If you cannot do great things now, start by doing small things in a great way

Wooden blocks

(Image: snowing)

Sometimes, we see others’ successes and feel discouraged. Like so-and-so just launched a book and it hit best seller lists. Or so-and-so launched a product and it achieved sold-out status.

So we set a high bar for ourselves and strive to do the same, if not better. We set high expectations on who we should be, what we should do, and push ourselves to do just that.

Except that it doesn’t always work out. It fails as we become weighed down by the enormity of our goal, and stressed by the need to do great things, we decide to do… nothing. Days turn into weeks, which turn into months, and nothing happens as we hold on tight to our grand goal, waiting for the perfect moment to set ourselves onto it.

In such cases, here’s something to remember: If you cannot do great things now, for whatever reason, then start by doing small things in a great way.

This means,

  • If your goal is to start your restaurant, then start by perfecting your recipes for your meals, right in your kitchen.
  • If your goal is to develop the next big app, then start by developing tools that people will use, that solves people’s pain points.
  • If your goal is to be a best-selling author, then start by refining your writing skills, through your daily writing, and researching to understand what makes others tick.
  • If your goal is to be a top YouTuber, then start by creating simple videos that convey your ideas well.

Whatever big goal you’ve been putting off, ask yourself: What is a small thing I can do well instead?

Because it’s so easy to overlook the small things in favor of that big goal we want to get to. Yet our results in the long-term are built on the little steps we take today.

  • An athlete wins the race because he has spent each day following his workout regime without fail.
  • A singer achieves her big break because she has performed many small gigs which helped hone her vocals and develop her onstage persona. Stefani Germanotta played gigs and performed in clubs throughout New York City before being discovered in 2007, later adopting the moniker Lady Gaga, winning 11 Grammys, and becoming one of the world’s best-selling music artists.[1]
  • An author publishes a best-selling book because he has spent years building his expertise and his writing skills. Malcolm Gladwell is an author who has published five The New York Times bestselling books, the first of which was The Tipping Point. Before he published his first book, he worked as a reporter for nine years, covering business and science, and later started at The New Yorker in 1996. There, he gained popularity with two articles, both written in 1996: “The Tipping Point” and “The Coolhunt,” which would become the basis for Gladwell’s first book, The Tipping Point, for which he received a $1 million advance.

    Gladwell said regarding his writing, “I was a basket case at the beginning, and I felt like an expert at the end. It took 10 years—exactly that long.”[2]

We are, in essence, not what we will do on some fine day, but what we do today.

While doing small things well today may not seem like a great deal, especially when we stack them up against our final big goal, a 1% improvement each day, done for 365 days, leads to a 37-times improvement.[3]

But it starts by first committing to these small steps, and doing them well. It is not that grand big goal that you’re going to work on at some point in the future that matters. It is what you do now, today. These small steps determine what you eventually become.

So what small steps can you take today? And how can you do these small steps in a great way?

Read: The Power of Little Changes

*Today’s post is inspired by the quote “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way,” often attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.