Have you ever wondered if it makes sense to give up on a quest, desire or dream? Maybe you want to publish a book, become an artist, salesperson, or expert in sea turtles.
I don’t know what your professional dream is, but I’m going to share wisdom from Earl Nightingale that will change the way you think about pursuing your dream.
Nightingale was, and some say still is, the foremost expert in personal development and motivation. He died in 1989, but his teachings are every bit as relevant today as they were decades ago.
Like everyone else, I get frustrated and distraught when I experience a setback and realize it’s going to take me another six months, twelve months or longer to achieve a dream.
Few things demotivate me more than the idea of a far off timeframe.
I keep this quote in a prominent location to remind me of the absurdity of giving up on a goal, merely due to the length of time it will take.
Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway — Earl Nightingale
It’s so simple yet so profound. If you’re feeling disheartened that it will take five years to achieve your dream, then what is the alternative? The five years will pass no matter what you do, whether you pursue your goal or not.
The typical response to that line of thinking is that you could do something else instead. What else could you be doing that is more worthwhile? Do you think achieving any other dream will be easier or quicker?
Achieving any worthy goal takes time. You need to develop and hone your skills. Shortcuts help sell internet marketing scams, but they fail in most other situations.
You cannot negotiate with time. It will take however long it needs to take. But never think the payoff only comes when you reach the destination.
You’ll find value and reward in the journey too
We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile — Earl Nightingale
If it takes five years to achieve your dream, that doesn’t mean you must wait five years to reap the rewards. You will experience small victories along the way. We tend to think of successes as financial, but they take many forms.
- What new relationships have you formed as a result of pursuing your dream?
- What life skills have you gained?
- What have you learned about yourself?
- What ancillary skills have you acquired along the way? A writer, for example, might gain skills in questioning, research, editing, marketing, and business acumen.
- How have your burgeoning skills helped others?
Small victories can mean earning your first dollar on a story you write. It could mean making your first sale without anyone to help you. It could mean selling a piece of art on a street corner for the first time. Your small victory might be a friend you make as a result of pursuing your ambition.
It’s easy to let these experiences pass you by and not recognize the significance until you reflect on them months or even years later.
Small victories manifest themselves in subtle and unusual ways. Pay attention and celebrate them when they occur.
As you work towards achieving your goal, you will improve your skills. But how do you improve? How do you make sure you avoid hitting a ceiling?
What is mastery anyway?
One hour per day of study in your chosen field is all it takes. One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do — Earl Nightingale
By now, everyone’s heard of the 10,000-hour rule. I’ll oversimplify it for you.
It takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a skill.
There are two questions about mastery nobody can answer, at least to my satisfaction.
- What exactly is mastery?
- And what does it get you?
When experts talk about mastery, they often speak of it as a concrete, immovable target. Mastery is nothing more than an abstract concept. Giving yourself a goal of mastery is impractical because mastery is indefinable.
Nightingale suggested one hour per day for three years will put you at the top of your field. Sure, the numbers lack scientific rigor. Some fields also require more time due to higher levels of competition.
Here’s why his rule of thumb still holds relevance.
If you commit to improving every day for three years, you’ll leapfrog much of your competition. People get disgruntled. They move on to other dreams. They forget Nightingale’s earlier lesson — the time will pass anyway.
The rare combination of perseverance and a commitment to improve every day give you an advantage over the competition.
Most people don’t persevere. Those who soldier on don’t always improve. They often get to a point where they try and protect their gains. Some folks persevere and never seem to get better at what they do.
The easy way to improve
In my quest to become a better writer, I follow a simple formula. You can find more sophisticated, well-studied theories on learning, but this works for me, and it’s ultra-simple.
Learn -> Do ->Evaluate ->Incorporate->Loop until satisfied
It looks simple, right? I can explain it in a few words. You won’t need a twenty-thousand-word treatise.
- Learn something new.
- Put it into action.
- Evaluate the results.
- Put your lessons-learned into action so you can incorporate them into your skillset.
- Repeat the evaluation and incorporation stages until you’re satisfied that you’ve gleaned all the lessons.
- Repeat the process from the beginning.
Why it’s so easy to screw this up
If you’re a writer, learn something new about writing or about a subject that interests you. Write a story and publish it. Most writers do this without any problem.
Here is where they falter.
You must evaluate the results ruthlessly and dispassionately. Don’t make excuses if it fails. Review it as though you were a disinterested third party.
If you evaluate your work with honesty, you will learn what you can do to improve. Incorporate the lessons learned into your knowledge base by putting it into action again. Always evaluate the results to discern what you can improve.
Once you are satisfied that you’ve gleaned all of the lessons, you can learn something new and repeat the process.
There are no guarantees, but remember that time will pass as it always does whether you press on or quit. The journey itself brings you joy and treasured memories. Most folks do not commit to perseverance and never-ending improvement; that’s your secret advantage.