Some time ago one of my neighbours called me over to show me a retaining wall that was beginning to be pushed over by a lush and tall bamboo cluster on our side of it. The numerous slender poles that were closest to the wall were swaying in the breeze and when they made contact with the wall, their collective push had been enough to bein dislodging a few blocks at the top. I had to get onto this, quickly.
Of course the poles that were closest to the wall were also the least accessible, behind a beautiful lush and dense band of lots more poles that I had no intention to remove.
I eventually got it done, and in reflecting upon it these 8 ideas came together. I hope they can be useful to you too, you may wish to read them again when you are feeling daunted by your next big endeavour.
1. I could only remove one pole at a time.
Focus on one action, the one simple step you can do immediately, the one you must do in order to progress in your endeavor. Don’t waste your energy figuring out how to do a bigger more impressive thing, just do the simple one that you can. Nothing advances until that humble action has been taken, and you have cleared the way to the next one.
2. I got scratches – lots of them!
Any worthwhile endeavor will lave marks on you, there will be painful experiences, but like scratches, those will heal before the fruits of your labour ripen.
3. I had to work in really uncomfortable spaces.
Sometimes I had to squeeze in between poles and the wall, and twist in ways I never thought were physically possible, and then keep cutting! You will need to get out of your comfort zone, and twist yourself into awkward and unnatural shapes in order to reach what you need to reach. Working there will test your determination, your arms may feel to short, you may not be able to get a good grip on the saw, and each movement will seem like a huge effort with minimal progress. But keep going, and you will inevitably eventually cut through it.
4. I had to be persistent and patient.
At times I took a break to contemplate tthe work done, and wondered what I had actually done – I could not not see much progress! Whatever it is you are doing, it takes work and time. If you are not doing, you are not progressing. (Of course planning is doing in many cases, but it only pays off when it is followed by action!). Whether you are in an uncomfortable spot or not, there are always moments when thing that you need to achieve seems to take far more effort than seems reasonable. These are the times when you need to remind yourself why you are doing this!
5. Small poles that were awkward and difficult stood in the way of the ones I needed to get to.
You will have to get stuff out of the way that prevents you from getting to the meaningful things. It is often those secondary obstacles that make tasks seem difficult, because they may not appear important, or are not directly tied to our end result. We are easily put off by those things because often clearing those is harder and takes more effort than the main task that we want to get done.
6. Cutting through the knots was much easier.
Take the time to find out what can give you an advantage. Knowing this often the difference between keeping going or giving up. The bigger the task ahead, the more time you can afford to invest in exploration and discovery, in finding your advantage.
7. I had to figure out the best tool.
What you think you need to accomplish your goal may not be the best tool. Don’t be afraid to change tactics if the one you are using is not working. Try out a few things quickly early on and then stick with the ones that work best.
8. Ants and insects were crawling over me.
This this did not particularly concern me, but the point still applies. You will get emotionally bitten by others, you will be constantly surrounded by objectors and discouragers. They will crawl around you and interfere with your work. Don’t ever let them get the better of you!