Truth #9: We've Forgotten How to Chip Away
We can’t expect a “one hour or its free” on our level-up work.
Similar to the mystification of success—where we aren’t privy to the painstaking (and often embarrasing) hustle before a rise—exists our own behind-the-scenes grind.
However, in the era of Netflix full-season droppin’, we’ve become accustomed to immediacy.
We huff back thousands of hours of production in a single sitting. We complain about the blue light stinging our retinas, but we kinda like it. We have digital gout—lounging in a sea of tech cords, beefy plot lines, and UberEats containers. We’re inflamed with consumption, only coming up for air only to diddle ourselves with our phone’s pop socket (it really does help with carpal tunnel).
The point being: we are gluttonous and impatient. We want it all and we want it all now.
The idea of waiting one full week to find who’ll fuck who on the next episode of “Passions: Les Modern Affaire” seems inconceivable. Barbaric, even.
Note: I just googled if we’re allowed to say “barbaric” anymore. It seemed dicy, but as it turns out, we’re keeping this one!
It’s hard to remember the bygone era of moderation, patience and incrementalism. We’ve been on a runaway train, conditioned to choke back as much of life’s fumes as possible. We’ve been burning the candle at both ends with a strange short-termism.
In doing so, our brains are being rewired to forget the middle part.
The part between the beginning and the end is becoming buried. The portion where the sweat-ridden, nauseating work takes place is far from view as we engage with bottomless heaps of “final product only”.
This passes on the fallacious idea that if we don’t see immediate, climactic results then we must suck. Worst of all, if something doesn’t click right away, external validation fizzles and we’re left unseen and nonviral on our own lonely island!
As a whole, we’ve lost our ability to wait. Or at the very least, to not feel bad if things don’t happen immediately. We’ve adopted the flawed belief that if our pursuits don’t deliver right away then they should be discounted.
For example: If I post a twenty-second TikTok about being accidentally called “Gayle” by a neighbour (true story) and how this officially marks the end of my youth and the video is only seen by 100 people, one might think: what’s the point?! One might also think if posting one “funny” video doesn't get me an agent and justify building a recording studio garden suite, then why bother?! (also, true story).
But this isn’t the way that real things happen in the real world. Building something that lasts takes time. And building something is the result of chipping away. It’s the daily, uncute work that no one would dare toss a fire emoji at.
We can’t expect a “one hour or its free” on our level-up work.
Getting to where we want to go is made up of countless micro moves. It’s making purposeful choices over and over again. It’s a rinse and repeat, step back and evaluate, then a double down. Achievement that expresses our version of success (e.g. money, freedom, a tight ass, etc.) is made from a quilt of genuine and repeated efforts.
This is why the “all or nothing” mentality is wrong.
It’s not all or nothing—it’s a little bit of something + time.
“All or nothing” is an excuse. It’s also a side-effect from wanting immediate results and being disappointed when the outcome doesn’t fit within our fictional timeline.
Falling off the wagon—whether it’s from curbing spending, doing morning papers, or chugging a bubba keg of water before lunch—is often because we don’t see the change we’ve fantasized about fast enough. If we can’t see ourselves getting better, we lose interest and motivation. Moreover, if we hit our goal and it falls short of our expectation, we are also done for.
And it’s no wonder. The stories we promote are about the insta-famous, the meteoric rises, or the people who always knew what they wanted to do. We hear about the gamer nerd who hacked cryptocurrency and retired by age 23. We watch Star TV biopics about fateful run-ins, lucky breaks, and fast success. While these stories are fine and notable, they’re not relatable.
We need more stories from the shadows. We want to hear about the people who get rejected, question everything they know, and somehow manage not to give up. We want the chipping away tale with narrative, an arc, and most importantly, substance.
This is the story of the goddamn people!
Chipping away with an understanding that progression is probably going to be slow, is replicable. And it doesn’t require good bone structure and porcelain veneers. It also doesn’t rely on virality or waiting on someone to make something happen.
Instead, chipping away is tied to one thing: the ability to keep going without validation.
We add in the “validation” part because people like success. And the middle part will not be riddled with successes. The celebration banners and champagne toasts for your grind may be few and far between. And even still, bonbon-less, we must keep chipping and then chip some more.
Note: Chipping away means taking small, regular steps towards a place that’s better than where we currently are.
And as we chip, we build a foundation that can’t be taken away.
Everyone can work at something each day (or 5 days a week cause a girl’s gotta live), and incrementally move forward. And slowly, just like dining in the revolving CN Tower 360 Restaurant (*hold the overpriced calamari*), our view changes. Suddenly, we’re no longer staring down at a pit of cranes and condos. We’ve caught a glimpse of Lake Ontario and a few half-sunken houseboats. Our vantage has shifted.
Examples of things you can chip away at (that will eventually accumulate):
Money— Saving $20, $100 or $500 a month. Stashing away cash, or automating withdrawals into an out-of-sight savings account passively lets you build a stack.
Fitness—Going for a walk, doing 10-minute of living room Zumba (curtains closed, pleased) or jogging once a week doesn’t seem impossible. And it all adds up. Suddenly, 10 minutes of gyrating to Pitbull’s Shake Senora, doesn’t feel like enough and bam! you’ve upped your game.
A Project—The end goal may be paralyzing, but once broken down into smaller hunks, you can get there. Without overhauling your life, you can work up to a collection of XYZ, a website that’s better than most dog breeders, or a drop-shipping shoehorn business (yet again, true story).
A Skill—Absolutely shit at something that you’re interested in? You can be slightly better tomorrow, and even better in a week, month, or year from now. Consistent effort builds and soon your plugging away can equal running a marathon and wearing one of those water bottle belt thingies!
Note: Time flies and the older you get, the faster it goes. The length of a year when we were 9 is equal to five adult years. One year for a senior is best described as: “I went to the pharmacy, visited Barb, took a nice nap, and then it was Christmas!”.
By chipping away towards learning a new language, becoming a cool armpit haired artiste, getting fit, or whatever the hell it is, we will eventually have something real.
We can do something big by repeating something small.
Plus, things accumulate quickly and occasionally life will reward us by letting us see how far we’ve come. Suddenly, we’ll step out of our slog o’ fog and have something to show. We’ll have created a project, written a book, or banked enough cash for the new boobs that will 100% unlock our greatness.
Once we hit a break-through it’s hard to go backwards. At a certain level, things get easier and seem to accelerate.
For example, the idea that “the rich get richer” is true. Having some money unlocks more money. One good job lands us the next. One right person introduces us to another.
Success begets success.
Once we’ve built a slow and steady foundation and levelled up, the same amount of effort goes further. The skill, experience, or the thing that we’ve built becomes worth more than the sum of its parts. The quality of our output, or the response to doing the same damn thing (in the same amount of time) just becomes greater.
And once we reach a certain level, it becomes harder to royally fuck it up.
Think: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire feat. Regis Phillbin (RIP, short king). Once we hit our $30,000 guarantee point, even if we lose, we’re still heading home with a (taxable) hunk of change. No one can take our foundation away.
Keep building a foundation by purposefully chipping away. There’s nothing flimsy or cheap about consistent, hard work. This middle part is where the action takes place and where we pay in full for all of the success, wisdom and rewards to come.
And this can never be repo’ed or “cancelled”.
P.s. While you’re at it, set a lofty goal. If you can do something small, you can also do something big. It works in the exact same way—you just might have a few more chips to make.
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