Start where you are, use what you’ve got.

Start where you are use what you’ve got

This is the quote I’ve had in my head and repeated to myself many time, until today I had no idea where it came from.  It turns out the quote comes from a guy named Arthur Ashe and the version I had heard was somewhat butchered. The original quote Was actually:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do you what you can”

Arthur also seems to have had a plethora of other good quotes that I haven’t heard before, including:

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome”

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to pass all of us at whatever cost, put the urge to serve others at whatever cost”

Arthur was an American professional tennis player who in his career 3 Grand Slam titles, this isn’t a history lesson but interesting trivia all the same.

Standing at the foot of large mountains

The utility of the start where you are quote  for me has always been to break down what seems like a dauntingly massive task. It’s easy to look at gigantic a far reaching goals and know exactly where you want to be but extremely difficult to see those first few tiny tasks on the path through to completion.

For some unknown reason I’ve only recently got round to reading the four hour work week by Tim Ferris. Despite having heard it mentioned on 1000 podcasts and cited as inspiration for 100 of the books I’ve read I’ve never actually got round to buying a copy and sitting down with it.

In this book,  as I’m sure you’re aware, Tim talks about breaking down tasks into the smallest possible actionable units. This works in much the same way.

By breaking tasks down into tiny actions we can move along the path. We can take action towards our goal. The trouble with these tiny actions and the reason is that so hard to do in the real world is it they provide us none of the satisfaction that sitting and thinking about achieving Our lofty goals does. It’s much more satisfying to sit on the sofa and think about summiting the Mountain than to start the painful process of stepping forward.

Push your stone

Every time I set my mind to Achieving something important to me I find that my brain wants to achieve the goal and a single sprint. A Single set of actions that I can start right now with a linear path to the finish line. In reality though, nothing important is Achieved this way.

The way to achieve the truly life changing stuff, the kind of stuff that sets you apart from other people and puts you in the small percentage that are willing to take the sacrifice necessary to make real change you must treat your goal like a heavy stone. If you had to move the heavy stone down A long path you would never consider trying to do it on a single sprint. For some reason millions of years of evolution has allowed us to see physical tasks like this much more clearly than conceptual goals.

Consistency is king

On the journey of shifting that stone you’d break for lunch, take a nap, maybe even take a few days off and come back to it. You take the time between pushes to consider the best route forward and ways to make it roll easier without beating yourself up for procrastination. If each  time you return you can move it a few inches forward over a weeks months or years it will get where it needs to go.

Actions yield results

This approach separates the successful from those who only dream and is the reason why the first steps are so critical.

Want to be a rockstar? Learn a chord.

Want to be an artist? Paint a canvas.

Want to be an blogger? Write a post.

And another the next day. And another the next day. And another the next day. Now, How can you make it better? Read a book written by master. Now another and another and another. Stop and think, how can you reach more people? Who do you know that may be able to help? Another, another, another.

Repeat. repeat. repeat.

This is the truth of how empires are built, all great art is created and of how empires are built.

The fact that it’s difficult and unglamorous And can take many years or decades is exactly why great success Is rare. The process will be exhausting and painful and you will see no success for just long enough to make 99% of people quit.

It’s an old but accurate cliche that it’s very hard to beat a man who won’t give up.

Ultimately we all choose our results, we choose the pain of decades of toil after something we love or we choose the easy life now and questions of what would’ve been later.

Live like a relay

A mental hack to ensure that I dodge the regret reminder conveyor belt is to think of my life like a relay race. In a relay everyone does there part for their given distance. You’re not responsible for what happens before you recieve the Baton and you’re not responsible for what happens after. Your only mission is to run your distance as effeciently as possible, setting up the next guy as well as you can.

Regrets, we all have them. If your totally honest how often does a past mistake pop in to your mind and send you shivering with embarasment?

These regrets are often from years ago, even childhood and are usually mistakes you would never be unwise enough to repeat, yet for some reason they still appear in our consciousness.

Why do we spend so much time on regret?

We can spend excessive time dwelling on these regrets, letting them knock our confidence and blowing way out of proportion when compared to all the times you didn’t mess up the same thing. We are programmed to remember regrets much more vividly as a survival mechanism, its important not to step on snakes, but like so many instincts that saved the human race for thousands of years they no longer serve us in todays environment.

If we can detach ourselves from the ongoing “you” narrative these regrets become much easier to deal with. If you wake up every day thinking about the mistake “you” made when you were 8 years old your going to waste your time right now. If we can realise your 8 year old self is not really “you” at all. There is the old addage that all the cells in your body replace themselves every 7 years, this means in the most literal sense you can’t possibly be that same person as all those years ago.

Living life like a Relay

A mental hack to ensure that I dodge the regret reminder conveyor belt is to think of my life like a relay race. In a relay everyone does there part for their given distance. You’re not responsible for what happens before you recieve the Baton and you’re not responsible for what happens after. Your only mission is to run your distance as effeciently as possible, setting up the next guy as well as you can.

If we can wake up and realise “you” are not the same guy as 8 years ago, 8 months ago, 8 days ago or even yesterday it absolves you from the responsbility to relive those regrets. You don’t need feel the need to loop anyone elses regrets over in your head. This leaves you free to concentrate on running your distance (today) and setting up future you in the best possible position.

If you can play this trick on yourself everyday it allows you to be productive right now. In the War of Art by Steven Pressfield he drives home the point that just showing up gets you a huge percentage of the way there in the long run. By concentrating purely on today we can show up for the things we need to do without being hamstrung by guilt about the past.

Future “you” will be proud

Once you are seperated from the need to question and doubt yourself you are free to that work you know you need to do. If you show up and do that work your future self will have less regret, its a self reinforcing cycle!

Whilst we can never totally purge ourselves of past regrets we can find ways to put them in context and ensure that these survival mechanisms don’t hamper our ability to thrive in the present.

Live life like a relay, pass on todays productivity to your future self.