Thursday, April 25, 2013

Big Things Are Made Of Little Things

Status Update:  holy Hannah, it's raining beans, oh lawd, it's raining beans. Next installment of Cameron's story outlined, but not yet written.

One of my hobbies is lifting weights. Between regular exercise over many years and a fondness for picking heavy shit off the ground and then putting it back down repeatedly, I'm relatively burly. Not huge, mind you, or muscle-bound, or Arnold-shaped or roided up or what have you, just what I consider to be in shape.

What blows my mind is how many people just assume that I'm built like this naturally, like I popped out of my mom's hoo-hah already muscular. Other people will glom onto whatever I mention I'm doing for fun these days and assume that's what keeps me fit. I mention I went for a run last night and they make the connection that bigger muscles equals running.

The truth is that I don't talk about my exercise routine because it's BORING. Anything that has any real and lasting effect requires a lot of preparatory steps, most of which are dull as hell and don't really make a good story.

For example. When I was in college, I got into physical fitness. I had a roommate whose father was the head of a rather successful local track team. I was sick of being skinny and out of shape so I asked my friend to teach me about lifting weights. He did. I got muscular. Then I went into grad school, got out of shape again, got a real job and then realized, around the three decade mark of my life, that if I didn't get back into physical fitness I'd be looking at some serious problems down the road--back problems, knee problems, possible obesity, my family tendency towards diabetes and most of all, the dreaded I Feel Old syndrome.

Are you still awake?

I went back to the gym. Anywhere from 3 - 5 grueling weight sessions a week, week after week after week. Nothing complicated. No fad routines. Didn't wait to get in the mood, didn't wait for inspiration. I just went to the gym, rain or shine, whether I felt tired or sick or not. Just picked heavy things up and put them back down, over and over and over. If they became light, I found heavier things to pick up and put back down.

And now, nearly a decade later, I'm pretty fit. I can squat over double my body-weight.  If I want to go for a three mile run, I can do it. I'm usually the go-to guy in my social group when it's time to move furniture, because, hell, that's effectively what I do in the gym every day anyway.

But I hardly ever talk about it, because it's not very exciting. It's a successful result comprised of a lot of daily small steps, none of which are really going to make the morning news, if you know what I'm saying.

Big things are made of little things--hence the title of the post.

Just about anything worth doing requires a lot of prep work you don't necessarily think about when you see the end results. It's just how the human brain naturally works. You see a man jump out of orbit and fall to Earth and you think he must be some crazy daredevil who woke up that morning with a peculiar hair up his ass and, since he just HAPPENED to have a balloon parked in his backyard, he might as well take his morning constitutional two hundred thousand feet off the ground.

You don't see the years of preparation he had to put into that moment. You'd probably have to dig deep into interviews, maybe read up on his background to even get a hint of it because that sort of thing probably doesn't make as good a story as the bit at the end where he exceeds Mach 1 wearing nothing but some protective gear and a big smile.

If you see a famous actor or a fabulously rich person, they are probably that way because they had to put in the miles, just like anybody else. The most successful people generally tend to be where they are because they put in a scary amount of grueling work, every single day. It's easy to dismiss them because "oh, they get roles because they're handsome" or "their parents were probably rich" or "they got lucky", but that is, in almost every circumstance, simply not the case.

And that's the biggest thing I learned from lifting weights (well, other than how to pick up a couch without throwing out my back). You set goals and milestones. You fail a lot, dust yourself off and go back at it, even if you really don't want to at that moment. You have bad days and good days and more importantly days where you don't seem to accomplish much at all, but you get back to it anyhow.

Sometimes you try new things, experiment even if it feels a bit risky and painful. But you keep at it, just a little bit daily and then...after a while, you wake up and think "Holy crap! I'm in shape!" And then you keep going because you've been doing it so long it's now a process for you.

And so it goes with writing, or for that matter, anything with a big end result.

Boring consistency works! A little work over a long period of time, even if it feels completely half-assed on any given day, will take you a lot farther than fantastic work irregularly.

Big things are made of lots of small daily habits. It's not really what you're gonna do, it's what you are already doing.

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