Day 19: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Let’s consider the following situation:

You have a 1000 page novel you’ve always wanted to read (War and Peace, anyone?).  And for whatever reason, it is VERY important to you to read it.  At first blush, this might seem quite foreboding.  “How could I ever get this thing done?  Man, that’s too hard!”  Focusing on the ominous-sounding dimensions of a project like this gets overwhelming fast.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  What if instead of worrying about the big picture you simply committed to reading 20 pages a day during the weekday?  That’s 20 pages a day times 5 days per week.  That’s 100 pages per week.  As you may already be thinking, that would mean you would have the novel done in only 2 1/2 months.

Does that seem like a long time to finish a book?  Maybe, but don’t you think it would be worth it, considering that you could then check it off your list, and not have to spend the rest of your life thinking about reading the novel but not doing it?

Also, I recognize that for those spontaneous, leisurely novel readers, this left-brained approach may not seem appealing.  I get it.  I used to think this way.  To me, reading books, especially novels, were done in lengthy fits of obsessive page-turning marathons of enthusiasm, even passion (hopefully passion for the book I was reading… occasionally passion to get done with the book I was reading).  Yet this standard often proved unrealistic, and I often found myself not reading books instead of reading them.  One of the unhappy by-products of making things complex, and waiting for inspiration can definitely sometimes make things complex.

So a few years ago I adopted the new standard of reading on weekday mornings.  Since then, I have read over 100 books.  Reading is simply a habit in my life, and the books get read because of this habit. I don’t even have to think about it.  I recently finished a 400 page history of debt this way, and I’m currently working on the 700 page biography of Alexander Hamilton (of Hamilton the musical fame).

Allow me to take another example.  This type of example will be familiar to people who read personal finance blogs and the like.   Let’s say you want to save a million dollars in, say, 30 years time.  Now I know this presumes a lot of patience and willingness to save.  But let’s say you have these things.  How much would you have to put away every month to accomplish this if, say, you could get 6% annual return (let’s assume you are investing in index funds and get a modest average market return)?

Honestly, less than you might think.  According to this free online financial calculator, it would take only $1000 per month, over 30 years, to accumulate $1 million at 6% interest  (Note that the interest does a lot of the work… supplying you with approximately $650,000 in compounded money, while you supplied $360,000 over that time yourself.  Now that’s the power of compounding!).   I realize this may, for some of us, still seem like a lot of money to put away every month.  But hopefully you can get the point that a relatively small amount of investment each month REALLY adds up in the long run.

That’s the point I’m trying to make here.  Slow and steady wins the race, because when you keep going, and you just don’t stop, you inevitably keep making progress.  And that probably will end up winning over the vast majority of people who give up so easily.  It’s not so much how much progress you make over a certain amount of time, but that you just keep going.  Because that progress will really start to add up.

That’s exactly my philosophy by doing this daily blog.  Little daily amounts of effort that will yield a big, long-term return of increased creative and expression liberation and productivity.

In all of life, let’s not be the hare who spurts forward and then, from laziness or fatigue, gives up and sits by the side of the road, while the tortoise patiently ambles by to claim the victory.  Slow and steady wins the race, all the way!

 

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