Grandiose visions are my Achilles’ heel. “Dream Big” is really dangerous territory for me because I’m perfectly capable of dreaming all day long. That’s not to say that I don’t have long term goals, but accomplishing all of the mini-steps leading up to that Mecca proves nearly impossible for me.
“I’m going to build a successful company from the ground up.”
“I’m going to write a best-selling book.”
“I’m going to get a Master’s Degree.”
“I’m going to run a marathon.”
These are all things I’ve said at some point in my life. Well, everything except for the marathon — I’m not a crazy person. Some of those goals I’ve already crossed off my list because they were very temporary obsessions, not true passions. However, some of them are still in the works. Knowing which of the above goals I’m still hustling to achieve is highly classified at this point. Are you drawn in by the mystery? Didn’t think so…
The good news is that every day I’m learning more and more about the process of accomplishing awesome, and for me, that rarely involves a big dream. When I’m really serious about doing something that will change my life for the better, I do it every single day in very small doses. Bob Wiley’s borderline insanity turned out to be freaking genius in my world. Baby Steps really are the answer when it comes to making changes that matter.
The key is to not get overwhelmed by the big stuff. It’s ridiculously hard to keep things in check, but when I’m solving little problems every day, and working in shorter increments, the amount of work that gets done is surprisingly gargantuan. It sounds cliche, but keeping the blinders on for short stints of intense focus has completely changed the way I work toward goals.
Let’s take a look at a few of the things that have cemented this “think small” mentality for me recently:
Gumroad is a little startup in Silicone valley that let’s you link to a piece of digital content (a video, web code, writing, photos, etc), and it does all the payment processing for you. It works just like a link shortening service. You upload your content, set a price, it generates a unique link, and you’re selling that piece of content in no time. There are no buttons to create or code to cut and paste. It just works. The video is pretty long but I was a big fan of the common sense oozing from Sahil (the founder) . He says, “the way I come up with these ideas… is that I solve really small problems. I don’t really think about big problems.”
For a guy who just landed over a million dollars in funding to help grow his company, he really seems to have his head on straight.
Kindle Singles are screaming up the charts on my list of new favorite things (I guess I’m Oprah now?). They’re perfect for both the reader and writer with a short attention span. Amazon describes them as “…the highest-quality work we can find, and at a length best suited to the ideas they present.” On average, these take me about 30-45 minutes for me to read, and I can attest to the high quality claim that Amazon makes. For the same reason I love Twitter I love the Kindle Single; they cut the fluff and provide some seriously entertaining reading.
These fall right into my wheelhouse when it comes to my love of writing. Writing an entire book is still overwhelming to me, but publishing something like this seems totally achievable. The super bonus is that there’s no reason a published single couldn’t end up as part of a full blown book at some point. Right now I’m definitely leaning toward writing a single to get my semi-professional writing career fired up and going. If nothing else, the proceeds could end up supporting my chincilla coat collecting habit (no, I don’t really have this habit).
Have any of you seen the show Shark Tank? I’m hooked (pun definitely intended). The premise is that people present their inventions to a group of “sharks” (potential investors) to try and get some cash. Some of the inventions are beyond stupid. Last season a woman created a system to let you toilet train your cat… using a real toilet. The Citi Kitty has earned her a bazillion and a half dollars now so I guess I can’t really criticize, but come on! When did we start letting cats be people? I feel like I should sing “God Bless America” or something right now. It’s gotten completely out of hand. I digress…
Before the last paragraph became a rant I was going to bring up a product that solves a problem for real people that was presented on the Shark Tank. A number of athletes have died due to dehydration while playing football during the summer heat, so one guy invented a hydration pack that mounts to the shoulder pads. It’s basically just a Camelbak for your football pads. It’s totally ingenious but it’s already saving lives. I’m sure this guy thought that saving lives would be nice, but the vehicle to bring that reality to pass was something incredibly simple. He looked at the little things first.
Start small and then look outward
Solving the immediate problem seems so simple, but it’s really easy to get caught up in the speed of life and just move on because “there’s no time.” It’s true, we’re not going to have time to solve every problem or complete every step in the process as it comes to us. There are going to be hiccups and curve balls. There will be times when family, work, education, among other things will take priority over the big goal. That said, I feel like there’s a lot of value in making the little things matter.
Write down the obstacles that hold you back each day and come up with solutions when you have a free minute to stop and think. Once you think you’ve come up with a way to fix your problem, or complete the next step in the process, then dedicate time to carrying it out. We don’t have to solve all the world’s problems today. In fact, we won’t. We can improve what we have control of and that’s really the only place we can focus. If we all start thinking about World Peace or how to get more cheese into Cheez-Its, we’ll all curl up the fetal position and decide there’s no sense in trying.
The people who consistently get work done and who stay aimed in the general direction of the final target are the ones who ultimately find what they’re working toward, in whatever capacity that may be.
Think small. Work small. Enjoy the ride. Reap the reward.