The Long Haul
All around us are things we started. Books we began to read, workout equipment we only used five times, and journals with few pages written. We have house or apartment projects that are twenty percent finished. In the cupboard are health supplements wasting away, and the garage is full of hobby paraphernalia. Our lives are surrounded with things once begun (maybe even numerous times) and then abandoned.
We tell ourselves a story of why we stopped; it was a lack of time, a lack of progressing as fast as we wanted, fear of failure, and all the distractions that we deal with in a day. The honest answer is we haven’t learned the lesson of the long haul.
It is easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making minor improvements daily. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action.
I believe small improvements, completed every day over time, compound into meaningful progress and accomplishment.
My first Ph.D. was earned in an average of 120 minutes a day. When anyone thinks of earning a Ph.D., it seems overwhelmingly difficult, time-consuming, and at times unattainable. I took two classes a week that were each two hours. With about 8-10 hours of reading, writing, and other research (I got faster at reading and summarizing as time went on). What is shocking, looking back, is that I did the most work after everyone went to bed, early in the morning, or during breaks at work. In fact, I even trained for an ironman during my Ph.D. Now, I realize all Ph.D. programs may not be like that, I was able to go part-time. (Although many are currently online and flexible). Either way, it doesn’t change the lesson or the law of the long haul. Every day small choices become transforming events over the long haul.
Suppose you are like the average adult human. (No one considers themselves average, but go with the thought.) You spend at least 90 minutes a day on social media, reading or listening to the news, and playing games on your phone. It is hard to acknowledge we spend our lives actively choosing against our goals and dream.
The Law of the long haul is one of the hardest of life’s irrevocable laws to accept; it is not the commencing but the persisting. Not the converting, but the enduring. Not the dabbling around, but the digging in.
Half-finished projects never have the power to make us whole. They never have the ability to build our self-esteem and self-confidence. It’s the constant drip, drip, drip of water that smooths a stone. It is your daily practice that makes the shallow, deep, the intentional become intuitive. It’s the repetition that brings refinement.
The equation for becoming, for creating anything that matters, is submission to a discipline multiplied by time.
As Nietzsche put it, “everything of the nature of freedom, elegance, boldness . . . and masterly certainty”; everything to do with “virtue, art, music, dancing, reason, spirituality”; everything “that is transfiguring,” that makes “life worth living,” is premised on one thing:
A “long obedience in the same direction.”
If you learn this lesson now, you will be amazed by who you have become in only one year.
*Thanks to Brett and Kate McKay for some of the thoughts and quotes in this article. You can read their article “The Long Obedience in the Same Direction” on the Art of Manliness website.
LEARN MORE FROM THE PODCAST