(This is not a blog. It’s a codex – raw, unpolished and brutally frank)
I try hard to resist comparing my business with others and feeling ashamed of my accomplishments. It still sometimes gets me whenever I’m reminded of someone younger than me doing 100x better – or whatever “doing better” means nowadays.
As you can see, this impatience comes tightly packed in a box that also includes envy, low self-esteem and other assorted chocolates.
So, how do you deal with it? How do you truly internalize the idea that “it’s about the journey, not the destination”?
As human beings, we are sticklers for PERFECTION. We’re used to Googling “how long does it take to get six pack abs”, “how long does it take to become fluent in Chinese”, “how long to get a black belt in Judo”.
For the small percentage of people able to get over that, the next trap is PROGRESS. “I’ve been working out for 3 weeks, don’t think I’m any closer to abs.” “I’ve written 5 articles, but my follower count hasn’t increased.” “I’m supposed to be 1% better every day, but today’s practice session feels worse than last week!”
Well, calm the fuck down. It’s next to impossible for the human body and brain to get better or stronger in a linear manner, and it’s very unlikely that you can manipulate the universe into giving you steadily improving results. It’s not completely in your control. You are clinging to an outcome that may not exist in reality – a false hope.
So am I saying that we shouldn’t use progress as a metric?! To a large extent, YES. Using progress as the key metric builds frustration over time, exhausting our willpower and destroying motivation. Sooner or later, you break. You give up because you didn’t see enough progress.
So what’s the solution? Enter the first missing piece: PROCESS.
‘Process’ is the daily reps. The actual work you have to put in day after day. If you’re a baseball player, it may be swinging the bat 100 times at the nets every day. If you’re a sales guy, it may be making 50 calls every day. Practicing calligraphy for 30 minutes every day.
You get the idea – whatever your undertaking may be, you know that there’s a process – if only you followed it day after day after day and just did the best you could, you know it in your heart that progress will come – and in future, it may grow into perfection. Of course, getting feedback and pivoting is part of the process, and it also depends on how much grit there is in you. But you can tell when you’re addicted to progress.
We’re not done yet. There’s a second critical missing piece, and it’s CELEBRATION. You have to celebrate the small wins you stack up every day. Every time you show up to the field and swing the bat 100 times as best as you can, or finish making those 50 phone calls, or writing those 200 words – lift your hands in the air and be proud of yourself. You did the work, now give yourself the credit you’re due. Far too many people neglect this step – I know I used to.
When you celebrate something and compliment yourself for doing it, you prod your brain to do it again. And as you get more and more comfortable putting in the work, the progress will come faster.
Celebrate the daily small wins, and stack them up – the stacks will grow into big wins before you know it. But this is why it’s important to have a routine. If you have to decide your way into working every day, you’ll again be relying on willpower. It has to be an automatic habit, or you won’t do it for very long.
By the way, this is not just something I say. This is the same thing I heard from Alex Rodriguez, a baseball player with 3 Guiness World Records: the most grand slams in MLB history (25), the youngest person to hit 500 career homers (32 years, 8 days), and most home runs in a season by a third baseman (54).
He says that his proudest accomplishment is not his world records and success, but that he never once missed a pre-game practice session in his entire career.
I hope to develop the same respect for my work ethic as he did, and I wish the same for you.
PROCESS over PROGRESS over PERFECTION.