I’ve never been a small wins kind of person. Despite all the times I’ve heard the story of the tortoise and the hare and all the times I’ve been told to focus on the small wins, all I could ever see was the big picture.
After all, what’s the point of doing something unless it leads to something big?
America, at least the America I was raised in, is the land of the dreamers. The land of achievers. The land of no limitations. In my America, we dream big or go home.
Everything is about going big and making it big. We revere celebrities and the rags-to-riches stories. We hold the millionaires and billionaires in awe.
And, the message goes, with just a little hard work and a good idea, you can do it, too.
We see this on Shark Tank and in investor presentations. What’s the market opportunity? What’s the exit plan? How do I not only make money but make lots of money?
The implication is that if the plan doesn’t call for massive success, there’s no point in trying. We’re willing to go up against impossible odds just for the possibility of an outsized payoff. Big money chases big ideas and big opportunities.
“It’s only impossible until it is done.” — Nelson Mandela
This is a message I took deep to heart. All the business plans I developed called for outsized results. Even in retrospect, I don’t think those expectations were unrealistic, but achieving them in the timeframes I called for certainly was.
It was also intimidating. If I didn’t achieve the big result, then I failed in the venture. This type of fear is utterly crippling, and even though I would talk about my plans with other people (“you always need an accountability partner”), in doing so, I felt like I set the expectation of success.
Maybe it’s a result of all the therapy I’ve done and how I understand how my bipolar diagnosis impacts my real life now, but my experiences with Wounded Birds Ministry and writing the devotional has been a very different experience.
I didn’t set out with the end in mind. I didn’t map out the grand plans I had for everything. Instead, I’ve focused on one little piece at a time, and counted each as a win. Building the initial website? A win. Starting the Facebook group? A win. Someone joining the Facebook group? Major win! Blogging consistently for four weeks? Another win.
If I didn’t achieve the big result, then I failed in the venture. This type of fear is utterly crippling.
In this process of building and creating little wins, I’ve created a pattern of success for myself. Each win builds upon another, and each one encourages me to take another step. And, because I haven’t pre-defined my success, I can make that next step be whatever I want it to be in that moment.
That’s how the devotional came into being. As I saw more and more success with the website and my Medium followings, I started to see the Facebook group grow faster and faster. As I fell into a rhythm with them, I contemplated my next step. I already had a memoir in progress, but I wasn’t ready to keep working on it. Then I had the idea of a devotional, and I pursued it aggressively. Finishing the manuscript was another major win for me.
All those little wins stacked upon each other to give me the patience to persevere when the formatting of the book and preparing the distribution outlets became frustrating and more challenging than originally anticipated.
In this process of building and creating little wins, I’ve created a pattern of success for myself.
Although I’d heard it many times before, it was the first time I’d experienced it: little wins created something bigger than my vision. Best of all is the flexibility I’ve gotten from pursuing the little wins. The freedom of pursuing the next small little step means that I can step back from a project if I need to change creative outlets or if I’m happy enough with where that project is at the moment. There’s no big plan to judge my progress and determine if I’m on track.
Another point I didn’t fully appreciate before was that pursuing little wins lets me be iterative, responding to the feedback from my audience and those in my support groups more effectively. My responsiveness to their needs and wants is stronger, although (being human) not always perfect.
Pursuing small wins lets me recalibrate more quickly when I do fall short of perfect; I haven’t invested so much time, effort, and money into a project that starting over again is overwhelming and defeating. My sunk costs are lower, making it easier to quit a project.
Little wins created something bigger than my vision.
I know that what I’m writing here isn’t new or novel; what is unique about this is that I’m experiencing the reality of it for the first time. I see for myself how it works. In releasing myself from the big dreams with the big results, I’ve built something bigger and stronger than I’ve ever accomplished before.
And that feels amazing.
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