The Inches Speech by Al Pacino in the movie “Any Given Sunday” gave me chills when my best friends and I, like some teenagers acting out a heroic warrior legacy, would listen to it before we set out for battle… football games.
The playing field is different for me now, and I must admit, I giggle a bit thinking about my 14 year old self listening to that speech, squeezing my hands over my headphones to block out the surrounding noise, Pacino’s words rattling through my skull:
“We can stay here and get the s*** kicked out of us, or, WE CAN FIGHT OUR WAY BACK! Into the light!”
“THAT’S WHAT LIVIN’ IS! THE 6 INCHES IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE!”
That’s my story. Step-by-step. Scrapping my way out, from a meaningless, predestined self-sabotaging hell that I blindly accepted as ‘normal’ at one point in my life. Why? WE ARE NOT DISCIPLINED ENOUGH TO GET STARTED DOING THE THINGS THAT WE REALLY ACTUALLY WANT IN LIFE.
Not me. I wanted to be uncommon. To be great. The secret?
Inch-by-inch. Incremental progress.
I can’t give you a guide for every unique step, but understanding THE CONCEPT of incremental progress is a must.
Not one damn thing worth having or achieving in this life is randomly happened upon or a result of overnight fortune. It is always a culmination of time invested, preparedness for opportunity, often countless immensely agonizing thoughts, and mostly, disciplined consistency.
Read it again. Go back, and read it again, say it to yourself. ⇑
When I pulled out my notebook and began theorizing what it was, besides Pacino, that helped me to understand the importance of incremental progress, I came up with 4 very commonplace, basic training tools that anybody could implement into their life.
These 4, small, easy-to-do activities can help each of us train our brains to appreciate and catch momentum with incremental progress. The good thing, almost any person at any time of day, at any age, in any place, can do these things:
1) Piggy Bank
Seems like nobody keeps a piggy bank anymore. Maybe that’s because change is largely worthless these days. That said, we can just switch over to paper bills. I pop a $5 or $20 bill in a jar every couple days. There’s no better feeling than cracking that thing open and realizing that over time, the money we probably hadn’t been missing has been stacking up. Last time I cashed my piggy bank I had $600 saved up. Yay for me. Now I can afford 1 month of A/C in South Carolina. More importantly, it gave me the mental reinforcement that my consistent contributions truly were adding up.
2) Planting a Tree
This is a no brainer.
Planting and tending for trees probably takes the cake for “Most Life Metaphors Learned Ever”. Incremental progress, discipline, weathering storms, starting small (even when we’re weak) knowing that one day we’ll be strong and sturdy. It’s all there. Planting a tree, or tending a small garden in our yards is not only greatly beneficial to our overall psyche and worldview, but it’s a minimally time-consuming way to train our brains that consistent input starts the upward spiral, and we can physically see it every day/week/month that our tree continues to grow.
3) Physical Fitness
This one is easy. Even if it’s just a few walks a day or a 15 minute light rotational workout, consistency in a physical routine not only puts us in a better mood, but we’re mentally rewarded by the progress we see in the mirror. That’s usually incentive enough to keep going. Just a few days of discipline to build the momentum. That’s how most difficult tasks are, just need to take it rep-by-rep, inch-by-inch.
4) Book Reading
If you’re like me, a consistent reading habit has come way too late in your life. I look back and think, had I known how impactful reading was going to be on my overall success, I would’ve started a better habit years ago. “It’s boring” or “I’m a slow reader”, they’re the worst excuses. Start small. Incremental! If we do 5 pages a day before we roll out of bed, we can finish a book in a month or less. To people that rarely read, the idea of finishing 12 books in a year sounds ludicrous (Self-Check: what is the last year that you did that in?). What’s not so crazy sounding? 5 pages a damn day. It’s not a death sentence. Start there. It’s unbelievably healthy for us, and to be honest, once that train gets moving, it’s hard to stop. Addiction to something that makes us better? Impossible! Not really.
All 4 of these habits can be built into a daily schedule without much difficulty. Not to say that they won’t require some discipline, because they will. Over time, like all things, our natural understanding of incremental progress will improve with repetition.
If we train our brains with these habits, maybe we will one day stand as examples of how those small daily tasks are the only true way to achieve the great big dreams.
The inch-by-inch, step-by-step, the incremental progress mindset is one worth adopting.