The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones – Confucius
No matter how daunting a goal feels in the beginning, if you stick with it; you would eventually figure it out. It can be tough and overwhelming to execute on some goals but with the end in mind, Everything Is Figureoutable. As American industrialist, Henry Ford once noted “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right” Everything is impossible before it becomes possible. What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. It all starts with the mind, a single step, baby steps that has compounding effect in the long run.
Whether it is learning a foreign language, a programming language, swimming or ice skating. I have observed from personal experience that whenever you try to achieve a stretch goal, you move from your comfort zone, it can be overwhelming with multiple plateaus, roller coaster of emotions such as worry and anxiety. When you start learning something new, there are learning curves, the tough beginnings where the syntax, syllables, codes, verbs, pool etc looks daunting, foreign and overwhelming. As martial artist and actor Bruce Lee once quipped “If you always put limit[s] on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there — you must go beyond them.”
There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there — you must go beyond them. – Bruce Lee
Most times we want to give up in the tough and daunting beginning because of the overwhelm. The middle of the journey is usually messy but self-belief is the key to figure it out eventually. You don’t know how to program yet, swim yet, ice skate yet, speak that foreign language yet etc. It is the power of not yet – Achieving a big, stretch goal requires breaking it down to manageable chunks, one step at a time, one brick at a time, baby steps, small wins….Momentum is the key to get to the next level. My favourite nursery rhyme is: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until good is better and better is best.”
American actor Will Smith echoed the power of taking baby steps in his 2021 autobiography Will. Smith writes about one of the most important lesson that he learnt from his dad. He reminisced:
When I was eleven years old, my father decided he needed a new wall on the front of his shop. It would be a big wall: roughly twelve feet high by twenty feet long. The old wall was crumbling, and he was “sick-o’-lookin’ at it.” But rather than hire a contractor or construction company, he thought it would be a good project for my younger brother, Harry, and me.
My brother and I worked weekends, holidays, vacations. We worked through the summer that year. It didn’t matter. My father never took a day off, so neither could we. There were so many times I remember looking at that hole, totally discouraged. I couldn’t see how this was ever going to end. The dimensions became unfathomably large in my mind. It seemed like we were building the Great Wall of West Philly—billions of red bricks stretching infinitely into some distant nowhere. I was certain that I would grow old and die still mixing concrete and carrying those buckets. I just knew it.
Stop thinking about the damn wall!” he said. “There is no wall. There are only bricks. Your job is to lay this brick perfectly. Then move on to the next brick. Then lay that brick perfectly. Then the next one. Don’t be worrying about no wall. Your only concern is one brick.
Some of the most impactful lessons I’ve ever received, I’ve had to learn in spite of myself. I resisted them, I denied them, but ultimately the weight of their truth became unavoidable. My father’s brick wall was one of those lessons.
The days dragged on, and as much as I hated to admit it, I started to see what he was talking about. When I focused on the wall, the job felt impossible. Never-ending. But when I focused on one brick, everything got easy—I knew I could lay one damn brick well.
There is no wall. There are only bricks. Your job is to lay this brick perfectly. Then move on to the next brick. Then lay that brick perfectly. Then the next one. Don’t be worrying about no wall. Your only concern is one brick.
There are no unrealistic goals, what we have is unrealistic timelines. Setting a goal to finish a triathlon or ironman in 3 months without training is a setup for failure. In the same vein, there are no hard subjects, what we have is teachers or tools that can’t communicate. American Leadership expert, John C. Maxwell once quipped “Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple.”. A the end of the day: You just have to keep showing up, day in day out, keep the momentum and take it one brick at a time.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.