A Creative Hack for Creative Success: Lag vs Lead Metrics

How to build a framework that gives you the best chance of success
A Creative Hack for Creative Success: Lag vs Lead Metrics
Jake McNeill
June 10, 2021
5 min read
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Creative success is unpredictable.

Why? There's no plan. No strategy.

You can hack the system and build a process that removes the uncertainty of creative success. 

I spent 25 years at the top end of the music industry. I learned one thing pretty quickly.

Talent is not a predictor of success. Prodigious talent can actually be a drawback.


Because often the prodigiously talented overly rely on their talent to be successful. 

You need to have enough talent but hard work and consistently publishing content are far more important.

Whatever you want to achieve you’re going to need to:

  • Outwork the competition
  • Be incredibly consistent in content quality and delivery
  • Get some lucky breaks

Not to sound overly cliché but in my experience the harder you work the luckier you get.

If you stay on the pitch long enough you’ll eventually score a goal. 

Even after you’ve done all of the above, it will all be in vain unless you learn everything there is to know about creating a community of superfans. 

Creative success is about lag and lead metrics

So, what are Lag metrics? They are long-term goals. 

Lead metrics are predictors for achieving long-term goals.

For example — 

Lag metric: John Grisham wanted to quit law and become a full-time author.

Lead metric: Write a page a day. Every day. 

Lag metric: Brian Koppelman wanted to be a Hollywood screenwriter. 

Lead metric: He wrote for 2 hours with his writing partner every day before going to work.

Lag metric: Jerry Seinfeld wanted to be a famous comedian. 

He needed better jokes. 

Lead metric: Jerry wrote a new joke every day for years. 

Credit: https://www.wallstreetmojo.com

How to find lead metrics

Lead metrics are indicators that you are going to hit your long-term goal. 

It is the process goals you are setting to get the results you desire. 

Let’s say you want to be a full-time YouTube creator. How do you work out your lead metrics?

According to the research, we know that 1 million are professional YouTubers who earn a full-time living. Often six figures. 

We also know that there are 12 million amateur Youtubers.

That means 8% of Youtube creators earn a full-time living. 

Your lag metric is to get into the top 8%

What do the top 8% of Youtubers do that the others don’t?

Successful creators use lead metrics. They will have a process and a schedule that supports that process.

They post content regularly and consistently. 

Not everyone. There are always outliers but in the main it comes down to having a simple, repeatable process.

And that is your lead metric. 

The lead metrics process

When building a career in the creator economy you will find that most lead metrics revolve around growth. 

If you do A) repeatedly and consistently you will achieve B)

There are only three things any artist or creator needs to focus on in order to get growth:

  • Quality of content 
  • The value of the content
  • The consistency it is delivered.

The more content you produce the better the quality becomes. 

The more value you bring the more your content will be shared

The more consistently you publish the content the bigger your audience gets. 

Learn from your favourite creators 

Study creators in your niche who you admire and reverse engineer their process.

Successful creators have a process. 

Once you’ve worked that out. Set your lead metrics.

For example, record and publish 3 x 5 minute videos every week. 

That involves 20 hours of research, filming and editing. 

Then break that down further into your daily goals. 

Set your process and stick to it 

A good lead metric has two qualities:

  • Simplicity: The easier the process the better
  • Measurable: Simple to chart

For example: Writing one page a day.

Writing one joke per day. Or spending two hours per day on video creation or editing. 

Your framework and plan

Breakdown your lead metrics and extrapolate them to get an overview of the likelihood of you achieving your lag metrics.

You create and publish 3 x 5 minute videos per week. 

3 videos x 50 weeks = 150 videos per annum. 

150 videos per annum x 2 = 300 videos.

Make 300 quality videos that provide value to your audience in a profitable niche and ask yourself this: 

What are the chances of making a full time living? 

Pretty good, I’d say. 

This removes the uncertainty. 

Now it’s about having the mental toughness and discipline to stick to your lead metrics. 

The same principles apply to newsletters or any other creative pursuit.

Some newsletters publish lengthy essays twice a week. Others publish tips and hacks reduced to the bare minimum but are packed with value.

Focus on the main players in your niche and reverse engineer their process. Not the process they are doing now. 

But also what they did when they started out? What are other creators having success with?


  • Set your lag metric (long term goal)
  • Break it down into lead metrics (process goals)
  • Build your process
  • And stick to it. If you fail to stick with your lead metrics you will fail your lag metrics.
  • Once you understand the process you need to do it every day. It removes the unpredictability of creative success.

A bit about me

I help maverick artists and creators make a racket in crowded markets, crush the creative blocks that hold them back, and build engaged audiences

Every creative rebel’s worst enemy?

Creative mediocrity: Being bland. Staying in our lane. Creating in our comfort zone and following the crowds.

The Goal?

To create authentic work that matters. Take creative risks, avoid creative burnout, and turn audiences into superfans. 

I’m a former multi-platinum artist manager who got burnt out and became a creative blogger, coach, and consultant.

I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 20 down, 30 to go.

Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

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