Every day for the last 5,000 days, Mike Winkelmann created a new piece of digital art. Known as his EVERYDAYS collection, he started working on the project back in 2007, not missing a day since.
On March 11, 2021, 13 years later, a compilation piece of his work was sold for $69,346,250.
How did we get here? And better yet, how can you get a slice of the pie?
I first came across Winkelmann, known online as Beeple, while listening to this episode of the Planet Money podcast. Though he has over two million Instagram followers, Beeple explained that he never made much money from his art directly.
Relying on other sources of income, he knew that putting something online allowed for near-infinite duplication. And in that infinite state came an inability to monetize his work.
That was, until, non-fungible tokens entered the scene.
You own it
A non-fungible token (NFT) is essentially digital ownership; similar to how you can take a picture of the Mona Lisa, yet the actual Mona Lisa is owned and lives in a museum somewhere. I’m no technologist so that’s about as deep on the subject as I can get.
Returning back to the story, one day, the auction house, Christie’s, approached Beeple about selling one of his pieces. As an NFT. The starting bid: $100.
Yes, just $100.
The auction began and quickly the price rose, eventually closing at $69 million.
Show up each day
What can we learn from this? How can we wrap our heads around such an event? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is consistency.
As someone that has published a new article nearly every day for the last four months, I can attest to the resolve that Beeple surely has. To the patience and determination that would be so required. And yet, you can clearly see his progression over time.
Just take a look at his website and you can compare pieces from start to present-day. There’s an obvious improvement.
The hardest thing about consistency
In the minutiae of daily life, noticing progress is like watching grass grow: subtle and often unnoticeable. And yet, it exists. Like a blade of grass spreading out one millimeter after another, your work too becomes fuller, richer, better with time.
Because when you’re used to getting instant results, waiting for grass to grow can feel terrible, if not impossible. Then, when you pile on the financial considerations of not making any money directly from your efforts, it can be all the more daunting.
The steps required
When feeling down, impatient, or frustrated, remind yourself of Beeple.
Yes, in a single instant, he made $69 million. However, it took 13 years of dedication and effort to get there. You may too reach a mountain peak in a single step. Yet, when you look back you will see the thousands of steps required to reach that moment.
Consistency, with time and gradual improvement, will lead to something great.
The 10,000-Hour Rule
Consider Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule. In his book, Outliers, he claims that to become an expert in something, you must put in roughly 10,000 hours of work. That comes out to roughly 20 hours a week for ten years.
Beeple made $69 million at the 13.5-year mark.
Not that I’m equating money with expertise, I merely point out the fact that Beeple has put in a great many hours and has been rewarded financially because of it. Day after day, week after week, he created something new.
The most important thing
In your work, there is often one thing that is more important than all the rest. For musicians, it’s making music. For writers, it’s writing. Salespeople, cold calls.
Figure out what the most important thing is for you in your work.
Is it painting? Is it reading? What one action holds the most weight in what you do? Once you know that, get consistent with it. Like Beeple with his EVERYDAYS collection, your results will improve with time. You won’t notice it on the first day, or the second, or the third.
But one day you’ll look back and see just how far you’ve gone.
Using reflection to inspire
With each new article I publish, I take another step forward. I try something new, I improve in some small, barely noticeable way. Yet the progress is there. And from time to time, I’ll look up, reveling in my efforts.
More importantly, though, I’ll get excited about the road ahead. Because if I can make it this far, I can make it all the way.
And so can you.
Other advocates of consistency
Beeple made $69 million, but he’s not the only one to benefit from consistency. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has discussed his belief in the power of consistency as well. On The Tim Ferriss show, he explains how he loves the routine found in daily life.
How, though the writing is hard, there is a joy to be had from seeing words on the page day after day.
Author James Clear likewise notes this in his work. Specifically, in terms of exercise. He explains that you won’t always want to work out, but a bad workout is better than no workout. That creating a chain of consistency pays off in the long run.
That the work you put in each day compounds, growing millimeter by millimeter, just like the grass.
Nike is no different
I can’t speak for Beeple, Seinfeld, or Clear, but in my work, it can be hard to put in the effort each day. Specifically when I’m not seeing an immediate reward for it (ie. money). However, people like them give me hope.
Hope that patience and resolve and effort will pay off for you and me just as it has for them.
Even Phil Knight, cofounder of Nike, recounted in his book, Shoe Dog, the many times he thought about quitting. How he wanted to give up, get a job somewhere, and let the business fade into oblivion. But he didn’t.
He showed up each day and put in the work. In his case, it took something like 20 years for Nike to finally no longer be at risk of bankruptcy. 20 years.
Moving forward with your $69 million lesson in consistency
In your work, trust in consistency. Look for ways to grow and improve in what you do. Believe that with time and continual effort, you will get to your mountain top. Whether it takes 13 years, 20, six months, or just a few weeks, it can and will happen.
The only way you’ll get there though is by taking one step after another. Every single day (or at least, for most of them).
Patience will run thin. Like Knight, you may want to quit. And in those moments, remember this article. Remember the patience, the grit, the determination required.
And know that if they can do it, so can you.
I’ll see you at the top.