In this series, we are exploring how to take your thinking seriously. To see the six previous posts in the series, go here.
Intended Audience: Knowledge workers, students, or anyone who wants to take their learning seriously and compound their knowledge and learning over time.
(Applying what takes you 7 minutes to read today will benefit you for decades, and others for generations to come.)
To make a significant impact, you must show up consistently in your practice and take meaningful action.
To take meaningful action, identify the most 'leveraged' actions you can take, ideally in the areas that fit your strongest skills. Do what you do best. If you don't know what that is, show up consistently to build a valuable skillset in something you are passionate about.
If you have no clue what that leveraged activity might be, read Essentialism.
Taking small, tiny action steps each day, and having a simple and concrete plan to take that action will lead to significant transformation over time.
But the tricky thing is that at the beginning, taking small action steps doesn't matter much.
It's easy to give up at this point. Even taking steps each day for a month hardly feels like it does anything. Starting a practice is when taking action is the most difficult because not only do you see near zero results, it can become painfully obvious just how little you know, and how unskilled you are.
But the other way to look at this is that a week of this is doable. It's not too overwhelming. You can show up each day for a week.
Tell a supportive friend your plan. Get support from your community and be clear about what you are committing to.
As you stay consistent with your practice, the value increases. First slowly. But then, consistent action in the same direction will compound over time.
Taking small daily action steps moves you slower and faster than you think. Consistently small steps lead to significant transformation.
Each day feels slow. Each year feels fast.
Here's a way to visualize what you can accomplish with focused action each day over a year.
A year of focused daily activity leads to surprising growth.
Since the key is consistency, the place to start is with a minimum commitment to a fundamental activity.
Say, 20 minutes a day to work on your craft. It could be 20 minutes a day of working out, writing, reading, or learning a particular skill.
Would you progress towards your goal if you took action steps like this each day for 20 minutes?
Let's take reading and writing, for example.
If you read 20 minutes a day, at 250 words a minute, that's about one page a minute, or about 20 pages a day. That adds up to reading 12 books a year (with an average 300-page nonfiction book). All with a simple 20 minutes of reading a day. Over a decade, this simple reading habit will have you reading 120 books.
If you read for just 10 of those minutes, but spread your reading across 30 different books, and write evergreen notes in your own words for the other 10 minutes, let's say you come up with 2 evergreen notes a day. You'd cut your reading in half, but do much deeper thinking and come away with 730 evergreen notes in the course of a year. In 3 years you'd have over 2,100 evergreen notes, more than enough ideas and resources for you to write a book or two.
Of course you'll likely miss some days due to laziness, sickness, or unexpected things that show up and take over your schedule for the day. So let's say you miss one day a week. That's a 14% rate of failure to show up for your practice. But then again, at least once a week I bet you'd get sucked into what you were reading and you would double your reading for the day. If that were true you could allow for some failure and still not even lose any progress.
How to get started:
Identify a leveraged activity for your practice.
Develop a daily practice around that activity
Set a daily schedule that you can accomplish for one week.
Make a commitment to that week.
Tell a friend who will cheer you on.
Track your actions.
Allow for some failure.
Repeat each week.
Here's the template of writing out your commitment to your practice:
"During the next week, I will do at least 20 minutes of [your practice activity], at [time], in [place]."
Here's an example:
"During the next week, I will do at least 20 minutes of reading, at 7am, sitting in my favorite chair with my coffee."
Once you have successfully built a 20 minute practice in one area and it has become a life giving habit, you could add an additional practice for another 20 minutes a day. Or if 20 minutes feels overwhelming, start with 3 minutes a day. Just keep saying yes each day to 3 minutes of focusing on your practice. You'll build initial momentum and soon enough be able to grow that far beyond the 3 minutes.
"He who only wishes and hopes does not interfere actively with the course of events and with the shaping of his own destiny."
Ludwig Von Mises, Human Action
"Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don't do it. It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don't do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet. You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got."
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
"What matters is that you start. All you're deciding to do is to try. Do whatever you can with what you have. It will never feel like the right time. You will never be "ready." Avoid preparing too much. Start before you are ready. Start with fear. Start with uncertainty. This is one of the biggest secrets of the most creative, happy, successful people: Just start."
Chase Jarvis, Creative Calling
What practice are you most inspired by? What terrifies you the most?
What practice could you commit to this week?
Where and when will you do your practice?
Who will you tell about the practice you are committing to?
The only thing between you and accomplishing your goals might be 20 minutes of consistent practice. I'd love to hear what you are daring to do! Write out your commitment to your practice and share it with me and at least one friend.