Episode #2: “Slow And Steady Wins The Race” – In Praise of Incremental Progress

"Slow And Steady Wins The Race" – In Praise of Incremental Progress Renaisearch – Andrew Lueth

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Have you ever made the experience of being totally motivated and inspired to do something you know you really want to see finished? And after being on fire about it for 1 or 2 days you suddenly stop the whole thing because you feel its just too much effort? You feel like you still want to see the project finished, but in spite of your good will and knowing what you need to do… you simply can not get yourself to start working on it again or lose motivation.

This is not an uncommon problem and something that everyone will probably be able to relate to in some form. And it is also were todays theme will come into play:

“Slow and steady wins the race”

You can see it all the time:

Somebody gets really excited about a new hobby or project and wants to give it everything and really be successfull and big about it. Maybe they really want to learn french and decided to study for 3 hours straight everyday… then after a week they suddenly “forget” about it and
never open the textbook again.
Or they decide to start a small business on the side and to, from now on, devote every evening after work to hustling and giving it everything… just to realize shortly after that they can not keep up the pace for long and then start to procrastinate.

The problem with this over the top all-in approach is not a lack in motivation, willpower, discipline or knowing what needs to be done. The problem is that they are starting out on a pace that they can not sustain. The extreme motivation and inspiration felt at the beginning of a project or while fantasizing about it lets them start out with extreme speed and gives them the false impression that they will keep feeling the same way they do now about it 1, 2 or 3 weeks down the road.
When in reality, inspiration and motivation will fluctuate quite a bit along the way. Then, when motivation is low – 3 hours doing something new and challenging will feel like a chore and they will naturally begin to procrastinate.

There is one of Aesops famous fables, which illustrates this very dynamic quite figuratively… let me share it with you:

The Hare & the Tortoise

A Hare was making fun of the Tortoise one day for being so slow.

“Do you ever get anywhere?” he asked with a mocking laugh.

“Yes,” replied the Tortoise, “and I get there sooner than you think. I’ll run you a race and prove it.”

The Hare was much amused at the idea of running a race with the Tortoise, but for the fun of the thing he agreed. So the Fox, who had consented to act as judge, marked the distance and started the runners off.

The Hare was soon far out of sight, and to make the Tortoise feel very deeply how ridiculous it was for him to try a race with a Hare, he lay down beside the course to take a nap until the Tortoise should catch up.

The Tortoise meanwhile kept going slowly but steadily, and, after a time, passed the place where the Hare was sleeping. But the Hare slept on very peacefully; and when at last he did wake up, the Tortoise was near the goal. The Hare now ran his swiftest, but he could not overtake the Tortoise in time.

The race is not always to the swift.

Although every sensible person would expect a hare to win a race against a tortoise just by comparing their natural potential for speed, the way both of them approached the race was what determined the outcome, not their natural potential.

While the hare made a massive one-time leap forward and from then on no progress at all (or at least not until it was already much too late), the tortoise with slow and steady incremental steps towards the finish line, did win the race – even withouth stressing itself or much hassle at all.

It is exactly that difference in approach which makes it either hard and stressfull or easy and enjoyable to progress towards your desired goal.

There is no such thing as an overnight-success!

When you take a look at great achievements or amazing success, it often seems as if they are chieved over night, in one big herculean powerful act of greatness that came out of nowhere. When in reality, what seems like one single act of success, is merely the tip of the iceberg or the inevitable climax of years full of unseen, continous effort.

In China there are certain types of bamboo plants with an interesting growth pattern:

When you plant the bamboo from scratch, water and fertilize it everyday and hope for it to grow – you will be disappointed. It takes some of these plants up to 5 years of underground growth and rootbuilding until they start to visibly grow at all.
But after these 5 years they start to grow at rates of up to 1 meter a day and reach heights of 30 meters in about 5 weeks. Now, if during these 5 years of preparation you stopped taking care of the bamboo, to water and to fertilize it, it will never be able to reach these massive rates of daily growth!

It is just the same with your life! There are phases where it seems as if all you are doing is putting in the effort while not seeing any results at all! You may feel like you wasted time and effort or that the project is not worth undertaking, while in reality your efforts were
used for the most important part: building a solid foundation. A solid foundation on which rapid growth can even be supported.

Remember: The bamboo did not reach 30 meters in 5 weeks but in 5 years!

To make faster progress afterwards it is often necessary to build a great foundation upfront. And building a great foundation requiers consistent and steady progress, especially if your efforts do not reap immediate benefits as in in the example with the bamboo. You need to be able to trust that your efforts will bring about the desired outcome in the end, even if you may not see it now. This is were the compound effect comes into play.

The COMPOUND EFFECT

The Compound effect, as described by Darren Hardy in his Book “The Compound Effect”, is the “principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices.”

Darren Hardy says the most interesting thing about this process is that even though the end-results are massive, the steps, in the moment, dont feel significant.

This is because these small choices or actions, by themselves, do not offer any big immediate payoff, they can not stand alone. But many of these small choices, made consistently over a long period of time, add up to radical results.

A great metaphor hardy uses to show the power of the compound effect, is that of the “Magic Penny”:

If you had the choice between taking 3$ million in cash instantly or receiving 1 Penny that doubles in value every day for the next 31 days, which would you choose?

Imagine you chose the 3 $ million and I take the penny.

On day five, I have 16 cents. you.. have 3$ million.

Day Ten: I have 5.12$. you have 3$ million.

After 20 days, it is still only 5,243$ versus your 3$ million.


Only now does the effect of the compound effect really show:

On Day 31, my Penny is now worth 10,737,418.24$.

Can you imagine how the compound effect could play out in your own life? what radical results you can achieve through slow and steady progress?

To end this episode I want to leave you with a small challenge:

Ask yourself:

“Which small, seemingly insignificants actions, behaviors or decisions, done consistenly on a regular basis would really change my life to the better in the long run?”

or me, meditation is one such behavior. By itself, 15-20 minutes of meditation in the evening
do not seem very life changing. but done every evening, they keep my mind calm and focused, improve my sleep and by doing so my overall health and
capability for decision making, my overall mood etc… you see were this is going.

Now, what action, behavior or decision could be worth incorporating slowly and steadily?

Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow… even if that someone is yourself!

Plato