Let me tell you a story about a guy I worked with about 14 months ago. We’ll call him Jim, at his request to stay anonymous. Jim is a small business owner and we created quite a few images for him. The plan was to create a series of highly relevant images to use on the blog he was planning to be updating every couple weeks, on the new website that was almost finished.
We created a total of 31 images for Jim’s business, they came out great and he was very happy with them. A few weeks later, the website was finished. It was… just okay. While it was definitely an improvement from his old one, I could see why Jim was disappointed. He decided to go ahead with his plan for the new year: Blogging about twice a month, as well as regularly engaging on social media.
A few couple months went by, things got busy, and Jim and I lost touch for a while.
Then, earlier this month, he popped into my mind while I was enjoying a cup of coffee and noticed we were mutually following the same user on Twitter. Curious how his plan was unfolding, I started digging into his content. I was a bit disappointed to find that Jim had blogged only three times. Twice on-schedule and once a couple months later. His Twitter account also hadn’t been touched in six months. What had he done with the images? Did he not like them after all? I reached out to him to find out, and what he told me shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Jim really didn’t like some things about his new website. He was deflated, and the developer didn’t want to continue helping him. He’d have to hire a new one to carry on, which he didn’t get around to. When it came to blogging, he had trouble getting inspired and motivated to write, and didn’t really like what he wrote when he did. And, moreover, he expected engagement, and none of those first few blog posts generated much of it. Then things got busy, and he didn’t get back around to it. He concluded his plan was flawed. (Thankfully, it had nothing to do with the images.)
Jim’s goal was to get an audience to engage with his business. He thought he could “build Rome in a day” by creating a website and a plan. And as much effort and money as he put into what he thought was “Rome”, he was really only laying the first few blocks.
The fact of the matter is, Jim didn’t need a platform and a plan–although they were important–he needed disciplined consistency to keep doing it. Disciplined consistency were the rest of the blocks. This is what people find so hard. If Jim had said, “every day, I’m going to make a little progress on the website”, the things he didn’t like a year ago would be fixed by now. If he’d said, “Every day I’m going to add a little bit to next week’s blog”, he’d be better at writing by now (and would probably have developed a more efficient writing schedule he could be consistent with). If he’d said, “every day, I’m going to try to engage on social media, even if no one is engaging back”, right now he’d have an engaged audience of some kind.
If he’d done it everyday, that is.
Consistency, even in these absolutely minuscule ways, becomes a nucleus for more meaningful action. And since action generally precedes inspiration, if you take even tiny actions every day, some days inspiration will strike and you’ll take more significant actions. It creates a personal culture of progress, and those tiny consistent efforts compound into meaningful improvements over time.
This is what we, as people, often do though. We confuse the first few blocks for the whole city, then we stop building and wonder why we’re not making progress. Your family, your marriage, your career, your business, yourself is Rome. Don’t be elaborate, be consistent. Don’t take your kids to Disneyland once, but take them for a walk every day. Don’t buy expensive gifts, but listen intently, kiss genuinely, and be generous regularly. Don’t threaten to quit without a raise, but find little ways every day to prove you deserve one (then threaten to quit). Don’t spend your whole year’s advertising budget on a full page ad, but run a quarter page ad for a year. Don’t try to write a novel today, but write every day until you have a novel.
When there is something that’s important to us, it’s crucial to our success that we’re realistic: This is going to take a while, require me to learn a lot, and demand at least a little attention very regularly–but I can definitely do it. If we can’t do that, there’s very little we can do. But conversely, if we can do that, there’s almost nothing we can’t do.