There are some things that cannot be controlled regardless of how much money you have or passion you possess. Time is one of those things and while you can certainly manage it, invest it, waste it, save it, you cannot make it do for you what it is incapable of doing.
Time cannot compress a decade into one day.
We only hurt our efforts and kill our motivation when we set out to do the impossible. This type of perspective creates burnout, anger, frustration, poor choices, stifles growth, and wrecks credibility.
Don’t get me wrong. In a day you can learn a new skill or hear a new idea that will influence your life forever. That’s completely possible and thank God it happens all the time. Life is made so much better by the fact that every day affords us the excitement and opportunity for a breakthrough moment to a better person.
How great is life?
But what you cannot do is…
- Train a person in a day to have the skills that take a decade to perfect.
- Make a person change a behavior in a day that they’ve been practicing for a decade.
- Achieve extraordinary growth or academic success in a day after a decade of low growth and a long list of academic failures.
- Become a fantastic leader in a day after a decade of being a follower (even if you were a fantastic follower).
This is not me being negative, far from it. As Marcus Aurelius said in 161 AD, most people do not need to be told what to do, just reminded.
As the New Year begins, I’m hoping to remind you (and me) about what we already know—that we cannot make happen in a day what cannot happen in a day.
It takes children five or six years of total immersion before they can become fluent in a language. It takes one year of student teaching before a teacher is proficient enough to be on their own with students. It takes six months of classroom and on the job training before an officer is ready to hit the streets.
It took me a decade before I felt as if I was a great leader of Marines. Please don’t think that in some way I’m bragging. I’m not. In the same proclamation, I’m also condemning myself because for 9 years and 364 days I was less than a great leader and at times, a poor one.
It just takes time, dedication, and commitment, but can’t that be said about anything worthwhile in this world?
And that’s the point of this article.
Without a doubt you can learn new skills in one, two, three, or four days. You can even be very proficient after only a few days, but can you be great?
If you haven’t already done so, on this new day of a New Year, start your decade (or less) to become great at who you are and what you do. Invest in your skills, leadership, and personal growth. Set aside personal time every day. If you can only give 15 minutes, then start with 15 minutes. Get up a little early, stay up a little later—everyone has at least 15 minutes.
Consider trying one or some of the following during your 15 minutes:
- Read 10 pages of a self-help book
- Listen to an audio book, podcast, or interview with someone from your profession
- Pray, meditate, ponder the things that matter the most to you
- Write three pages to the book you have inside you
- Write an article or blog post about your profession
This is not about starting small, it’s about changing each day, even if that change is only small. Small changes made each day will produce incredible wins, mad skills, solid foundations, generate high momentum, and fill you with crazy confidence in time.
Isn’t that what we all want?
If you can’t make a small change today, at least commit to taking one step towards the better.
Remember, you don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.