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BalanceProductivityTools and Systems

Consistency

March 15, 2016 — by Matt

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Get ready for a bombshell…

There is no one secret to success.

Shocker, I know.

And even though we all intuitively know this, it still feels good to believe that there’s only one small change between our current situation and a slingshot to blissful achievement.

I’ve come to learn that it doesn’t work like that. There are, however, a few not-so-secret tenants you’ll often hear. You know the usual suspects – perseverance, focus, networking, execution, luck, a really eye-catching business card, strategic eyebrow waggling – and each (most) of them can certainly help contribute to success.

One of the most important is consistency. And for me (and I suspect many others), it’s importance is often overlooked.

Why is consistency important?

Consistency is incredibly important for making progress. The likelihood of one meeting, one business proposal, one article submission, or one afternoon of working on your passion translating to some big success is very slim. The likelihood of repeated, concerted effort producing small, consistent progress that adds up, however, is very high.

Consistency is also like practice – by building a consistent habit, we’re likely to learn more and improve faster. James Clear, one of my favorite writers on the topic of building habits, penned this article which includes a few great examples of how consistent effort increases your chances of reaching your targets.

Finally, doing something consistently can define you. If you want to be a writer, sit down and write… a lot. If you fancy yourself a musician, you had better be making music consistently. And it doesn’t just apply to productive habits. You might not want to admit it, but if you smoke every day, guess what – you’re a smoker. Batman said it in a really gravely voice – “It’s what you do that defines you” – but he wasn’t the first to realize that consistent habit makes you who you are. The ancient Greeks had it figured out ages ago.

We-Repeatedly-Do-Excellence
Consistency in fonts, apparently, not as important.

Our problem with consistency

Yes, staying consistent in our habits is super important and beneficial. But that shit is also HARD. Like, really hard.

First, starting a new habit is always difficult. Doing one thing once is really easy – doing it repeatedly isn’t.

Consistency also requires an acceptance of both failure and of non-perfect work. Doing something over and over is likely to produce varying results – if you write a new blog post every week, for example, you’re likely to have some duds. That’s OK – and in fact will make you better at your craft through repetition, learning, and adjustment. But we’re so petrified of failure that we forgo consistent output in favor of “perfectionism” – a codeword that often means being too scared to finish something, share it, and move onto the next thing.

perfectionism meme

Finally, consistency take patience. We all want instant results. It’s the reason why people go so hard on their new year’s resolutions and then give them up in frustration a few weeks later. Meaningful change happens in small doses over time. Most people either simply don’t have the patience, or they set their expectations for instant results so high that the frustration of not meeting them makes them give up.

fuck this

There is no such thing as “overnight success”

The fact is that we love overnight success stories, but in almost every case it’s a myth. This article includes some great examples, but one of my favorite examples concerns the cast of the FX show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”.

charlie day

If you follow the show, you’ve probably heard the story that the main cast of the show decided to write their own pilot, filmed it for $200, and then successfully pitched it to FX. It sounds so easy, anyone could do it – and in a bubble, it seems like an overnight success off of a single idea.

But all the members of the cast had been grinding for YEARS – working on their writing and acting, going to audition after audition, facing rejection and failure. It was their consistency, coupled with opportunity and a belief in themselves, that set the stage for their eventual success.


This is a long video, but just watch the last 45 seconds for some real gold. Charlie Day speaks to Rob McElhenney’s near-constant failure – failure that, without perseverance and consistency, might have caused him to quit before getting his big opportunity.

And that’s the other salient point – consistency is often difficult because it feels like we’re putting in tons of work but going nowhere. Even months after starting this blog, I don’t feel like I’m making any progress. But staying consistent not only keeps us moving forward, it also keeps us in a position to take advantage of opportunities that arise. If we’re consistently working on our passions, when something great does present itself, we’re ready to tackle it.

Here’s my plan

Consistency isn’t easy – so it’s best tackled one task or habit at a time. I’m going to start by getting more consistent about posting here.

If you’ve followed this blog, you may have noticed I post on a wildly inconsistent schedule. I’ve posted on every day of the week for no rhyme or reason. Sometimes I post twice a week, sometimes I completely miss a week. Sometimes I’m scrambling to finish an article, sometimes I have a couple backlogged. It’s a crapshoot.

So my habit, publicly stated here, is to post a new article on this blog every Tuesday – without fail. Here’s why I’m choosing this habit:

  • It’s public and I’ll be held accountable. If it doesn’t happen, you all will notice – and I hope you’ll call me out.
  • It’s results-oriented. It requires I actually produce something, so it’s very easy to judge success or failure. Just saying “write every day” could mean writing one word, or writing garbage, while making the habit a posting schedule means the work has to be meaningful.
  • It’s a keystone habit. Following this habit will force me to follow other habits – like writing consistently and managing my time well enough to ensure the writing gets done.

So look for an article every Tuesday (with the option for a “bonus” article on Fridays as I see fit). And if you don’t see one you can send a swarm of highly trained assassin sparrows to peck my eyes out.

What are you working on?

What’s the one habit you’re going to work on to build consistency? Let us know in the comments!

ExplorationTools and Systems

Weekend Reads: Articles that Challenge my Thinking

November 20, 2015 — by Matt

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” – Albert Einstein

Anyone who tells you they’ve figured it all out is lying or delusional. Even if we get some aspects of life, love, ambition, passion, or whatever “figured out” to the level we’re happy and energetic, it’s still in our best interests to always be exploring other approaches.

Just like everyone else, I’m trying to figure everything out. I try things, I do experiments, I read the stories of others, I find things that work or don’t work for me and I adjust. So when I stumble across an approach that flies completely in the face of my own assumptions or preconceptions, I’m elated. I get to explore another alternative! There’s the potential to find something in there that works for me!

Even if I don’t end up agreeing with or adopting any part of the advice or approach, seeing an issue from another angle is always beneficial. But more often than not, as long as I can keep an open mind, I’m likely to find something of value in there.

The following two articles really challenged my ideas on two topics about which I’ve recently posted – the value of writing every day, and defining the type of person you want to be.

Maybe there’s a better thing to write down each day?

One Research-Backed Way to Effectively Manage Your Stressful and Busy Schedule – by James Clear

A few weeks ago I wrote about how writing down on positive occurrence each day helped break me out of a funk and reframe my thinking toward positivity. I then wrote about how being challenged on that approach made me reconsider whether there were other equally effective methods more making a habit of positive thinking.

Well, leave it up to one of my favorite bloggers James Clear to challenge my thinking yet again and use a research-backed approach to take the idea further. In this article James highlights a study in which students tied their own personal values to their daily journal entries and saw a marked improvement in health, attitude, and energy.

It makes a ton of sense. Just like you’ll make a more emotional connection with your goals by focusing on the type of person you want to be (an idea that was, admittedly, heavily influenced by James’ writing), tying your underlying values to your journaling should make those journals more impactful in the long run. My approach changes your mood for the day or week; James’ sets the stage for fundamental changes in your attitude and approach.

Do you really need to “find” your passion?

Screw Finding Your Passion by Mark Manson

A friend sent me this article. She said she thought I’d enjoy it and that it fit into the themes about which I was writing. Boy, was she right.

I love so much about this article. Without spoiling it, the article posits that most of us trying to find “our passion” are really overcomplicating it. We know what we enjoy doing and what we’d spend our time doing if we had no commitments or expenses. So… is there much more to it than that? I’m trying to figure it out myself, so I’m not sure – but I loved the approach Mark Manson took in his post.

More than just challenging my thinking, this article challenged my approach to this blog. This article does what I originally wanted to do with this blog – pointing out how adult complacency can hamstring our growth and how sometimes a more child-like approach will identify what’s important to us faster. I did it in my intro article but looking back, I haven’t highlighted that concept a whole lot – and I think it’s a compelling one. So I’ll make more of an effort to take that angle in future articles.


 

Got any article that have shook up your opinions or thinking lately? Post them in the comments below!

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