Ebb and Flow

Even the ocean doesn't stay at high tide all day. (Excerpt from Have Fun, Get Paid: How to Make a Living With Your Creativity)

It’s common when embracing a particular area of self-improvement to have a period of inspiration and go great guns for a while, giving it everything you’ve got. This is inevitably followed by the effort coming to a complete halt, possibly forever. Naturally, in a life that may well last a hundred years, this doesn’t get you very far in pursuit of your dreams.

True success comes from long-term, steady effort, not short bursts of effort followed by prolonged periods of inactivity. It’s actually easier to put out a high-intensity effort for a brief period than it is to sustain a lower-level effort for a long time. That’s because the bright flash of activity is typically triggered by something that excites us, and the energy we feel from it is what powers our Herculean push. Of course, it doesn’t last, but it’s fun while it does. Putting one foot after another, day after day, often doesn’t feel like high-voltage electricity coursing through our veins. It feels like work.

Regardless of the sensation, the math is easy enough to do. If you spend nights and weekends putting in 40 hours of effort every week, you might be able to stick with it for a couple of months before you burn out. Then you never attempt it again. Eight weeks of this gives you a grand total of 320 hours of effort.

Now let’s look at a different level of effort, where you spend only 10 hours a week. Because it’s not so overwhelming, you have no trouble keeping it up. At the end of one year, you’ll have put in 520 hours. In five years, you’ve racked up 2,600 hours. You’re going to wake up five years from now one way or the other. Would you rather have a couple-thousand hours of effort behind you or a few hundred? That’s the power of a sustained initiative.

You’re in this for the long haul, so you’re going to experience high tides as well as low over the course of your life. Instead of fighting the current, learn how to go with the flow. You’ll get wet either way, but at least your arms won’t be as tired.

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