Silver Bullets vs Lead Bullets

Are you building a company and wishing it was easier?

This is me. I’m building my company, trying to grow it, trying to do better work. And I am trying to do it while working fewer hours, because this is my year of no hustle. I am trying to be less busy.

In my day to day of work and social media perusing, I see a lot of content come across my feed like:

  • 5 tips to take your email list to the next level
  • 8 tricks to building better backlinks
  • 7 simple ways to increase your revenue

These posts drive me 100% absolutely completely crazy. I hate them.

I’ve written them before, yes. Unfortunately, they get clicks.

But they’re diet food. They give us promise that they’ll satisfy us, but we always walk away a bit unfulfilled, a bit hungry.

It reminds me of this quote from Ben Horowitz and some advice he received years ago:

As I excitedly reviewed the plan with my engineering counterpart, Bill Turpin, he looked at me as though I was a little kid who had much to learn. Bill was a long-time veteran of battling Microsoft from his time at Borland and understood what I was trying to do, but remained unconvinced. He said: “Ben, those silver bullets that you and Mike are looking for are fine and good, but our web server is five times slower. There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.” Oh snap.

That quote is also in The Hard Thing About Hard Things, one of my favorite books.

We think we want “the one weird trick I used to double my revenue!”, but actually we want the strategies that person used to discover that thing that moved the needle for them.

We get tricked into glorifying the “overnight successes”, when in reality they’ve been working at refining their craft for years before they had any real success.

Let’s use a large example. Facebook, that behemoth that we love and hate and as marketers have to reckon with all the time.

This image is courtesy of Statista:

Facebook’s revenue in 2017 was over $40 billion. Woah.

But their revenue in 2009, 5-6 years after they launched, was “just” $777 million. They didn’t even really get going with mobile until 2012.

Do you want the one weird trick they used, or do you want their strategy for thinking about where the industry is going and what they would have done differently with their strategy to grow?

I personally want the second one. You don’t get astronomical growth like this without a lot of hard work, taking big bets on things like mobile, and showing up every day to do the work and improve it by at least 1% daily.

You don’t want diet food. You want real food that is healthy for you and ultimately helps you reach your goals.

Ultimately, you want to reach your goals whether in life or in business.

If you’re trying to lose weight and keep it off, no fad diet or cleanse is going to get you there. It’s going to take many lifestyle changes and commitment to eating and cooking better food while also exercising.

If you’re trying to grow your business, you need to commit to strategies that will grow your company while you keep an eye toward the horizon and take advantage of growing trends.

You think you want the quick results, but quick results rarely stick around.

You want the strategies and mindsets that will keep you growing for years to come.

You want lead bullets, not silver bullets.

Yes, I realize that this post is loaded with “bullet” references. I by no means am advocating for guns or gun ownership. I am simply playing off of a metaphor that I have heard many times and has made a big impact on my thinking. And yes I hate that I have to write this disclaimer.