A Different Journey to Where You Want to Go

Along The Way Step by Step

When I was much younger, I had many lofty goals. Each one was accompanied by dreams about what life would be like if that goal were accomplished. Sometimes I would get sucked in by people who claimed to have a shortcut. No regrets though. I learned to fail quickly and to move on, learning what didn’t work. There are smarter ways than trial and error, and I’m sure some people actually do get lucky, but rarely have I seen anything meaningful happen overnight, even when it appears that way.

I’ve adjusted my expectations accordingly. For example, I’ve always wanted to become a writer and publish a book. I used to think it would happen after some whirlwind of inspiration poured over blank pages while I retreated to some remote cabin by a lake. Now, instead of hoping to be a published author with my first book becoming an instant bestseller, I just write a little every day. Baby steps. I don’t even write with a book as the final product in mind. I write just to write, and to use my words to document experiences and thoughts that inspire me. One day, I shifted from private morning pages to public blog posts. That was scary for me. Then I took a chance and submitted an article for consideration on LinkedIn Pulse. (I was scared to hit submit and my mouse hovered over the button for what seemed like forever.) As I read and re-read that first draft submitted, I was embarrassed to think that anyone could now actually read my raw writing. I continued to edit, tweak and refine until I couldn’t think of anything else to improve. Then I walked away knowing I put forth my best. It was good enough to know that I did it despite being scared. (It did get featured by the way. Beginner’s luck.)

Not sure what the next steps will be. I’ll take it one step at a time, one article at a time. I’ll continue to learn what I can from each step. Confidence builds with each stride and it feels good. Regardless of whether or not I eventually author and publish a book, I’m having fun learning from doing.

“A day at a time, a page a time, my daily three pages have unknotted career, life, and love. They’ve shown me a path where there was no path, and I follow it now, trusting that if I do, the path will continue.”

— Julia Cameron regarding Morning Pages in her book Walking Around the World

Kaizen

In the business world, I learned about the concept of kaizen— continuous improvement. Translated from Japanese and in general terms, it simply means change for the better. The aspect of ‘continuous’ is important to me though. It aligns with my step by step approach. And I think smaller steps might actually be more effective in the long run.

I like how James Altucher describes his daily practice and his balanced way of striving to be just 1% better each day. The idea of taking larger goals and breaking them down into very bite-size chunks has resonated with me.

Putting this approach into practice has transformed my loftier goals from daunting to do-able. As one Chinese Proverb puts it, “To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.” Taking smaller steps not only helps you get started but also helps you keep going.

The Benefits of Breaking It Down

  1. easier to get started
  2. less stressful and no longer overwhelming
  3. flexible by design
  4. encouraging to make progress even gradually
  5. more focus on the present than the future

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.”
— Mark Twain

Breaking Things Down by Context

Whether it’s getting in shape, starting a new job, or learning any new skill, I break it down and find that I accomplish a lot more in a lot less time than I expected.

  • step by step
  • brick by brick
  • line by line
  • layer by layer
  • repetition by rep
  • one task at a time
  • one lesson at a time
  • one breath at a time
  • one day at a time

The Process

Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.
– William Shakespeare

Success, achievement and accomplishment are all great things, but the pleasure is usually short-lived. There’s something more lasting about the time and effort spent getting there. Perhaps there’s magic in the anticipation as you work. (Or maybe because you get a natural hit of dopamine with every step you take towards your goals. So I’ve read.) I agree with Gary Keller who—in his bestseller The One Thing—says, “Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.”

“…when you can see mastery as a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at, it starts to feel accessible and attainable. Most assume mastery is an end result, but at its core, mastery is a way of thinking, a way of acting, and a journey you experience.”
—  Gary Keller, The One Thing

Over time, I’ve learned to appreciate the journey more than the destination. I find joy in the process towards something. No need to wait until you get there. It’s just as important to enjoy the experience along the way. What takes away from that enjoyment is the temptation to hurry up and arrive already. While I strive for better, I remind myself to be thankful for what I’ve already accomplished and the good fortune I already have.


Supplemental Notes:

Read the chapter on “Effort Counts Twice” from Grit by Angela Duckworth and wanted to add some relevant quotes and notes.

“…the most dazzling human achievements are, in fact, the aggregate of countless individual elements, each of which is, in a sense, ordinary.”
Angela Duckworth

“Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then are fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of those actions; only the fact that they are done consistently and correctly, and all together produce excellence.”
Dan Chambliss

“So what is the reality of greatness? Nietzsche came to the same conclusion Dan Chambliss did. Great things are accomplished by those ‘people whose thinking is active in one direction, who employ everything as material, who always zealously observe their own inner life and that of others, who perceive everywhere models and incentives, who never tire of combining together the means available to them.”
Angela Duckworth

Writing Revisited

It’s been a while since I’ve written. I’ve read that when it comes to writing, it’s important to write even when you’re not inspired. To write even when you think there’s nothing noteworthy. To just “show up.”  I haven’t done that consistently for the past month or so, at least not publicly. Although not everyday, I’ve been writing my morning pages more often. This is done in the Journey app and is my private journal. (If you’re interested in keeping a journal, I highly recommend this app.)

I’ve been focused on other things so I don’t regret taking a break from my public posts. After a couple months of regular posting, I started to feel like I was forcing topics and spending too much time in front of the keyboard. To regain some balance, I intentionally walked away from it to spend more time with the family for a while. Now I’m feeling the itch again. This time I’m going to adjust my approach a bit based on things I’ve picked up during my first dive into blogging.

Here are some things I’ve observed about my approach and what I think could be areas of improvement…

  • Even if I don’t publish a post regularly, it’s important to write my morning pages every day. Morning pages don’t need to be polished. They don’t even need to be coherent. Since the journal is for me to unload and clarify my thoughts, it serves that purpose well without having to take too much time. To improve, I’d like to shoot for one public post every couple of weeks on average, and to write my morning pages every day.
  • The stats behind each post can be addicting. I tend to be overly concerned with the numbers and the outcomes rather than just enjoying the process. This seems to corrupt my creative spirit as I become overly concerned with what others might think. While the statistics and analytics provide some useful insights, scheduling a weekly or monthly analysis would probably be enough.
  • While it seems to be a good practice to re-post the same article across multiple channels, it’s become obvious that some topics are just better left where it better fits the audience. At the very least, it’s important not to copy and paste. I’ve found that making adjustments to the intro or context, depending on the audience, sets up the same article to be better received. Similar to public speaking, it’s critical to speak to the interests of the specific audience. No matter how universal I think the topic may be, I still need to frame it a little differently from channel to channel.
  • Blogging is more fun as a conversation. I used to write like a monologue. If anyone commented, the most I would do is “like” their comment. After taking time to actually respond thoughtfully to each comment, the entire experience has become a lot more rewarding.
  • I write best in the early morning when everyone in the house is still sleeping. There are very few distractions and my mind is still fresh. It also helps when I get enough sleep (for me, that means 7-8 hours) and when I read a good book before bed the night before. The challenge for me has been to consistently sleep enough. When I’m trying to write on 6 or less hours of sleep, the right flow just isn’t there.

I will adjust my approach moving forward to validate or disprove any of these initial observations and thoughts.