When you start a new endeavor sometimes the beginning can feel so daunting you question whether or not it’s worth it to continue. You may have had a similar thought before starting this challenge. “Can I really make it all 40 days?” you wonder.
I recently read a story out of Will Smith’s biography “Will” that perfectly illustrates breaking down big goals into small tasks.
When Will was 11 years old, Will’s dad wanted him and his brother Harry to build a wall at his shop in west Philly about 12’ high and 25’ long. Every day for nearly a year they worked on the wall.
Here’s Will’s words directly from the book…
“This is a job so tedious and unnecessarily long that what ended up taking two kids most of a year, would have only taken a team of grown men a couple of days, at most. My father never took a day off so neither could we.
As I looked at this hole where the wall was going, the dimensions became unfathomably large in my mind. It seemed like we were building the great wall of west Philly. I was certain I would grow old and die still mixing concrete and carrying those buckets.
Everyday it was the same routine. Mix some concrete and lay bricks. It didn’t matter what the weather was or what we had going on. My brother and I tried to complain and protest but it made no difference to Daddio.
This wall was a constant. Seasons changed, friends came and went, teachers retired, but the wall remained.
One day, we were grumbling ‘Why do we have to build a wall anyway? This is impossible. This wall is never going to get done.’
Daddio overheard us, threw down his tools, and marched over to where we were yapping.
He snatched a brick out of my hand and held it out in front of us, ‘Stop thinking about the damn wall.’ He said. ‘There is no wall. There are only bricks. Your job is to lay this brick perfectly, then move on to the next brick, then lay that brick perfectly, and then the next one. Don’t be worrying about no wall. Your only concern is one brick!’
Some of the most impactful lessons I had to learn I learned in spite of myself. I resisted them, I denied them, but ultimately the weight of their truth became unavoidable.
The days dragged on but I started to see what he was talking about. When I focused on the wall, the job felt impossible, never ending.
But when I focused on one brick the job got easy. I knew I could lay one damn brick well.
I started to see that the difference between a task that feels impossible and a task that feels doable is merely a matter of perspective. Are you paying attention to the wall or paying attention to the brick?
In all cases, what appeared to be impossibly large goals can be broken down into individually manageable tasks. Insurmountable walls comprised of a series of conceivably layable bricks.
For my entire career I have been absolutely relentless. I’ve been committed to a work ethic of uncompromising intensity. And the secret to my success is as boring as it is unsurprising. You show up and you lay another brick. Pissed off, lay another brick. Bad opening week, lay another brick. Marriage failing, lay another brick.
Every day I got up, mixed concrete, and laid another brick.
There is always another brick sitting there in front of you, waiting to be laid. The only question is, are you going to get up and lay it?
‘Now don’t you boys ever tell me there is something you can’t do,’ said Daddio upon completion of the wall. Then he walked back into his shop and went back to work.”
In these next 38 days, catch yourself when you complain about “the wall.”
Like Daddio said, “There is no wall. There are only bricks. Your only concern is one brick.”
And like Will said, “I knew I could lay one damn brick well.”
Your habits are the bricks that make up your wall of health and fitness. Do you want a long life filled with mobility and freedom, and free from illness and disease? You better start laying bricks right now. It doesn’t matter what your current age is.
You can sit back and worry and wonder about your health future, or you can go lay another brick well.
Lay another brick,