Tunnel Vision

Earlier this week I had a strange experience. For the first time in awhile, the local meetup group for Meteor got together for a talk by a fellow developer. Part way through the opening meet-and-greet, I went to grab a bottle of water and someone came up to me to introduce themselves. I forget the exact wording, but the guy said something to the effect of “this is a big deal getting to meet you, I’ve been following your work for awhile.” It was quite flooring. Me? I spent the rest of the meetup quietly off to the side, humbled and a bit giddy.

Walking back to the train that interaction stuck with me. Two years ago nobody knew who I was. All I did was sit down and do the work. And then I did it again. And again. And then a little bit more. Then I ate a sandwich. And I did it some more. The first few things I wrote were abysmal. Many of them technically incorrect. But what mattered was that I showed up consistently and kept improving along the way. No magic, no tricks, just work.

The time leading up to now has been rife with frustration. For the first year, I remember thinking about quitting. I’d work, and work, and work, and get no results. About a year in, people started to show up. Little by little, the more work I did—and the more often—the more things would go up just a tick. Even now, in what I’d still consider the early days, it’s not an exponential event.

For slow-moving, incremental things, you have to adopt a sort of tunnel vision. Instead of worrying about day-to-day progress, focus on what you’ve accomplished in a month or a year. It’s far too easy to get discouraged if you’re always focused on the short-term. Simply adjusting your time scales can have a huge impact in revealing just how far you’ve actually come. A book I finished recently stepped through what the authors dubbed the Twelve Natural Laws of Business. Number eleven on that list was “[i]t generally takes a lot longer to make something great happen than people think.”

It’s a tough pill to swallow but the golden rule is patience. This doesn’t just apply to business, though. It applies to your health, relationships, and everything else. When I talk to other folks trying to get something off the ground, the biggest roadblock I see is impatience. If each day you’re seeing a little bit of progress, no matter how small, keep going. It’s not easy, but every little bit of work adds up into something much bigger. Take your time, enjoy the process, and keep your blinders up.