Incremental Progress

Day 101 Week 15 Q2 Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Have you ever awoken and noticed you had amassed an unusually large collection of tools in a specific domain? You may have been aware you were attracted to and accumulating the wherewithal to work in a particular field. For some, it can be woodworking tools, others musical instruments, and others collect software apps for taking notes.  You may have been accumulating relationships that all revolved around some common interests. Or books about a topic.

If you have been doing this for a long time, you may have accumulated a stash that exceeds your life expectancy to be able to utilize it. And there is likely a critical mass of capability, relationships, tools and desire to do something with this incremental unconscious accumulation.

It may be time to incrementally deploy this pile to get something done more than accumulation.  Many of us have long lists of projects we want and intend to do for a long time. Is it time for some incremental progress? Is there something you could do for twenty minutes every day to manifest some of these as-yet latent dreams?

Just as the accumulation of wherewithal can be slow, steady and incremental, so can accomplishment. I used to do a lot of ocean kayaking and was amazed to find myself out of sight of land a couple of miles off the coast of Maine just by taking one stroke at a time for thirty or forty minutes. It sort of crept up on me, and it was wondrous that something as simple as taking a series of simple strokes could get you so far. This is a metaphor for all sorts of things in life. For the last hundred and forty-some-odd days, I have deposited a blog posting into an as-yet-unpublished website. I now find myself with the contents of a book.

There are tiny habits that, practiced consistently, can produce monumental results. The great writer Jack London purportedly wrote four pages daily and ended up with over a thousand published materials. Some composers write little music every day. Non-athletes can work out for twenty minutes daily and get in pretty good shape. Musicians can practice for half an hour daily and reach high proficiency levels. 

Perhaps most progress is incremental. Sometimes as creative outliers, we have a bushel of dreams and projects that we throw ourselves into until we burn out on them. As I enter my eighth decade in about a week, I realize that slow and steady wins the race. Well, it took long enough to find this out. Sometimes you have to stop burning rubber to see that you are not getting anywhere even though there is a lot of smoke and noise. It turns out that too much energy can cause you to waste more of it than those who never had all of that energy and ideas in the first place.

Amazingly, slowing down and becoming more incremental may be the most efficient and productive thing a person can do.