It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucius
If we regret anything in life it’s probably the things we didn’t do when we had the chance.
If you did do it and it didn’t work out – well, at least you tried.
But in most cases it’s the things you haven’t tried when you were still able to do so that come to mind.
I was listening to a YouTube talk by Kurt Vonnegut when, rather inexplicably and right at the very end, they inserted an advert for an online course by a writer.
I was a little startled and it took me a while to tune in – mainly because when that sort of thing happens I tend to reach for a sketchbook and start doodling until I can press the skip ad button.
Anyway, somewhere in there the author said that he wrote every day for fifteen years before writing his first book.
And then I watched a TED talk by Andrew Stanton, the writer behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Wall-E, as he went back through the timeline of events and experiences that brought him to where he is today.
And then another TED talk on humour – and all these talks had one thing in common.
It takes time to get to where you are.
Okay, that’s obvious, time passes whether you do anything or not – inexorably, unforgivingly.
Slight sense of deja vu as I write these words because this morning, for some reason, I had Kipling’s poem running through my mind.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute; With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…”
Time is, when you look at it, simply the most vital non-renewable resource in your life.
So what you do with it matters.
We know it takes time to master anything.
You have to start by learning to see, to deconstruct what the thing you want to do.
Then you have to practice, learn how to do each element and get better and better at the parts.
Then you have to reconstruct the pieces, put them together so that they make something – first something that looks like the things other people make and then a new thing – that you’ve made and brought into the world.
These three steps – deconstruction, practice and reconstruction – are the way to learn things.
And it’s frustrating and sometimes it feels like you’re not getting anywhere, you’re stuck and it’s impossible to break through.
But what that also tells you is that you’re at the edge of what you know now – and there is something else for you to find – as long as you keep working at it.
I feel, for example, that my writing is all over the place – there is no theme, structure, focus, goal, objective, plan, story or technique.
There is just the practice of trying to draw and write something daily.
I have a book by Natalie Goldberg called Writing down the bones and she talks about how she was finding it hard to understand Zen by doing sitting meditation and her teacher said, “Why do you come to sit meditation? Why don’t you make writing your practice? If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.”
Goldberg writes that this idea of a “practise” can be applied to everything, to business, to comedy, to exercise – because there are many “truths” out there for you to consider.
And that is what I find as I write about the topics that interest me – about strategy and management and you career – there are so many “truths” and they could even be true.
But you can’t approach the truth head on – just like you can’t really approach yourself head on.
You sort of have to sneak up – keep doing things and looking around and then, if you’re lucky, you might spot the truth that works for you – or get what you really want to do with the rest of your life.
What you need is faith – not in a god – but in yourself.
Faith that if you do the practise everything will work out.