June 11, 2019
The topic of life as a journey has been on my mind lately - evidenced by my last two essays Defense of Detours and Arrive Safely And Avoid (Avoidable) Accidents. That may be why I felt like I was riding high last week. I’d felt like I’d hit my stride and the journey from here on out would be smooth sailing. Of course, every time my mind wanders and looks ahead to what’s next, gravity tends to pull me back down to earth.
That’s exactly what happened. After a week of seemingly striking just the right note on all my goals, I felt like I’d figured it out and I allowed my mind to wander. Suddenly where I had been striding, now I was stumbling. Work on Friday was marked by a lack of concentration and I left for the weekend frustrated at my lack of progress on a new project. Then, over the weekend, I didn’t write and I didn’t exercise.
Monday, however, brought another week, and with it, another opportunity. The goal is not to achieve perfection, but to trend in the right direction over the long haul. Viewing days and weeks, even months and years, as dots on a long continuum that represents our life can reveal how each is merely a data point - no one week is definitive.¹
Rather than view each day as make or break, life or death, we can strive for what Ben Orenstein, one of the hosts of the The Art of Product podcast, calls a “marathon pace”.³ The length of the marathons requires a pace can be sustained. While Ben was speaking about the challenges of entrepreneurship, it’s generally applicable. This, after all, is at the heart of Aesop’s fable about The Hare and The Tortoise. It’s not about swiftness, but persistence.
While stumbles are frustrating, they are not defining. Just a single week doesn’t define who we are. Instead, they are learning opportunities. If we learn from them, even if we slow our pace or step backwards, we make progress. When we stumble, which we will, forgive the stumble, it’s inevitable, and aim to stumble forward.
Written by Stephen Weiss who lives in Chicago with his wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Follow him on Twitter!