Want to build in public to grow an audience? Try getting fit!

Kevon Cheung

I want to thank Ash (@ash_lmb) for this collaboration. He is the mastermind behind all the awesome visuals on this post. Go follow him on Twitter if you like them!

We all want results. And the faster the better.

And to get that, we enjoy putting ourselves on a tough transformation journey to push for results to happen.

Can you recall those "before and after" body transformation mirror shots? Yeah, they make us want to do it but also leave us questions: how do people get fit so quickly?

Jonah Hill showed us his progress (boredpanda.com)

If you're reading this, you're likely an entrepreneur or creator trying to adopt the Building in Public mindset to grow an audience around you. You've heard good things about it and want to start shifting your mindset.

But it is easier said than done.

We know that it is not difficult to have the courage to want to start. What's extremely challenging is the perseverance needed and how we can stay optimistic and relentless throughout the process.

So, why don't we take inspiration from how we get fit?

5 things we learn from a body transformation program

1. Driven by idealistic results

Our world is filled with success stories. People enjoy talking about their results when they've achieved them. But what most people don't realize is that there is survival bias. You only see those who are successful but not those who fail.

And this creates an idealistic picture of how easy it is to get a fit body or a huge audience. We know it's a sales technique to use these stories as social proof to show that "it works" and attract new customers.

What we need to understand is the less-spoken side of things: the process, emotional swings, and struggles.

Not many body transformation program talks about how your diet is taken over by high-protein food like chicken breast or egg white, how you'll miss a lot of friend gatherings, how you cannot eat or drink even if you go to parties, etc.

Building in Public is also a painful journey. In the beginning, no one reads your content. No one cares about your journey. No one wants to know about what you're building. The question is - how do you get them to care?

I'm not bringing this up so that you don't even try. It's important to be mentally and physically prepared when you say "let's do this!" so you don't give up easily.

2. Giving up after the early days

Because we over-glorify overnight success through the movies we watch and the media we read, it is easy to think that things can happen quickly.

But deep down, we know that a real transformation is a slow and steady process. Actually, the slower the better.

In the early days of getting fit, it can be extremely painful because while you're changing your daily routine and diet, you also need to push through the training. And when you look down on your body, the body fat is still there and you start to question the return of all the effort you put in.

To Build in Public and grow an audience, it is likely to take 3-6 months before you get any sizable attention from other people. You have to first build up your credibility, you have to expand your network by making friends, and you have to keep writing and sharing your stories.

Most people give up at this point because they're not patient and they don't see results. They start to think that the effort is better spent elsewhere. This is where the world separates the people "who really want this" and the people who "just want this".

At this point, you should ask yourself, "Are you in this for the long run?"

3. Building up small habits

The key to any transformation is to break down your goal into daily actions and tackle them one by one.

To get fit in 3 months, the program requires you to work out at least 4-5 days a week. Each day consists of a range of exercises from cardio to body strength training. It is a schedule you must follow if you want to see results.

It makes things easy because it takes away two things:

  1. You don't need to fight your own willpower to decide what to do or what not to do
  2. You don't need to worry about the end results, just focus on today's exercises

While Building in Public can sound like something you can start doing right away (write those tweets or blog posts) and reap the benefits, if what you want is an authentic and transparent personal brand, it requires more than just posting on social media.

It's also a process to discover yourself - whether you enjoy reflecting, being human online, and sharing voluntarily without expecting a return.

You should lay out a detailed plan of small steps and execute them every day. Here are a few easy ways to make it your habit:

  1. Every month, you'll write 1 retrospective blog post detailing your learnings and struggles in that month and the plan for the next month
  2. Every month, you'll publish 2 pieces of content (tweet, blog post, audio, or video) that focus on how people shouldn't repeat your mistakes
  3. You'll set up a newsletter for people to sign up and send every 2 weeks. You can use it as a learning journal

These become your standard schedule and habits to build in public. They're your accountability buddies to build an audience. Doing them might not guarantee you success, but not doing them is definitely keeping you from moving forward.

4. Finding your intrinsic motivation

Even if you follow the rigid training and diet plan, some people are not able to get the body transformation they desire. Why?

This is because we all need intrinsic motivation to push things through.

You'll hear that people get fit because they want a Summer body ready for beach season. That's an extrinsic motivation that can fade away soon after Summer is over.

If you want the result of the transformation to stay, it is important to have intrinsic motivation. E.g. you want to train your willpower, you desire a healthy lifestyle, or if you're like me, you want your kids to be proud of you because you're mindful and balanced.

Many entrepreneurs are first drawn to Building in Public and growing an audience because they desire the glamorous lifestyle of a creator, the benefits of having a large distribution channel, and the possibility to make lots of money.

These things will keep you going, but you won't last long. Why? Because there are so many ways you can achieve the same results without being authentic, like doubling down on your marketing, why go through the trouble?

To be a public entrepreneur, you have to be driven within.

Do you enjoy reflecting on your achievements, challenges, and progress? Do you enjoy sharing and discussing with other people? Do you feel that openness makes you a better person?

Only you can answer these questions, but you don't have to answer them now. It is likely going to be an ever-evolving answer. As long as you're trying because you value authenticity and transparency as core values, you'll be able to gradually transform your mindset.

5. Seeing and celebrating baby step results

I talk about giving up early. Even though you endure the early pain, there is still a chance where you want to give up through the journey. That white flag is so easy to wave.

What can drive that to happen? When you don't see progress, you start to doubt yourself and wonder if your time is better spent on something else. You want better returns for your time after all.

"Why did I go to the gym every day for 3 weeks now and I still look almost the same?"

This is why personal trainers love to ask trainees to take pictures of their own bodies every week, if not every day. When you get to see concrete proof of your progress, e.g. seeing a smaller tummy and a better body shape, you're motivated to keep going.

In Building in Public, it is a long journey from talking to no one in the early days to having 5,000 Twitter followers or 1,000 email subscribers. When you only see milestones as the finish line and disregard everything in-between as success, you're going to look down on yourself and wave that white flag.

But, why don't we celebrate hitting 1,000 Twitter followers or 200 email subscribers? They're amazing achievements too!

Whenever you hit a small milestone, make sure to celebrate with the world!

When you achieve certain milestones, make sure to take screenshots and share them publicly to invite others to celebrate with you. Doing so can boost your confidence and that's how you train yourself to see small wins.

The screenshots are your trophies. Remember, what gets measured gets done.

A few steps to help you get started today

That's a lot of fun comparing body transformation to mindset transformation to become a public entrepreneur. Now you're thinking, how can you start?

Here are a few concrete steps:

  1. Set up a simple blog with Notion via MDX.one. Start writing a monthly public retrospective to practice reflecting, documenting, and sharing. You can find inspirations here
  2. Through writing, discover your intrinsic motivation to build in public. Other than business reasons like growing an audience and making money, what are some other things that drive you?
  3. Define a schedule to share your journey. Whether it is once a month or once a week, put it on your calendar and make sure you work on that first thing every morning even if the sky is falling. Then share it publicly on Twitter or communities to put it in people's hands. You never know who might become your next follower
  4. Find 2-3 people who are trying to do the same to keep learning and stay on track

Do you want it enough to push through it?

Thank you Ash (@ash_lmb) for the illustrations! Follow me on Twitter @MeetKevon for more actionable and genuine tips.

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