Even the longest journey, must start from a single small step ...
To many, success seems to come suddenly. When you observe others and what they have achieved you usually don’t appreciate what it has taken for them to get where they are. Ultimately, in failing to do this you also fail to learn what it would take for you to attain the same level of achievement and success.
But, if you take the time to truly think about it, you will find that success is usually only a small step away, yet despite that, it eludes most people. It is always so near and yet so far. Let me illustrate what I mean with a short story I found whilst looking for inspiration on taking small steps to achieve big goals.
A lesson from military school
As part of our military training in the air force we were given a very demanding assignment. We were put in groups of about 10 and taken to some unknown location far in the bush. After a few days of camping there and doing some military manoeuvres, we were told to head back to the base. Only this time we wouldn’t be driven back – we would have to hike back.
We had only a few things to carry - a litre of water each for the whole trip and an AK47 riffle with one round of ammunition.
So we started off that day at sunset, walking through the thick bush. Because we were using a compass for direction we had to walk in a straight line back to the base. Any slight deviation from the path and we would inevitably have gotten lost. That meant that whatever obstacle we encountered on the way had to be overcome. That straight line had to be maintained at all costs. Worse still, we had no light - we were basically walking blind in the moonless night.
So you could not see where your next step was going to land. But we had to walk fast. Our deadline was 12 noon the next day to be at the base - or else we would have failed the assignment.
So we walked through the night. There was no time for fear, no time for doubt. We had to do what we had to do. Our futures depended on it.
"Just take it one step at a time"
As I walked through that unknown and scary world one thought kept going through my mind…It was… “Just take it one step at a time. Doesn’t worry about what will happen later, just think about each step… one small step to success”… That was the idea I hang on to.
So with that I found some courage to get going. We moved on through grass as tall as giraffes and as tough as bamboo. Our hands were pierced, bruised and sliced as we searched around in the dark to make a path to go through.
We conquered what seemed to have been endless mountains on the way. The rocks were so hard on our tired feet it was as though we had no boots on. Our legs cried for mercy from the effort of climbing up the steep slopes. We had to keep moving… “small steps to success.”
Every now and then a dim light would appear in the distance offering some hope to find a village and get some water to replenish our fast depleting reserves. Only to disappear as we got closer. It was not on our route. Or perhaps we had had some mass delusion.
Take a break, if you must, but don't give up
Finally, we could go no further. The pain and fatigue was unbearable. We had to catch a nap – it was past midnight. One hour of sleep, all cuddled up like puppies for warmth, and then we moved on.
Soon the morning came. But there was no time to appreciate the sunrise. Our water was all gone and the day brought with it unbearable heat and nasty irritating little flies which were intent on getting into your nose or your ears. It was so hot you could feel the heat embracing your face.
We were getting dehydrated by now. It was so bad you could eat the salt off our faces. All the sweat had dried up. Had it been any other day I would have laughed out loud at seeing everyone walking round with a white powder on their face. But right then my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth and laughing was very difficult.
By now, everyone was wishing they had not had to carry the heavy AK47. It seemed to have gained an extra 5 kilos since we had begun. The straps had slowly dug into the flesh across the shoulders and the back.
Every step was accompanied by some pain in one part of the body or other. Every part of the body was crying out for attention. But we had to move on… “small steps to success.”
By mid morning we were utterly exhausted. Some dragged their riffles behind them like unwanted tails.
Others had taken off all they could for the heat. We were as dry and shrivelled as prunes. We were a sorry sight. But right then it was more about survival than about dignity.
Finally, a few minutes to midday…we arrived at the base. Only then did I notice how horrible I smelt. I had no idea I could stink so bad. But first things first despite the smell… water… food….and a bath…in that order!
The journey of a thousand miles...
So, you see, we took small steps to success all along that hike. Together, they added up to hundreds of thousands of small steps. But we might have chosen not to take the first step. We might have stopped at any point along the way. That would have meant that we would not have gotten to our destination.
There were also obstacles along the way. But with each small step they were overcome.
There were frustrations, fears and uncertainties. But with each small step they were crushed.
There was hardship and danger, but with each small step and focus on the desired destination it was conquered.So you see, success is no mystery.
It takes only one small step to succeed.
Because, as the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said: “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Have you taken that one step today?