I’ve just finished my 2nd pass of a project I’m editing. It’s looking promising. Tomorrow, I’ll go over it again with the team, and again as it sinks in, and even more as I think about it. Before editing, I took a break from work to have dinner and read a few chapters from the latest book on Steve Jobs, a person I find incredibly inspiring because of how much impact he made despite his great flaws, and before that chapter, I read from Marc Benioff’s account of the Salesforce story. I make it a point to read a few chapters from a set of books every day. It’s a long way from where I started, which was saliva stains on my Bible from falling asleep on it. How did I go from drool on scripture to a few chapters a day?
One page at a time. Literally.
I forced myself to read one page a day – from Hardy Boys.
Once in a while there would be a book that interested me which I would devour, such as Al Ries and Jack Trout’s Positioning which I read as a kid, but usually, I found reading to be boring and difficult.
So I forced myself to read one page, everyday, one page.
I’ve realized that success is the same way. Success is the attainment of one’s goals. Success is not having a lot of money or fame. There are rich people and famous people who are not successful. They’re just rich and/or famous. There’s a distinction. A successful person is one who sought something out and achieved it – even if that “it” has morphed over time. We achieve success the same way I learned how to read: moment by moment, day by day, one small step at a time.
I realized this while on my favorite thinking spot (the toilet) pondering on why girls reset the goodwill level instantly. I’ve learned that with girls, it doesn’t matter how awesome you’ve been all week, if you’re a jerk in one moment, you’re a jerk. It doesn’t matter if she was about to nominate you for boyfriend of the year, or if you’re driving home from an awesome date out of town, or if you fixed your hair that morning, if you say something like “You need to workout” or “I wish our kids look like you but have my talents” or forget to write her a card on her birthday (when you’re known for being a writer), your points don’t just go out the door, they never existed to begin with. Proof that women don’t believe in Karma.
In my head, I frustratedly thought, “Females are impossible! One misstep and they’re upset.”
(I conveniently forgot that we are all like that towards God. So easily anxious, so easily upset, so easily threatened, so easily unkind to others when we feel justified, so easily selfish, so easily faithless, when things don’t happen the way we think.)
But what I thought was a monologue was interrupted by a gentle whisper, “But that’s how love is. Love is not a collection of achievements. Love, like kindness, like patience, like faithfulness, like everything true love is, is won moment by moment, day by day, one small step at a time.”
We can be loving all week but if we aren’t loving at this moment we are simply unloving.
We can be hardworking all week but if we don’t persevere at this moment we aren’t diligent.
We can be wise for years and still be foolish at a given moment.
We can be known for kindness yet if we’re not kind in a moment we have become unkind.
We can be faithful all our lives yet if we are unfaithful once we have become unfaithful.
And if love is a moment by moment, day by day, one step at a time activity, and if we take the advice of truly successful people to work on things we love, then the way we achieve success is also moment by moment, day by day, one step at a time.
This is a truth I feel many people have forgotten in this instant world. We are so impatient for results that the daily plod is not only underappreciated but many times seen as a bad thing. It’s as if struggle is a sign of wrong decision-making, as if discomfort is the result of foolishness. Not necessarily. It could be the necessary steps to success. I’ve found that many of the most difficult experiences I’ve had in business have made me wiser and stronger in ways schools and advice could never have taught me. I’ve found that my arguments with Yasmin, when we humble ourselves, have brought us closer in ways dinner dates and flowers could never have done for us, and I appreciate how wonderful it is to have her even more, because the reality is she gets me in a way I’ve never experienced before. She really really gets me, as proven by how she corrects me, by how she’s motivated to serve, and by how she opens her heart even when I upset her. Amazing things I would never have discovered from following formulas. And I’ve found that praying through storms, even when those prayers were answered in a way opposite to what I requested, have built up my faith in ways that Sunday School or Bible study could never have built.
So here’s my advice, before labeling your situation as wrong, before concluding you need a change, before moving on, face whatever you’re facing moment by moment, day by day, one step at a time. Don’t try to win the whole war in one stroke. Don’t try to win the whole battle even. Just focus on the current execution. Get those small gains before the big wins, those single pages of thick books, those inches before the feet. Focus on winning in each moment.
Here are a few thoughts to help you:
1. Learn to be Comfortable with Struggle
I was telling my friend earlier, “The things I’m working on that are outside of my strengths are struggles. The things that I’m doing within my strengths are beautiful struggles.” Either way, both paths will have their struggles. One good way to know if you’re struggle is worth it is to be very humble and honest and ask, “Is this experience forcing me to learn hard important lessons?” If the answer is no, it’s a waste of time. If the answer is yes, struggle on. If the answer is “not sure”, my advice, struggle on. Why? One of the most important lessons anyone can learn is the ability to find clarity in the midst of a less than ideal situation. Popular culture always portrays clarity as the product of some sabatical or break, and there’s validity to this, but I think it’s more important to learn how to look for silver linings amidst dark clouds, how to let necessity teach us creativity and resourcefulness, and how to stay long enough in a situation to experience a miracle. Very few people have the luxury of pausing theirs lives to figure things out. Not everyone has obliging parents, a signicant savings account, or the time to just eat, pray, love.
I know I don’t.
2. Read Whole Biographies – Not Just Highlights
The Internet, despite the wealth of information, have made people dumb. It’s made us wealthy with data yet incompetent to harness the data. One reason is because we make decisions based on an incomplete data set (such as people who comment and like blogs before reading them well.) We read a success story and think “Wow how inspiring! I want to be like that.” but we forget that “being like that” actually means undergoing something that no write-up can explain accurately: the doubts, struggle, loneliness, and risks that come with doing anything meaningful. If I find a story really inspiring, I like to look deeper, I especially look for more information on the struggles to keep my perspective correct. There is no great success story without a great struggle. Our success is dependent on our character, and our character is formed by our struggles. We, who are in the struggle should remember this. And when we see others in their struggle, we should help them without removing the gift and privilege of a beautiful struggle. How do we do this? By sharing in their struggle instead of taking them out of it, by encouraging them instead of casting doubt.
3. Just Get Back Up
I’ve failed. I still do. I still will. And my failures today are more embarrassing and carry more weight than when I was starting, but I have to keep risking that if I’m to keep moving forward. Knowing that failure is not just a possibility but a key part of success helps me fail smarter. All that really means is that I’m able to spot where the failure was faster and move on faster. Too many people think that failure is final, that our lives are one great failure away from missing destiny. I disagree with this teaching. One of the best things about getting our security from God is that we are reassured that even as we’re not powerful enough to achieve anything without Him, we are also not powerful enough to ruin what He is doing IF we continuously keep running back to Him. If you fail, when you fail, just get back up. Let them comment. They will. Let them doubt. They will. Lose the reputation. Lose the money. Lose the time. Lose whatever. Then let go of the loss. Get back up. Hold on to Jesus.
4. Finally, Have Faith in God
I remember an entrepreneur once saying that he didn’t believe in faith because of the lack of proof of God. So I reminded him that 9 out of 10 businesses, according to statistics, will fail. I told him, “9 out of 10 of us in this room will fail. Yet we’re all here now, entrepreneurs, believing, that despite the statistics, despite the lack of track record, despite the odds, despite the strength of the competition, we believe that our business is that 1 business that will prove the odds wrong. What do you call that? You call that faith. So you do believe in faith. You just don’t have faith in God. In fact, you probably have greater faith because you believe, despite you being the only believer, that your self belief has better odds than the belief of billions of people all over the world throughout history to make your life work.” I wasn’t belittling his faith. I was simply pointing out the fact that he had faith.
In the ups and downs of our journies, don’t be in a rush to get to some place you’re not in. Have faith and be still. Being still doesn’t mean some adult version of stop dance or holy paralysis. It means, instead of moving from where you’re at, go to God from where you’re already at, and say, “Father, I offer this moment to You. Show me Your will.”
As I typed those words down I was reminded of a similar prayer in the Bible, the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he approached the moment of His death. “Father, take this cup away from me. But not My will but Yours.”
I wonder what would have happened if Jesus, in that moment passed on the painful cup He was given. I really don’t know. I’m grateful He is not like me who is so quick to react. I’m just thankful that His love won in that moment as He partook of His cup of pain so that my cup could overflow.
Ok, I have to make my way home. My evening coffee is wearing out. There’s still so much I want to say but I have to follow my own lesson and take this dream of progress, of a greater future, moment by moment, day by day, one step at a time.