No. 458 — February 6, 2022
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“The mind, when distracted, takes in nothing very deeply, but rejects everything that is, as it were, crammed into it. There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn.”
“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”— Leo Tolstoy
One of the most beneficial skills you can learn in life is how to consistently put yourself in a good position. The person who finds themselves in a strong position can take advantage of circumstances while others are forced into a series of poor choices.
Strong positions are not an accident. Weak positions aren’t bad luck.
Telling someone they need to put themselves in a strong position is useless. Everyone knows they need a strong foundation to build a house that can weather a storm (or a wolf, thank you Three Little Pigs) but not everyone knows how we can create that foundation?
The answer is as simple as it is frustrating. The position you find yourself in today is the accumulation of the small choices that you’ve been making for years.
If that’s the case, why doesn’t everyone make choices that will put them in a good position in the future?
The ordinary choices that guarantee a strong future go unnoticed. There is no pat on the back for doing the right thing just as there is no slap on the wrist for doing the wrong thing.
Eating a chocolate bar right now won’t make you unhealthy. Just as not eating it won’t make you healthy. Saving money today won’t make you rich, just as not saving it won’t make you poor. Reading a chapter of a great book today won’t solve your problems just as not reading it won’t make them worse.
Not doing the obvious thing you know you should do — the thing that positions you for future success — rarely hurts you right away.
The small choices we make on a daily basis either work for us or against us. One choice puts time on your side. The other ensures it’s working against you. Time amplifies what you feed it.
On the first day, the difference between the choices that help us and the choices that hurt us isn’t noticeable. But as the days turn to weeks, weeks into years, and years into decades, the small choices create massively different results.
Whenever this idea is brought up, people are quick to interject. “But … I do these things and I don’t get the results.” And it’s true, most of us make the right choices most of the time. But most of the time isn’t the same as all of the time.
For your choices to compound, you need to be consistent. Intensity will only carry you in the short term but if you want compounding results you need consistency. In the absence of immediate rewards, we can keep up the intensity for a while but most of us become intermittent.
A lack of consistency keeps ordinary people from extraordinary results. It’s like we’re Sisyphus rolling a boulder halfway up the hill, only to throw our hands in the air and go home. When we show up the next day, we see the boulder at the bottom of the hill. Not only did this undermine our progress but it makes getting started even harder.
Excelling at the small choices that compound over time perpetually leaves you in favorable circumstances. No matter what happens in the world, you’re never in a position where you are forced into a bad decision.
If you want results you need to be willing to pay the price. The price is both easier than you imagine and harder than you think. The price is consistently doing the small choices that put you on the path to success for years. The price is knowing that time is working on your side even when the results don’t show it … yet.
When you look below the surface, giant leaps aren’t really giant leaps at all. They’re a series of ordinary choices that suddenly become noticeable. If you look for the magic moment, you’ll miss how ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Explore Your Curiosity
“There is and can be no ultimate solution for us to discover, but instead a permanent need for balancing contradictory claims, for careful trade-offs between conflicting values, toleration of difference, consideration of the specific factors at play when a choice is needed, not reliance on an abstract blueprint claimed to be applicable everywhere, always, to all people.”
“He has a thing about celebrating, Kipchoge. Sees it as something sinister, something dangerous, a self-indulgent act that might derail his mindset, make him think, somewhere in his subconscious, that he has arrived, the inference being he has nowhere left to go. He’ll punch the air at the finish, alright, but try to get him into an open-top car or to attend a huge welcome-home party and you’ll get a polite but firm rejection. Which begs a question: If he can’t bask in the glow of his achievements, when is Kipchoge truly content? Maybe that’s the thing about all-time greats. Maybe they never are. “I’m a believer that if you climb to one branch,” he says, “then you reach for the next branch.””
+ Some people never forget a face.
+ “We like to think we have conscious control over our behavior, but the more we learn, the more we know that that’s not entirely true. We’re less in control than we’d like.”
P.S. An epic zoom-in from the Milky Way to the black hole.