Take Little Steps

I can’t think of that much I WANT to do but haven’t. The reason is simple: I generally do what I want, close to when I decided I wanted it

I have a friend who is not like this.”I’m thinking about traveling to China,” he’ll say. Knowing him, I always respond: “Dude, you will never go to China.” His reply is beautifully the same every time: “I could totally go to China [or whatever he’s dreaming about that day]” You could, but you don’t. He never does.

I think it, I assign it. I assign it, I do it. He thinks it. And leaves it at that. As though figuring out how much it will cost, committing to saving up the money and then later, booking the trip is some insurmountable task. Of course he could do all those things, but that was never really the choke point.

This is why exercise is such a good metaphor and lesson. If you want to be able to run 10 miles, what to do about it is fairly simple: Start by running one mile. (which itself requires only putting one foot in front of the other). Then slowly run more until you can. In any sport, the path is the same. No matter how small or big the goal: You must commit and then start.

I don’t tell myself I’d like to go for run today. No, I’m going to run. And not just today but nearly everyday. The same goes for everything else I have ever decided to do or wanted to do, from my book deal on down.

I’m not going to claim that these things are easy by any stretch. But they are simple. And when I compare myself to other people I noticed that we both say the things we want to do or like to have. Check back in, they never seem to be any closer to that thing. I am, and I’ve moved on to the next one.

Trust me, I’m not possessed by some insatiable ambition. I haven’t known what I want since I was 4 years old and focused on everything I had on it. No, I just start. And I don’t waste time thinking about what it’d be nice to have–I’d rather just get it and see for myself. Before every show, the comedian Kevin Hart reminds his staff: “Everyone wants to be famous, nobody wants to do the work” and then they hit the stage and get to work.

I gloss over the big things because I know that’s not the issue. Otherwise the same attitude wouldn’t manifest itself in the tinniest and most banal parts of our lives: “Oh I heard that book was good and I’m thinking about buying it.” Do you know how many books I heard were good but don’t own? Like zero. It’s a book–just make the investment. You definitely won’t read it if you don’t own it. And what does it fucking matter in the end if you turn out to be wrong? It doesn’t.

People don’t get this because, partly, they don’t really want the things they say they want. They want to be the person who has certain things rather than actually do it. But even some of that comes from ignorance: these people don’t know how to do things, they don’t know how straight forward it is. Figure out what you want to do and then break it down from there. Take little steps. Then you are there. And the beauty of it all is that the risks are rarely very high. You decide not to go to China? Now you have a pile of money to spend on something else. Not so horrible is it?

NOTE: I’m going to be on Chase Jarvis Live today (June 27th) at 11am PST. Tune in and ask questions. Would love to hear from you all. 

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.