I have a tattoo that wraps around my left ankle that is a quote from Lao Tzu. I was inspired by a book I read called “Body Type” by Ina Saltz. The entire book features tattoos that are words, and often they are in meaningful fonts.
Like any self-respecting tattooed person, I was on the quest to get another tattoo after reading that. But what? What words would be worthwhile to get permanently marked on my body? What do I need to remember that much? What would be helpful to others?
I found something that answered those questions in the quote “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” I’d always heard it as “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” but when you are going to get something permanent, you might as well make sure of the exact wording. When I looked it up, I found this alternate translation. I like “… beneath ones’ feet” much better.
Both quotes help to remind us to not look at the goal. Just get started. There is another Chinese saying that is like this. “The best time to plant a tree is a hundred years ago. The second best time is today.” Both refer to starting. You have to dream, but then you have to make those dreams real. And making dreams real is composed of a lot of tiny steps. When you first start it feels impossible, that you will never get there. Just keep going. Just keep taking tiny steps. The quote also reminds us to break up a big, difficult project up into manageable parts. Do a little here, and a little there, and you’ll get there.
But we all know that just starting is the hardest part. This is why I like the alternate translation so much better. The start is right now, right where you are. Here’s the secret – just thinking about it, you have already begun.
That is worth savoring. You want to write? Many people would say then just write. That is easier to say than do, because you want to make it perfect. You won’t. It won’t be perfect. It will be really ugly and clunky and dull at the beginning. But then you write more, and it gets easier, and clearer, and better. This applies to anything creative, not just writing.
But you still have to start.
I had a problem getting started. Sometimes the problem was stopping a bad habit and starting a better one. I know I’m not alone in this. Sometimes the inertia was too great. Sometimes I couldn’t achieve enough escape velocity to get going.
These words inspire me, and I hope they do the same to you. Just thinking about it, you’ve already started. You’ve already taken the first step.