One of the blessings that come with age is patience. Time has a way of making you realize that instant wealth or success is a fairy tale concocted by marketers to place your cash in their pocket by taking advantage of your impatience.
In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses how mediocre companies develop long-lasting success. His research demonstrated that the companies that made sudden, drastic changes weren’t the ones who succeeded.
It was the companies that made tiny, incremental changes over time that achieved lasting success.
This principle applies to every single endeavor.
If your house is a pigsty, cleaning it from top to bottom might provide a rush of pleasure as you look upon your freshly cleaned home but it won’t stay that way for very long unless you change the habits that allowed your home to get out of control in the first place.
If your finances are a disaster, a spending moratorium may help you achieve breakeven and get caught up on your bills, but unless you alter your habits to the point where you routinely live beneath your means you are one splurge away from catastrophe despite your best efforts.
This is why the turtle always wins. The hare starts out at a rush, going full-tilt to defeat the challenge in one fell swoop. He may be able to achieve breakeven on his finances by not spending any money for a month. He may be able to deep clean his house in a weekend by tossing a bunch of crap out and scrubbing it from top to bottom. He may even be able to jump start his business income by following the tips in one of those get-rich-quick tutorials.
But none of the hare’s success will last for very long. By the time he completes the massive accomplishment of cleaning his house, catching up on his bills, or bringing in the first few dollars of business income he will be so exhausted he will be forced to take a break. During that break things will go back to what they were before he began.
The story ends differently for the turtle. They start very slow, focusing on one tiny aspect of the thing they want to change. They may make it a personal rule to scoop the litterbox once a day. They may start washing their dishes up as they use them. In their business, they may start out by writing one tiny article or blog post, or by investing a few dollars in the stock market every month. The goal they set for themselves may be so tiny that no one around them even notices at first. Those whom the turtle shares with may even laugh at his progress.
While everyone is clapping the hare on his back for his massive weight loss the turtle will be plucking away in the background, altering the habits that made him overweight one meal at a time. As the hare starts to regain the weight he lost in his drastic fast, the turtle will grow continually slimmer and maintain his smaller figure.
While the hare is out celebrating his business success with his buddies the turtle will be at home tinkering on another aspect of his business venture. The hare will look at his bank balance and realize that his income is dropping. He may get desperate, repeat the actions he did to generate the first flow of funds but then decide that it’s too much work and quit.
The turtle will still be plucking away, happy because his business is steadily growing.
I’ve seen this scenario play out more times than I can count in the writing business and in life. Friends who stopped spending money for a month, who ended up asking me for cash because they’d blown every penny they’d gained celebrating with a major purchase after. Acquaintances who quit their job after making a sudden success in a business venture ending up broke in a town far away because they took their eyes off of the prize for a moment too long.
One by one I’ve watched my writing and business friends throw up their hands and quit. I’ve listened to them rant about the unfairness of it all so many times that I can almost predict what the recent quitters are going to say before they open the chat box.
But I am the Turtle. I chugged away for years before I gained my first success, so when that initial flood of cash began to slow I made a few adjustments and just kept going.
It would have been easy to quit. I was tempted to do just that when I went back to working a public job. All of my writer friends were dropping like flies, going back to their day jobs because the Internet life “didn’t pan out.”
But I didn’t. Instead, I took a long, hard look at my life. I analyzed what I’d done right and what mistakes I had made. Instead of throwing my hands up in surrender I started making adjustments and kept going.
That slow, steady pace is quietly paying off. Month by month I can see a small uptick in my book sales. Month by month I can see a tiny increase in the readership of this website.
Month by month I can see my investments growing, building towards my ultimate goal bit by tiny bit. So far this month I’ve received $60 in dividends and more will arrive before the calendar flips.
This turtle isn’t going to rest on her laurels, however. This turtle will do the same thing she’s been doing since she started. She will keep her expenses as low as she comfortably can and continue her steady march towards lasting freedom.
Whatever you desire in life can be achieved by taking slow, steady steps. It’s not as glamorous as throwing out all of your stuff, going on a financial fast, or hitting the gym in a frenzy but if you want to make a lasting change in your life it is the only method that works.
Stop trying to imitate the hare. It’s the turtle that wins in the end.