Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Make Diamonds -- Not Chaos!

If you've been to my house, you've seen there's a lot of signs around my desk. Some are about debt, with Dave Ramsey quotes, and others are about writing, with Artist's Way quotes. My wife makes these for me, as a way of encouraging me.

The title of this post is from the newest sign she made. It's from a quote that's my own. I wrote it in a training article for work.

"Explosions don't make diamonds. They just make messes. Diamonds come from consistent, intense pressure over time."

It's meant to be a reminder that it's better to do a little bit of something day after day after day than to try to do a whole bunch of stuff, all on one day. I think it's in our culture to make explosions rather than diamonds--we're used to the idea that problems can be solved quickly. TV teaches us that if a problem is funny, we can solve it in half an hour, and if a problem is serious, we can solve it in an hour.

For this reason, I think TV also teaches quick-fix values ("So what if your doctor says your weight problem will kill you? The most important thing is that you learn to love yourself for who you are").

The truth is that success at anything is slow and boring. Jackie Chan can make jumping through a window look easy because day after day he was forced to do arduous exercises at the Chinese Opera where he was raised. Successful writers don't just fling books out at the world and bask in fame--they spend most of their time alone tapping keys.

We tend to make dramatic starts--we stuff all the junk food in a trash can, or we rush out and buy a huge home gym or we vow to run 5 miles, right now, today. In a movie, that's all we get. The moment of resolve. The time when the change happens. We can just assume from there that it's all flowers and roses and happily ever after.

In reality, it's not always that way. If you've ever pushed against a door you thought was stuck, only to discover it wasn't even closed, you've experienced an interesting sensation--you pull back. You stop going through the door. Even though it's going where you wanted to go, your body has to compensate for the extra force you put into it.

Same thing here. Too much force at the start can force your mind and heart to pull back. It can actually inhibit your efforts. Counterintuitive, maybe, until you give it a little more thought.

A little each day pays off far more than a whole lot of fireworks that fizzle out fast.

Make diamonds, not chaos.

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