I summarized the last two years of my life; it took some word count, so bear with me.
Exactly 2 years ago, 10th of August 2012 I read The Slight Edge.
Two years ago
Till that point in time I was going nowhere. No surprise, because I had no plans. I was living day by day crossing my fingers and hoping everything will going to be all right. Usually it wasn’t.
The brightest point in my situation was my fitness. I lost 10 pounds from April to August 2012.
I had one definite plan for my future; I wanted to go to Heaven. I just didn’t know how that was possible, except in the form of God’s mercy. So I awaited His mercy. Oh, that’s another bright point in my life – my church community which I’ve been attending for the last 15 years.
And I had my wonderful family, three smart and healthy kids and my wife, the love of my life.
Our financial situation was stable. Both I and my wife had jobs. We paid our bills and credits on time and I was even able to save about 4.5% of our income. So it took about two years to save one salary. It didn’t look like the best formula for getting wealthy.
My wife dreamed about a house, but we had just several thousand dollars on savings account and no perspectives for significant change in our income. I worked 2 years for my employer and I was already earning about two average salaries in Poland as a database administrator.
I divided my time between my work (more than half of it), my family (maybe 20%?), my church community (a few hours a week) and my entertainment – reading, playing a card game and on the computer (the rest).
I had no interest in personal development or learning at all. I finished my university studies in 2004 and I had to learn constantly new tools, software and systems in my jobs. I had enough learning.
I was frustrated, because I was not stupid. No matter how much I anesthetized myself with entertainment I realized, that my life is going nowhere. It was a constant struggle to keep our expanses at bay. We couldn’t afford good vacations, we couldn’t afford renovation of our apartment, and we couldn’t afford a new car.
My wife had more ambition and dreams than me and that caused some tension between us. I felt I was doing all in my power to sustain our lifestyle and she put more and more pressure on me to realize her wishes. That was not fair!
That’s how my life was two years ago. Not exactly miserable, a bit frustrating and not fulfilling at all.
A year ago
I introduced a lot of changes into my life. Not much changed at the first glance. My family and possessions were the same. I had the same job. The changes were mostly intangible. The only thing which changed significantly was my schedule. I started to wake up an hour earlier to ignite my day.
I started writing. I wrote while commuting to and from work on the trains.
If I had periods at work when I could do with my time whatever I liked, and I had many of them, I studied personal development, I connected with new people, I explored publishing, blogging and online marketing.
On the tangible side I reached my dream weight in February and started two blogs.
In August 2013 I had two books published and I worked on two more. I was losing money on it, but I at least had a plan. I changed my direction. I learned to save more money. The savings ratio increased to about 20% of our income, so we could save more than two salaries a year. On the Slight Edge chart I would put my position somewhere here:
10th of August 2014. Some pretty dramatic changes took place in the last year. In November 2013 the new edition of The Slight Edge was published and the story of my transformation was included!
I studied in my spare time and I got two professional certificates at my day job.
I was being recognized by a thriving indie community on FB and through the new contacts I got my covers re-done and my 5th book edited.
In October 2014 I started this blog. It was visited about 9k times. A rock star from UK, James Arthur, tweeted about my post once and I got a surge of visits that day.
In November 2013 I published my 3rd book and I started to break even on my publishing venture. In fact it became profitable.
My wife was fired from her job. She changed her attitude a bit, she became bolder in her salary expectations, and so her employer got rid of her. I was happy about it, this company sucked. And I was right; she blossomed without the burden of negative people around her.
We lost 25% of our income, but I was still able to save about 20% of it.
Steve Scott became my unofficial mentor. I followed him incessantly since May 2013. I commented on his every post, I followed him on Facebook and Twitter. We developed a relationship in the natural way and he helped me with my two last book launches. Speaking of which…
In January 2014 my fifth book, Master Your Time in 10 Minutes a Day, became a bestseller. I earned half of my salary in February! (Well, the money was transferred at the beginning of May). I finally was able to invest some cash into my business. I started experimenting with paid marketing and outsourcing.
Because of my book’s success I was interviewed a couple of times.
In March I was approached by an entrepreneur from Germany. He offered the translation deal for Master Your Time. It was published on Amazon.de at the end of April. I cashed the first royalties from Germany in July. 4% of my salary. A nice side income.
I published 6th book in June. I invested $300 in editing and the book became profitable in the first month.
In July I fulfilled my wife’s dream. We bought a house. We wouldn’t have done it without the increased savings rate and my royalties.
The same month I was approached by the publisher and signed a contract. My books will be re-done by professionals and re-launched. I already sent them the manuscript of my latest book.
Those are quite tangible results, aren’t they? I estimate my present position on the Slight Edge chart about this point:
And guess where I want to be?
Am I going to be there? Who knows? My friends, who were cheering me up from the beginning, claim that they knew I will succeed at our first encounter. It’s touching, but you know, they are my friends, and what else can they say? 😉
I have a lot of doubts, a bunch of fears, the feeling of inadequacy and an impostor syndrome. However I had even more of them and still managed to achieve some results. So I’ll stick to my ways and try to climb this steep road to the end of the arrow.
Reflecting back on the two last years of my life I can hardly believe what has happened. The extent of my transformation eludes me on everyday basis. I just keep plugging, doing my little disciplines. I can’t comprehend how those tiny things built such a monumental (at least in my eyes) structure. The fact that I was at the beginning and in this moment gives me a unique perspective. I can reverse engineer what I’ve done, divide the picture into single puzzles and give you a method of making your own jigsaw.
Every single activity is easy to do or easy not to do.
Writing a book consists of writing chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words and individual keystrokes. How hard is one keystroke? It’s easy! How easy is not to press the key? The difficulty level is about the same.
Replace one activity with another. Instead of playing on the computer I wrote. Instead of hanging out on ‘funny’ sites, I hang out on authors groups.
Each action matters. We don’t believe it, because it takes so long to see the tiniest results. Look at the chart above. In the first year of my transformation the difference between my action and inaction was almost invisible. Everything was about the same. I sowed and sowed the seeds, but all I could see after twelve months was a handful of miniscule blades.
Action is a fabric of accomplishment. Plans, re-evaluation, course corrections are secondary. They can affect your effectiveness profoundly, but only if there is an element of action.
You cannot re-evaluate anything. You cannot plan if you don’t have an idea what it is really like when you actually do something new. You cannot correct your course if you haven’t taken off.
Blind action can lead you to your goal, blind plans can’t.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
That’s a very wise system for conduct in life, but only when you actually take an action in the end.
Nowadays you are paralyzed by too many options. You have all the knowledge of the humanity at your fingerprints, but you can’t absorb it all! You can spend all your life just learning and planning and not implementing an ounce of it. Action is the only way to utilize that knowledge.
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Paralysis by analysis is the greater danger today.
The size doesn’t matter
The tiniest action matters. For the first three months the most tangible things I started were joining an online Slight Edge community, starting gratitude journal about my wife and paying myself first just 70 dollars.
I did other things too, but they were woo-woo: listening to motivational and educational materials during my morning workouts, regularly studying the Bible, reading for at least ten minutes a book written by saint. According to our material-oriented society these should have exactly zero tangible effects and could impair my sanity.
Anyway, take a step back and take a look on those early activities of mine. Try to connect the dots. How $70 a month could lead to almost eight thousand dollars of savings in two years?!? The math doesn’t add up.
How joining the community of woo-woo believers could lead to being recognizable by the publisher?
The math doesn’t add up again.
It doesn’t add, because the time factor is not adding the results, it is multiplying them.
Consistency is a key to meaningful effects. That’s why “paralysis by analysis” is even greater danger than you realize. You start doing one thing, keep it for a week or month and don’t see satisfying results. But you have such an abundant range of the shiny alternatives out there!
So you ditch your “ineffective” action and do something else. And something else. And something else.
You can spend your whole life in this manner and achieve just teeny weenie results. In fact it’s happening all the time around you, isn’t it?
Think of successful and unsuccessful people from your surroundings. Pick any area – parenting, health, finance, spirituality – and check if you can find consistency in their actions. I bet the unsuccessful are not consistent.
Staying consistent is not an easy feat, right?
We are wired for consistency. Scientists say that about 45% of our behaviors are semi-autonomous.
Habits are an ideal vehicle to consistent behavior. You don’t have to think every time which good choice to make. Develop good habits. Employ them to change your life. Allow them to lead you along the upward curve on autopilot.
Time + effort = results
This formula is true. Usually we don’t have problems with the effort. We all understand instinctively that without the work there will be no effects.
Almost unanimously we have the problem with time. To hassle for a few hours is all right. Work a week and enjoy the weekend. Study four years and graduate. Then you can “take things easy, eat, drink, and have a good time.”
The answer for this is just: “Fool!”
What you need is patience, resolve and grit. Only by setting yourself for the long run you are setting yourself for the significant results.
Instant gratification is an illusion. I can hear the voices of critics, we hear them all the time: “But you can’t just hassle and hassle with no reward, with no enjoyment! It’s inhuman. You will be miserable!”
Oh yes, you can hassle and it is a reward.
Think of these protests rationally. Does it mean that Benjamin Franklin, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Jim Rohn, John D. Rockefeller, Michael Jordan, Zig Ziglar, Will Smith were all miserable? Bollocks!
There is also one more implication to the formula above: if you start now, you will get more time. You will have the chances for bigger results. Don’t waste your time.
My whole rant can be bringing down to this simple advice:
Start right NOW. Persevere. Do it until.