giftedness matters !

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Life Is Daily

For years I have struggled with a deep, dark secret. Would you like to know what it is?

Of course you do! My hunch is you probably struggle with the same thing. So here it is. . .

My deep, dark secret is that I almost never know what to do right now.

Not for lack of vision! Oh my gosh, I have so much vision, I can’t keep track of it! I have entire ledger pads filled up with all kinds of cool stuff I dream of doing. In fact, I have stacks of ledger pads filled up with all kinds of cool stuff I dream of doing! So if you lack vision, give me a call. I’ve got vision to spare!

We’re Only Given Today
There’s just one small problem. I can easily think of where I want to be a year from now, five years from now, or even twenty-five years from now (assuming I’m still around). That’s all good. It means I have some North Stars to guide me.

But the reality of life is that none of us has tomorrow. We’re only given today. Which means that today matters. In a sense, it’s the only thing that matters, because it’s the only thing we have.

In short, life is daily.

It’s incremental. It’s about faithfulness. It’s about daily choices.

We all seem to know that when it comes to investing our money. Deep down we know that get-rich-quick schemes never work. Instead, if we want to build wealth, we have to sock away money a little at a time, and then let the power of compounding take over. 

Warren Buffet instinctively understood that principle even as a child. His biographer, Alice Schroeder, reports that he could picture numbers compounding the way a snowball grows when rolled across a snowy lawn. His giftedness fascinated him with the way that numbers “exploded as they grew at a constant rate over time,” such that even a small sum could eventually grow into a fortune (The Snowball).

But somehow we forget about incremental gains when it comes to our time. We want the big payoff immediately. Like, RIGHT NOW! 

We Want It All NOW!
I guess that’s a result of our technologically driven culture. As technology gets faster, we seem to recalibrate our mental clocks from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) to Instant Results Time (IRT). Then we apply that right-now deadline to most everything in our lives.

But we can’t fool Mother Nature—including our own nature. We were not built to have it all right now, but rather to focus on what we’re doing right now. There’s a huge difference!

To illustrate: how would you like to lose some weight? Apparently a lot of people would, given all the ads and commercials for weight loss supplements, surgeries, and diets. Everyone wants to lose weight—right away!

But all the research shows that permanent weight loss is a matter of lifestyle. In the absence of lifestyle changes, quick fixes end up in a yo-yo effect, where you just gain back the weight you’ve lost.

So. . .suppose you eliminated just 500 calories from your diet a week. That’s about two-and-a-half Starbucks Cafè Lattés. Can you do without two Starbucks Cafè Lattés a week? If you do, you’ll get rid of 26,000 calories in a year. Depending on other factors, that translates to more than seven pounds lost—meaning that a year from now, you could weigh seven pounds less.

Oh, you want to get thin faster? Well, try walking for one mile (that takes about 20-30 minutes if you’re an “average” person, whoever that is). That’ll burn 100 calories for a 180-pound person, 114 for a 250-pound person. Do that five days a week for a year and you’ll lose another 7-8 pounds in a year. 

So now you’re down almost 15 pounds. Pretty good! Do that over 5 years and theoretically you’d lose lose 75 pounds.

But maybe walking seems like too much effort for you. Okay, how about if you just stood up to do your work rather than sitting. If you did that for even four hours, you could burn between 235 and 501 calories a day. Five days a week, and that’s anywhere from 17 to 36 pounds in a year. Just for standing!!

Right Now Actually Matters
Is that really possible? I don’t know. But I do know one thing: we humans only get this present moment in which to live, in which to decide what we’re going to do. If we have an envisioned future (i.e., an aim or a goal), that’s great. In fact, it’s vital. But to reach it, our choices right now and in this moment matter.

That applies to every area of life: work, relationships, personal aspirations, spirituality, everything.

I’ve authored or co-authored about twenty published books. I can assure you that a book is written one word and one sentence at a time. Enough words and enough sentences (edited, of course), and you’ve got a book.

A couple posts ago I talked about how my daughter Brittany Hendricks ended up as a world-class trumpet player. I can assure you that music is played—and practiced—one note and one phrase of notes at a time. Enough notes and enough phrases (properly practiced, of course), and you end up at the world-class level.

Warren Buffet has made Berkshire Hathaway the gold standard for investing. I can assure you that Warren Buffet built Berkshire Hathaway one investment (carefully considered, of course) at a time, over time.

The point is, life is not actually lived in weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime, but rather on a daily basis. What I do right now counts. String enough right-nows together, and you end up with weeks, months, years, and a lifetime. And results.

My longtime friend Tracy Wood frequently says of people who have seemingly hit the lottery in their career: “They worked 25 years to become an overnight success.”

That pretty much says it all. Slow and steady does indeed win the race. You actually do reap what you sow.

So where are you trying to get to? What’s your North Star? It’s definitely important to nail that down, because if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll get there every time. But once you’re clear on that, you have to commit to what Friedrich Nietzsche called “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Life is daily. So what are you doing right now?

Question: Tell me, what sorts of things keep you from doing something today that would get you where you really want to go?

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  1. Hey Bill,
    Great post. I think the power of doing something daily is amazing. As I get older, with more interests and passions--and more distractions--I find it easier to stop doing the things that got me here. Coincidentally, that includes stopping the things I love.

    I appreciate the reminder of compounding interest with time. The 10k rule is something I've thought about with music and other endeavors.

  2. Getting older is definitely a danger! I should probably do a post about that sometime (since I'm experiencing it daily!).

    Two completely opposed things happen as one gets older. The first is that if you're diligent about leaning into your giftedness and using it to practice whatever craft or calling you've pursued, you get to an elite level at which you're capable of handling much, much more sophisticated—and frankly, more interesting—problems and opportunities.

    At the same time, as you slowly but surely attain to an elite level in your area (while getting older), it become easier and easier to coast, because most of the stuff that comes your way is rather pedestrian by then. You've seen most of it before, you know how to handle it, you know what you have to do, it takes less energy, etc.

    And that's when those distractions become very, very dangerous, because they can become more appealing. Why not cut your "practice" short and go do something fun? Why not knock off early and enjoy a little diversion?

    When that happens, the 10,000K rule also applies: practice diversionary activity enough, and pretty soon you're slipping badly.

    Just today I came across an interesting quote by Shaquille O'Neal: “Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.”

    That's also true in the opposite direction. Mediocrity and phoning in one's performance are not singular acts, but habits. We are what we repeatedly do.

    Lord, keep me diligent about my sweet spot!

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