Growth Memo – Pep Talk To Myself (Vol 1)

Today’s newsletter is a pep talk to myself.

A self-therapy session, if you like.

And I really need it…

See, I’ve got a bad case of the “6 Month Slump”.

In other words...

I started a new project, got it out the door, but then....

The novelty wears off, growth is slow, and I start feeling dissatisfied with everything I'm doing.

That's where I am right now with this newsletter.


Luckily, I’ve been here before.

And so in this newsletter, you’ll be a fly on the wall as “Wise Olly” talks “Dumb Olly” down off the edge of the rooftop, with soothing words, sage advice, and a dose of tough love.

Read this if:

  • You impatient about growth
  • You feel in a rut
  • You’re early-stage in a new business

Buckle up…

Oh, and I might start a free community. Want in? I’ll tell you about it later on.

State Of My Newsletter

Website pic

To kick off, let me tell you about where the newsletter is at.

As of mid-March 2023, we’re about 3 months old and this is issue #11.

(Don’t you just love the royal “We”? Makes one feel so much more important than one is.)

We have 2,668 subscribers and an average open rate of 59.6%.

Although the newsletter only launched 3 months ago, I’ve really been working on it for 6 months, as I spent end of 2022 writing my $10MM Case Study.

(That was a piece of work, let me tell you…)


  • The case study is having a significant impact. Many of you have been passing it around, sending it to friends, which I’m extremely grateful for. It was a great decision to write that document, as it’s turning out to be the perfect positioning.
  • I feel like my content is landing well, and I’ve been getting a lot of engagement from my ideal audience, which is 6-7 figure entrepreneurs running online education businesses.
  • My writing style hasn’t quite bedded down yet. I’m trying something new in every issue. That will probably keep evolving.
  • I’m not offering anything for sale. Nor do I plan to. However, this is causing a few issues, which I’ll come to later.

(I talk about my high-level strategy for the newsletter here, if you’re interested.)


Everything’s looking good. Frankly, if you’d told me back in 2022 that this is where the newsletter would be after 3 months, I’d have taken it!

So, what seems to be the problem? 

The 6-Month Slump

Truth is, I’m restless.

And dissatisfied.

Here’s why:

  • My growth strategy is plateauing
  • Unfinished things are bugging me
  • I’ve started comparing myself to others
  • My “business” model is out of alignment

First, Dumb Olly will explain each of these, so you have a little more detail.

Then, Wise Olly will give myself a pep talk to get my head straight.

Lastly, I’ll draw some conclusions and tell you about the growth strategy that I’ll adopt for the next 6-12 months.

If you’re struggling with motivation or direction, then I’ll bet you a dollar to a doughnut that you’ll find something useful in here.

After all, this “6-Month Slump” is entirely predictable…

I’ve been through it before…

And I really should know better.

1. My Growth Strategy Is Plateauing

So far, I’ve been growing my newsletter in three main ways:

After three months, here’s what I can say:

  • Facebook Ads - Just too expensive. I’m paying $5-7 per lead, which isn’t a disaster, but the quality is terrible. 10-15% open rates, low deliverability, high unsubscribes. The true cost per lead is probably more like $25.
  • Twitter and LinkedIn - I’m putting a tonne of effort into these, and I’m sure that building an audience here will be super valuable. (Creators like Justin Welsch have launched big newsletters solely off the back of their social following). But it just takes time. This is a long slow burn.
  • Newsletter Sponsorships - This is a bit of a golden goose. I’m getting top-notch leads for $2-8. But… as soon as I stray from newsletters with “good-fit” audiences, the CPL skyrockets to $50-100. In short, there’s not enough inventory, and it won’t scale.

Of course, this is all in addition to the organic, word-of-mouth growth that any good content receives.

In summary:

It’s proving difficult to find ways to scale growth in this early stage.

2. Unfinished Things Are Bugging Me

There’s more:

There are a whole bunch of things across my newsletter that have started bugging me:

  • Landing page copy isn’t tight enough
  • Branding feels uninteresting and not memorable
  • My email templates are bare and have no design
  • I have little insight or data on my subscribers
  • YouTube thumbnails look cheap. (They are. I’m making them in Canva myself.)

Now, here’s the thing…

I very intentionally didn’t spend any time on this stuff at the beginning!

None of this stuff matters one iota compared with just getting the damn thing out the door.

And, in large part, the fact the newsletter is where it is today is precisely because I didn’t waste time on any of that stuff beyond the bare minimum.

And yet…

After 10 weeks…

It’s all starting to bug me.

Go figure!

3. I’ve Started Comparing Myself To Others

But wait! There’s more!

I’m doing it again…

Comparing myself to others.

“Why don’t I have 250,000 newsletter subscribers like Sahil Bloom?”

Dan Koe has 300,000 Twitter followers. Why do I only have 51?”

Well, sonny…

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I only started 3 months ago!?

I don’t like that I’m falling into the comparison trap already. I s’pose it just goes to show that it’s a constant battle, and no-one is immune.

4. My “Business” Model Feels Out Of Alignment

This one is trickier…

I started this newsletter for one basic reason:

My faith in the value of future audience.

Which is to say, over the next 5-10 years, having an audience of entrepreneurs who want to learn from me will give me countless options:

  • Seeding customers for a new business
  • Mentorship and advisory
  • Selling sponsorships for the newsletter

I have no idea which route I’ll go down.

But what I do know is that I’m building the audience for the future, not for now, hence why I’m intentionally not selling anything:

  1. I don’t need the money
  2. I don’t want to create a new “job” for myself
  3. It will allow me to focus more on quality content


I’ve been getting a lot of emails each week with requests for paid offerings, coaching, etc:

Offerings or program

And this creates an uncomfortable dynamic for me…

See, I’m a teacher.

I’ve always been a teacher.

And yet here I am — writing a newsletter with the specific aim of helping entrepreneurs, and then turning down people who send requests for help.

It’s bad energy, and out of alignment.


There we have it…

I’m in a slump.

So, Wise Olly…

Any words of wisdom for me?

Wise Olly Chimes In…

online business strategy

So, let's summarise what’s going on;

  1. You’re impatient for growth
  2. You’re dissatisfied with parts of your business
  3. You’re comparing yourself to others
  4. You’re not sure about your business model

See, when you put it like that…

Welcome to the club!

What you’ve described is what everyone goes through in the early stages of building a new business.

If you think back to the beginning of StoryLearning

  1. It took you years to get traction
  2. Everything on your blog felt unfinished
  3. You were constantly envious of people with larger audiences than you
  4. You didn’t feel happy with the products you were selling

Sound familiar?

This is the funny thing about business problems…

Everyone is convinced that they, alone, have a unique set of growth challenges. In reality, everyone goes through the exact same struggles.

(Read Will Smith’s autobiography for a lesson on this!)

Dan Kennedy got so fed up with people objecting to his advice that he would hang up a huge sign on the stage at his events that read:

“But my business is different!”

Point was, everyone thinks their struggles are unique.

But the opposite is true.

It’s the same old stuff, just dressed up in new clothes.

Sorry, Olly…

You’re not special.

1. You’re Impatient For Growth

In Issue 009 on the Flywheel Effect, I wrote about how smart people often struggle with starting new things.

Reason is…

Smart people want to be able to outsmart their way to traction, and won’t accept that there’s a “waiting period” involved.

This waiting period involves allowing the DNA of a new project to form - the intangible energy that gradually takes shape and spreads from human to human, eventually leading to traction.

This waiting period can be months. But more likely years.

You’ve been using ads to grow so far, and to the extent that they work… great! But don’t make the mistake of thinking that ads are a shortcut to building the true DNA of this new business.

Ads are great for scaling something that already exists. But an early business is best built through more organic means. And what does that mean?

The organic formation of a business comes from planting the seeds of relationships that will grow to form the foundation of your business.

Relationships with your peers.

Relationships with your readers.

Your relationship with your content…

And the interplay between all these things.

Brand is what people say about you behind your back.

That means there needs to be people there to talk about you in the first place!

And so…

The quality of your relationships will determine the quality of your brand.

And thus why there’s no shortcut.

So, instead of continuing to hack your way to growth, it might be best to spend time on the activities that don’t scale.

I recommend putting daily time in your schedule (the first hour of every day?), to lay the foundations:

  1. Reach out to peers in the industry - Help them out, have a Zoom chat, give value to them
  2. Get on podcasts - Have some deep conversations, connect with a new audience, refine your message
  3. Create a reader community - Your audience are all building online education businesses, give them a space to interact with you

This is all activity that doesn’t scale.

But that’s also the beauty of it…

You’ll be doing special work. It’ll be more fulfilling. And it’ll bring results you can’t possibly imagine.

2. You’re Dissatisfied With Parts Of The Business

If you don't finish something you started, you'll be more likely to remember it and think about it than if you had finished the task.

This is known as the Zeigarnik Effect.

What you’re experiencing with your dissatisfaction over unfinished things is a negative consequence of the Zeigarnik Effect.

You’ve done well to get the newsletter up and out the door!

But all the shortcuts you had to take along the way have created a long list of unfinished tasks.

This was exhilarating when you were getting ready to ship.

But now things are settled, these same things are starting to bug you:

  • Landing page copy isn’t tight enough
  • Branding feels uninteresting and not memorable
  • My email templates are bare and have no design

Totally normal.

Remember a few things:

  1. Does any of it really matter? Are you losing subscribers because of your cheap branding, or your plain text emails? Hardly likely.
  2. Reframe it as a positive. You did a great job in shipping the website and newsletter, and putting it out into the world. Treat those unfinished things as battle scars or badges of honour!
  3. Make friends with imperfection. The next couple of years are going to be one long list of unfinished s***! (That’s how you’ll grow.) You have a choice as to your relationship with this stuff. Rather than fighting it, simply allow it to be.

So, simply make the choice not to let it bother you.

You know better than anyone that success will come down to relentlessly executing on the 2-3 things that really matter, and ignoring everything else.

It might help to create a mantra that helps you remember what matters here:

My professional maturity is: Staying focused on the 1-2 things that matter to growth, and be immune to the 98-99 other things that won’t make the blindest bit of difference.

Easier said than done.

But still…

3. You’re Comparing Yourself To Others

Back before you started this newsletter, you didn’t compare yourself to anyone with a newsletter.

There was nothing to compare to!

So why are you suddenly comparing yourself to everyone, after only 3 months?

After all, you know it’s not logical.

I’ll tell you why:

You’re impatient.

In the first section we talked about the role of time:

For a project to get off the ground, there is a "waiting period" to build intangible energy and traction. This time frame is unpredictable - it could be months, or even years.

In the case of this newsletter, which is only three months old, all you have to do is to focus on doing the best work possible and allow time to do the rest of the job.


You’re getting impatient.

As soon as you allow impatience to creep in, you’ll start to compare yourself to others.

Whenever you feel the comparison creeping in, try this: Don’t resist it.

Acknowledge the feeling…

Give yourself permission to feel it…

But simply allow the feeling to pass through you and continue on its journey, remembering that you have no reason to become attached to the feeling.

4. Your “Business” Model Feels Out Of Alignment

You said that there’s a tension between the fact that people are asking for help, but you’re offering nothing for sale.

What did you expect?

You’re writing a newsletter about scaling 7-figure online education businesses, for heaven’s sake… did you expect no-one to react?

For your entire career, you wished you had a mentor to show you how to grow.

Now you’re in a position of being that mentor to people.

Of course, they’re going to want more.

And of course, your entrepreneurial instincts are going to want to satisfy that demand.

But you’re also clear that you don’t want to create another job for yourself, and you want to focus on content.

So what is to be done?


You’re a teacher…

So teach!

Channel your energy into helping people in ways that don’t scale. Just give, and take nothing in return. Create a community, and channel that energy into goodwill, rather than money. Solve problems, be the mentor you always wanted.

That will satisfy your desires.

That will make a lot of people happy.

And that will create an abundance of good energy that will spin off into all kinds of weird and wonderful things!

How To Grow A Business In Alignment

I wrote this rather odd newsletter as a pep talk to myself.

Although the newsletter is only 10 weeks old, I’m already starting to feel restless, and I wanted to understand why:

  1. I’m impatient for growth
  2. I’m dissatisfied with parts of my business
  3. I’m comparing myself to others
  4. I’m not sure about my business model

I realized I’ve been through this all before, and it’s totally normal.

The main takeaway for myself:

Just because you experience emotions, doesn’t mean you have to react to them.

(And be careful if you do, for they may destroy you.)

Instead, I’ve decided to realign my plan in the following ways:

  1. Lean into the business maturity I’ve developed over 10 years to allow growth to happen organically without feeling impatient
  2. Remember that “imperfection” is a deliberate choice, and what I gain in return is focus (on things that matter)
  3. Focus upon the kind of growth that doesn’t scale, by actively working on relationships with peers and readers
  4. Satisfy my desire to teach by creating a community for readers, so that I can channel the energy and enthusiasm we all have to create great things


That was quite the piece of self-therapy.

How did it sit with you?

I’d love to know.

It sure is weird writing this stuff into a black hole.

Hope you enjoyed the insight into my rather odd brain.

Until next week,


CASE STUDY: Blueprint Of A $10m Online Education Business:

  • Business model blueprint
  • Product ecosystem
  • Team structure
  • Evergreen sales strategy
  • And much more

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