Don’t ever do nothing because you think you can’t do anything.
One time I was making a rosary. I was cutting and twisting each link the hard way, instead of using eye pins. My hand started to cramp up and I put it down. The next day I wasn’t I interested in working on it. A week went by. I picked it up again. And I realized something. The work that I had done hadn’t gone away. I was that much closer to the end.
All progress towards a worthy goal is like this. We aren’t able to just plunge in and get there. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot out of us, but it makes us stronger. The stuff that it takes out is fear of being insignificant, fear of not making a difference, fear that what we have to offer isn’t good enough.
The same is true of any goal. It is easy to put things off because you think you can’t make a difference. It is easy to be jealous of people because they seem to have it all together, so you never even start. Why even try to learn to play the trumpet when Dizzy Gillespie has it down to an art? You can’t ever be that good. So why try?
That kind of thinking is dangerous. That kind of thinking will keep you in a hole forever.
Look at Mozart, or Matisse, or Marie Curie. Each one made it to the top of their field.
They didn’t get it all together all at once. They committed to a goal and worked on it, bit by bit. Nobody loses a significant amount of weight immediately. Nobody gets a college degree overnight. There is often a lot of hidden failure in there.
The trick is, don’t show off the beginner work. Paint over that canvas when you learn a new technique. Don’t think that sloppy painting of a flower is all you can do. You are starting. Every baby has to learn how to walk. Every new skill has to be learned.
Having patience with yourself and the process is helpful. Knowing your limits, and pushing them a little, is helpful too.
When I was in school I’d often get assigned books that weren’t exactly what I wanted to read. I could have waited until the last week and read the book in one fell swoop, remembering only half of it and hating all of the experience. Instead, I decided to use my limited math skills in my favor. I took the number of pages and divided by the amount of time that I had to read. This technique can be applied to anything. Take something you have to do and break it down into little steps.
Slow and steady wins the race.
A Rabbi once said that you can’t burn down a tree with a single match, but if you chop up the tree into small pieces, you can. This is a very useful way to think.
Say you want to do a good deed, a mitzvah. But you don’t think that you can do it all. So you do none of it. The idea here is that it is better to do a little of it than to do nothing at all. And, invariably, you will find that you gain a little more energy and ability towards the completion of your goal from just doing that tiny bit.
Energy leads to more energy. Good creates more good.
It is hard for us to get up enough momentum to do what we know we should do. We take breaks. We stop entirely. We regress. We gain back double the weight we had lost.
I exhort you to get back on and go. I exhort you to keep trying.
I remind you that even just thinking about it, you’ve already taken the first step. That energy can be enough to move on to the next one.