Why is this picture here? I do many things in my life that need long, consistent effort. Sometimes these efforts are small. If they don’t happen, then some important things in life don’t happen. Like brushing your teeth. Two minutes. How would your life be if you didn’t spend that two minutes? Studies now show that brushing your teeth twice a day can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. That’s two minutes twice. How in the heck can that be true?
Back to the piece of wood. Some of the things I do in my life require long, and sometimes seemingly pointless, effort. I do many of these things almost as an act of faith. I don’t know when they will bring me results. Sometimes they don’t bring me the result I want. Something always comes of effort.
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This piece of wood is an example of this process. As a lesson to myself I starting cutting this piece of wood with a pen knife while on my walks and runs by the American River in Sacramento, California. I made exactly two cuts with a pen knife or folding knife on each side of the piece of wood each time I passed on my loop: no more and no less. I used medium pressure. Sometimes the knife was very sharp, other times simply not dull.
I didn’t know how long it would take to cut through this weathered, tough, old piece of live oak. I am surprised that even the lightening that hit part of this tree and brought it down had any effect on it. And, as tough as it was when it was alive, it became even stronger as it was cured by wind and sun and heat and cold. It is no wonder that Live Oak used in ship hulls in the early 1800’s was superior technology.
I make marketing calls to future customers. I work my abs four or five days a week. I send cover letters to agents for my novels. I post articles on the web. I read a book every two to three weeks to give my brain new information and to keep it limber. This is the important part. You never know when these small, consistent efforts are going to pay off.
I didn’t know if it would take four months, or six months or a year to cut through this weathered piece of fallen live oak. As it turns out, it took eight months, give or take. It was an unexpected result. It didn’t look anywhere near ready to fall. When I looked at it and judged my progress, I thought that it would be another few months. It took four cuts a day, five or six days a week for eight months to cut a piece of wood with a pen knife. That’s about 800 cuts. That’s a lot of cuts.
Sure, I could have used an ax or a saw or stood there one day cutting until my hands blistered with effort and cut it through in a part of a day, but life isn’t like that. A result filled life is a series of small cuts, applied over time in a disciplined manner. And, sometimes, many times, you never know when it’s going to pay off. Instead of not doing the small things over and over that add up, keep doing them. Keep making the marketing calls, keep writing, keep working out, keep treating everyone with dignity and respect, keep listening, keep trying new methods and tools. One day you will cut through.
Readers: I would love to hear of some of the small, consistent efforts you make and how they pay off.
Piece of Fallen Live Oak Cut With a Pocket Knife