WoW 098: On small practices, Meaningful Action, part 5 [Words of Wisdom]

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WoW 098: On small practices, meaningful action, part 5


This episode is part 5 in a series I'm calling Meaningful Action.

Part 1: On practicing awareness in the journey towards goodness

Part 2: On who are you becoming?

Part 3: On wise heroes

Part 4: On the value of virtue

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You could think of your life as a set of small interconnected ​practices​.

How you wake up. What you do in the morning.

How you transition to start work.

How you take intentional breaths.

How you ​read and how you learn​.

How you choose entertainment, and to what degree and when.

How you plan.

The list goes on.

Each of these are skills that you can develop.

To grow in meaningful action, identify a small practice that you want to grow in.

Make the practice as small as possible.

You can make a practice small by setting a time limit. For example, "I will meditate 3 minutes a day."

"I will take 10 intentional breaths before starting each meeting." This is just 1 minute of intentional breathing but it can make your more thoughtful and calm in a meeting.

"I will read at least one page a day from my book." One page can turn into 10 or 60 minutes. Consistently ​reading more books​ is a simple and powerful way to grow.

Or you could make it small by focusing on the smallest microskill of a larger set of skills.

"I will practice focusing on listening to the feeling words people communicate or imply." An easy thing to do, if you're mindful of it. Once you start to make this a regular thing and can easily identify the ​feeling words​ people use, you can add in additional communication microskills.

A small practice or small skill helps you because it makes it more likely ​that you will show up​. Showing up is necessary to ​develop a habit​. Practicing a habit is necessary to develop mastery.

So, how do you grow in a skill?

Identify the sub-skills that make up that skill.

Practice each one intentionally. With a small focus, you will identify more clearly what goes well and what doesn't. As you make progress you'll be encouraged by the improvements. The more you enjoy the process, the more you will keep doing it.

It can be quite helpful to track your progress, whether that's journaling about it, talking to a friend regularly about it, or tracking whether you do it or not each day. Measuring your progress is one way to focus on it, and can help you be do the activity more frequently and more intentionally.

Once you can engage in a small skill consistently and without too much effort, progress to another.

Build on these small skills intentionally and you will develop the larger skillset over time.


"You must convince yourself of the following: people get the mind and quality of brain that they deserve through their actions in life."

Robert Greene, ​Mastery​

"The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways."

Robert Greene, ​Mastery​

"Aristotle described ​virtue​ as a kind of craft, something to pursue just as one pursues the mastery of any profession or skill. “We become builders by building and we become harpists by playing the harp,” he wrote. “Similarly, then, we become just by doing just actions, temperate by doing temperate actions, brave by doing brave actions.” Virtue is something we do. It’s something we choose. Not once, for Hercules’s crossroads was not a singular event. It’s a daily challenge, one we face not once but constantly, repeatedly. Will we be selfish or selfless? Brave or afraid? Strong or weak? Wise or stupid? Will we cultivate a good habit or a bad one? Courage or cowardice? The bliss of ignorance or the challenge of a new idea? Stay the same . . . or grow? The easy way or the right way?"

Ryan Holiday, ​Discipline is Destiny​


What 10 minute-or-less practice can you develop into a habit that will have a compounding impact on your life?

What skill do you want to grow in? What are a handful of micro skills that you can identify that make up part of that larger skill? Which will you start with practicing?

What are the most fundamental micro skills that the larger skill is built on? Of those, which are the most important?

(Use these questions as a journal prompt and prayers this week)


Being intentional about growing in and practicing small skills is essential to being on the path to mastery.

Live wisely,


P.S. Share what skill you are working on with me, and with one other friend. I’d love to hear the ways you are growing!

P.P.S. If you want to help more people grow in wisdom, you would would help me out by spreading Words of Wisdom. You could do that by going to the place you listen to podcasts and giving me a review. It will help spread the word! Here I am on ​Spotify​, ​Apple Podcasts​, and ​Google​.

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