Small drops ripple
Core - Nº26
Momentum travels both ways. Stay still, and you slowly feel sluggish. But start moving, and you eventually feel like moving a little more. Don’t talk; feel timid. Start chatting, and eventually conversations get a little easier. Don’t publish; feel stuck. Start creating, and ideas start to flow.
I read this reflection from James Clear, and it struck a beautiful chord in my mind, interlinking well with the idea of ripples because, in one way, it explains that:
We are limited more by distractions than time.
Simply throwing more time at a problem rarely fixes it.
His reflection also explains that small actions make a big difference in confidence and outcomes over time. You may read that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” by Lao Tzu, and this is a similar concept. It’s about the small steps you take every day; no matter how insignificant they may seem, they can move you closer or further from the life you want.
Sit next to a peaceful, quiet lake and tap the water's surface with your finger. Observe how far each ripple will travel. And how more taps add more ripples. Life works similarly. The more you contribute to your goal, the more you will eke out of it.
Improving your fitness is one of the best lessons because everyone starts from zero. Everyone must go from point A (unhappy with their physique) to point B (somewhat happy with their physique). It will always take time to sculpt the figure you dream about. Sure, it might be slightly easier for some. But there is no magic path or shortcut that cuts the work you have to do by 75%. No way to rush. Everyone has to work hard.
As naturally as a water ripple meets its end, small efforts eventually lose their merit. You must keep going, repeat, and finish the work you start. Sometimes you just need to stop researching, planning, preparing, and get on with it.
When I started writing, it didn’t matter how good or bad I was. Or when I started cycling with faster, older people—it didn’t matter how slow I was. Most people don’t set the world alight on their first try. And nobody needs to. You only need to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to produce something. Not the best work in the world, but the work that spurs you to go again.
Imagine you have a glass of water to fill up. You can either pour the whole bottle of water into it at once or add one drop of water every second. Which choice do you think will fill the glass up faster? The answer is obvious: it’ll take a matter of seconds with the bottle of water.
We all want to fill our glasses up as quickly as possible. But what if you don’t have a bottle of water? What if you only have access to a drop of water every second? Does it mean you’ll never fill up the glass? Of course not. It only means you’ll have to be patient and consistent. The glass will be full. It may take hours, days, or even weeks, but it will happen.
And the analogy here is true to life. Some people have access to a little more than one drop every second. It may be one drop every half a second or a few drops every second. In rare cases, some people can pour the whole damn thing into the glass. But whatever your goal is, chances are you can’t do it all at once. You have to add one drop at a time.
The edge is in the inputs.
— James Clear
Action creates hope. Few things feel as good as lying there at the end of the day and thinking, “Wow. I did this all today”. Caring little about how good or bad it is—because you did it either way. At the end of the week, it’s the same fantastic feeling of accumulation. At the end of the year? You would struggle to even imagine.
Small habits are the drops of water to fill up your glass (your goal). One or a few drops each day will ripple into much more, and if you let it work, it happens faster than you think. The daily work that might seem boring or insignificant, or that you do without too much thought, adds up over time. If you want to lose weight, you can’t just go on a crash diet and expect to see results. You have to shift the entire culture around your eating and exercise habits to make things easy to repeat. Add one drop of water at a time.
Or, let’s say you want to learn a new skill. You can’t just watch a YouTube video and expect to master it after day one. You must practice, absorb what you’ve learned, and try again tomorrow. Let yourself feel silly or embarrassed in the beginning. Respect the basics. Get the hard-to-hear feedback. And if you do all of this daily for months or years, you will become proficient beyond belief.
If you want to start a business, it can’t run on thoughts that excite you or make you feel good. You can’t just quit your job and expect it to work out. You have to do your research, validate your idea, build it, know your audiences, market it and so on. Add one drop at a time and let it ripple.
You get the idea. If you do these things every day, you allow your work to become successful and incredibly sustainable. And do not be fooled by thinking that doers are not major thinkers. It was Steve Jobs who famously recognised that the people who create things that change industries are both masterful thinkers and doers in one. Leonardo was a great artist, but he also mixed all of his own paints. He was a good chemist. He knew about pigments, human anatomy, and combining skills together as an art and science in itself. The final result? History.
Whatever your goal is, quickly identify what you need to do, and let the small drops ripple. Add to it every day, and let your work travel far.