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

Wooden blocks

(Image: snowing)

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” — Martin Luther King, Jr

Sometimes, we see others’ successes and feel discouraged. Like so-and-so just launched a book and it hit bestseller 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 and what we should do, and push ourselves to achieve 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 do… nothing.

Days turn into weeks, then months, and nothing happens as we hold onto our grand goal, waiting for the perfect moment to work on it. “We’ll do it when we have the time, we say.

If this is happening to you now, know this: If you cannot do great things right now for whatever reason — maybe you are in a full-time job, or you are being a full-time parent, or you are stuck in a life circumstance — then start by doing small things in a great way.

This means,

  • If your goal is to start a food channel, then start by perfecting your recipes in your own kitchen.
  • If your goal is to develop the next big app, then start by developing simple tools that solve people’s pain points.
  • If your goal is to be a best-selling author, then start by refining your writing skills through short-form writing like blog articles.
  • If your goal is to be a 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 now?

It’s so easy to overlook the small things in favor of the big goal. But your results in the long term are built on the little steps you take today.

  • An athlete wins the race because he has spent each day following his workout regime.
  • A singer achieves her big break because she has performed many small gigs which helped hone her vocals and develop her stage presence. Stefani Germanotta played at gigs and performed at clubs around New York before being discovered in 2006. She later adopted the moniker Lady Gaga, won 13 Grammys, and became one of the world’s best-selling music artists.[1]
  • A writer becomes a best-selling author because he has spent years building his expertise and writing skills. Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five The New York Times bestsellers, including The Tipping Point. Before he wrote his first book, he worked as a reporter for nine years, covering business and science, and later at The New Yorker. There, he wrote two articles “The Tipping Point” and “The Coolhunt,” which gained prominence and formed the basis for his first book — The Tipping Point.[2][3]
    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.”[4]

We are, in essence, not what we will do someday. We are what we do today, and we become who we want to be through the things we do every day.

If you think that doing small things well today may not seem like a great deal, well, consider this: a 1% improvement each day, done for 365 days, leads to a 37-times improvement.[5]

  • (1 + 1%)365 = (1.01)365 = 37.78

This means that your little improvement may not seem like a big deal to you, but when done over time, will bring you to where you want to be.

It starts by first committing to the small things and doing them well.

Remember, it is not that big goal that you’re going to work on at some point that matters. It is what you do now, today. The small things you do determine what you become.

So what is a small thing you can do today? And how can you do this small thing in a great way?

Read: The Power of Little Changes