Like a Tortoise

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

Proverbs 13:11

I had an idea and dove right in expecting instant results. Things went smoothly…at first. Then for one reason or another, it seemed to be taking twice as long as I expected. The costs were more than I counted. I didn’t know the people I needed neither did I know the necessary skills. The honeymoon was over. The grind kicked in. Drudgery ruled like a wicked slave-master. “What’s the point?” I thought, “I could’ve been doing so many other things,” another voice said. “Oh look at this? Here’s a good idea.” Rinse and repeat.

This is the process many people such as me go through many times. Perhaps you’ve been there yourself. We get excited about a prospective idea, the result is shiny, and we get going. We start with a bounce in our step without fully understanding the costs, the training needed, and the sacrifices that necessarily must be made. I’ve had friends who’ve had the idea of making a bike ride from Seattle to Portland, only to call for someone to pick them up in Tacoma during a massive rainfall. Yet we’ve also heard of people successfully crossing the country on a bike. What’s the difference between the two?

I would argue that the difference is in the minuscule things. The atomic things. The tiny, little, unseen, non-mesmerizing, daily acts of discipline. Why is it that those who win the lottery are found back where they were before winning the lottery? The difference is in what we do every day rather than what happens to us overnight. The difference is in the habits we form and have formed.

In learning this myself, I’ve found that it’s better to take the marathon approach to life. Running a marathon, or riding a bike across the country, or climbing a mountain isn’t a one-time event. It’s an event that takes years. We need to consider everything leading up to the event just as much, if not more than, the event itself. We need to consider all the daily disciplines and sacrifices that were made prior to the starting shot. 

When it comes to building habits, we assume daily pro-longed intensity. However, habits are like an avalanche: they start small, grow big, and become unstoppable. We are to take a similar approach. We start a habit with the smallest amount doable. Perhaps it’s simply putting on our workout gear in the morning, o saving one dollar a day, or maybe eating an apple a day. It could also be a simple act of telling our sons that they make us happy. All of these actions take less than two minutes, yet overtime become more powerful than we think.

The chains of habit are to light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.

Warren Buffett

I want to encourage you to pick something small that you are willing to do every day. Print out a calendar and make a checkmark every day it’s complete. Make it a goal to never miss two days in a row. For further and better ideas, I want to leave you with a few good book recommendations when it comes to stacking bricks and plodding along.

1. Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear

In this book, James Clear takes habit building to the next level. He dissects the habit formation process and gives a good field manual for habit building and breaking.

2. Ploductivity: A Practical Theology of Work and Wealth by Douglas Wilson

In Ploductivity, Doug Wilson starts with the theology behind work and wealth and goes on to show that plodding is the best and most joyful way of working and gaining wealth.

The tortoise always wins.

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