time, took me to perceptibly higher levels in my business that I could barely fathom the month earlier.

A Chronicle Of Three Unexpected Level-Ups

The first one: December 2018 was the first big turning point! I’d come back from a client’s event and was working with a client and a consultant he’d hired to grow his business. Together, the three of us put a plan in place that required a lot of work. Frankly, I had no idea how much work it was and I had to work VERY HARD (and very, very long hours) through December to achieve what I had committed to.

I thought I’d reached my absolute maximum capacity in the days before Christmas. Then I took Christmas day off and jumped back in on the 26th—not because I wanted to but because I was falling far behind and hated that so many people were relying on me yet I was struggling to keep up.

But then something happened: After Christmas, it was almost as if I’d reached a new level. Perceptibly.

I cranked out work like never before, while also getting back to a sense of balance and structure that I’d lost in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It was amazing (and also very hard to describe beyond the words “next level”, which I realize is over-used but highly applicable).

The second one: Then, as I worked through January, the projects picked up again and I pushed hard a second time in order to hit some deadlines, especially in preparation of an upcoming trip… and it happened again: a perceptible shift even higher, achieving an ability to work with a higher level of focus to create even more work (while also still maintaining the structure/balance that I want in my life).

The third one: Then it happened a third time in early February: A client hired a few staff to work with me (a couple of assistants and a couple of graphic designers) on his payroll, but directed by me to create content for him. This pushed me a third time beyond what I thought I was capable of to create more content in less time by coordinating with several team members to produce great stuff.

Thoughts About Growing To The Next Level

Why am I telling you this? Mostly it’s because I’m processing it in my own mind right now. I’m trying to quantify what happened, when it happened, and how it happened. So far, all I’ve been able to identify is this: in both recent cases, I stretched myself beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving to discover the thing I’ve been trying to attain for a while.

In each case, I was FORCED to go beyond what I was comfortable or what I wanted to do; FORCED to push hard… even beyond what I thought was my breaking point. (Of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise, right? After all, that’s how a muscle grows.)

An Early Reflection On Levels

What I’ve written below is a post that I posted on Facebook earlier this year. It was an early reflection of that first levelling-up in late December. I’m sharing it now because it’s neat to read this early reflection and I think the lessons are still applicable now.

#1. Growth means a new level above what you can even fathom. If you told me last year what my business would be like now, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here it is. Yes, I had a vision for my business but it still grows in unfathomable ways. It’s like driving in the fog. You know where you want to go, but you can only see a few feet in front of you at a time. You drive anyway, hope you don’t crash into anything, and, if you’re careful, you’ll likely get where you want to go.

#2. When you push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of, you force yourself to create a solution. It’s the real-life version of the often-quoted phrase: “jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down.” This week I set a daily goal in my business that was higher than I ever thought possible. (Even last week I thought it was impossible). But, since setting that goal, I’ve surpassed it one day and almost achieved it another day… *but* the strategies I’ve developed in just 2 days have suddenly made this “not-possible” goal surprisingly possible. It used to be an aspirational dream to hit this goal, and now I have the practical tools to do it because I forced myself to figure it out.

#3. Be methodical. The things I thought weren’t possible have become possible because of one thing: I broke down my impossible goal into tiny steps and then figured out how to achieve each tiny step. It works. I run a checklist of activities everyday that move me in the right direction. As a result, even though I hit my goal one day and missed it the other day, I’ve got more done in the past 2 days than I used to do all week. Part of that process is scripting everything in my workday and eliminating the open-endedness that so easily distracts from productivity.

#4. Cut what’s not working… but balance that against patient building. This one is tricky! It’s the lesson I’m learning right now. On the one hand you have to eliminate the stuff in your business that is not working so you can focus on the clients and activities that deliver for you. On the other hand, there’s something about patiently building something brick-by-brick, knowing that it may not pay off now or in the next couple of years but will do so in the distant future. There’s a tension there I’m trying to work through to understand what can be cut and what should be patiently pursued.

What’s The Next Level?

Three levels in three months. It’s been a wild ride. I love it and it’s thrillingly terrifying each time, especially since I think I know what I want to come next in my business but each time these perceptible leaps are far beyond and far better than I could even imagine.

I’m now thinking: can I force it? Each time has felt almost accidental and beyond my control but is it possible to force the next level? Is it possible to push myself harder than ever to bring it about without the external pressure applied by clients or deadlines? Or does it only come from outside pressure like a piece of coal crushed into a diamond?

I’m about to find out because in March I’m going to see if I can force myself beyond what I think I can do again.

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.