First step

I don’t have a fancy opening today. The amazing thing is that there is an opening at all.

I’m starting to think more in terms of James Altucher’s idea of themes for life rather than goals, if for no other reason than that it is less maddening when things constantly get derailed–and, personally, more likely to get me back on track afterwards. For instance, regular readers might notice it has been awhile since I posted here. My daughter has been in critical condition in the hospital, I have briefly been deathly ill myself, the president of the United State came to visit, and we have started a new semester, all in the last week.

My regular schedule has vanished like flash paper in Las Vegas.

When you seek to improve as a speaker, as a writer, as a communicator, as anything, small, regular, incremental advances matter. You know this. That’s why it can be so disheartening when something major comes along that disrupts the whole pattern, when all those small advances are wiped out like someone pulling the plug on your computer just as you’re finally conquering the last level of a game.

All that work gone. Why start over? Is it just an exercise in frustration?

(For the curious: my daughter is improving (close friends are following in social media), I’m alive, and I will write about the presidential visit in at least two more posts.)

Establishing the habits that yield solid improvement take a lot of time and effort, and it seems very little to negate it all. It’s tempting to just throw up your hands and say, “It won’t work, too much, can’t ever keep it going, why try?”

But that’s when you need to take the new first step.

Every morning is a new first step.

The analogy of life as a bank account can be useful but also misleading. It can contribute to feelings of hopelessness at times, the same way it might if you had managed over 20 years to save $100,000 only to have it vanish overnight in a Ponzi scheme gone bad or a fire or a bogus asset seizure or some such. You might feel that it was useless to get up and go to work today, because of how much you’ve already lost, and it’s all just spinning your wheels, etc.

Here’s the thing: everyone’s bank account gets wiped out every night. Every day is a new day. For everyone. (Yes, cliché, but true.) If you get up this morning and realize that every word of your 400-page novel is junk, you have the same decision and opportunity in front of you that Shakespeare did: pick up the pen (or the keyboard) and write. Yesterday affects today, but it doesn’t determine it.

You do.

And that’s why I’m writing this this morning instead of getting an extra hour of sleep. It’s a brand new day, and I’m taking another first step.

Photo by Flickr user Dermot O’Halloran under a Creative Commons license.

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