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Step by Step, Ferociously
The moment I heard this, something inside me just *CLICKED*, and my thoughts began to whirl, like being enchanted by the Harry Potter-esque spell that this sounds like. I decided to borrow the phrase (Thanks Jeff!) and make it my mantra for life, learning, and business (or maybe it already was, and I just now realized it). It perfectly describes the process of building something great (yes, even skills), incrementally, building upon each other, all the way up from the bird's eye view, down to the microscopic details, and then back up again like a rocket taking off into orbit. *WHOOSH*
I think this saying is deeply profound and could apply to many things. Close your eyes. "Step by Step, Ferociously." What does that spark for you?
Whatever you apply it to, the idea is to think of each step as being taken with the utmost passion, intensity, love, dedication, care, ferocity. That's what it's about. Each step, with ferocity, compounding itself into something wonderful over time. 📈
Let's apply this to the most valuable construct we have— time.
Take any project you have. At a high level, it can often seem like climbing Mount Everest. Whether it's writing a book, building a company, filming a movie, creating a video game, or launching an award-winning podcast (wait… do podcasts get awards?). But on a granular level, we can break these all down into steps and tackle them — Ferociously! With the heart of a lion. 🦁
Think big and set big goals, but then focus on the process, each step, with utmost attention to detail, focus, passion, and let the rest just flow, like a stream of water following its natural course.
I can see this concept very clearly being applied right here to this newsletter. If, by some mistake, I start focusing on having to write a new post every week (AAAH, THERE'S NO END!!), I always freeze and then have to go all in at the last minute (gulp!). But instead, if I just forget about the goal and write for an hour straight every day with no distractions, before I know it, the post is ready. I don't even feel it. It's this focus on the process that gets the results and feels like play. The same applies to whatever I'm writing about, whether it's book reviews, fiction stories, or a post like this. It's breaking it down into the simplest concept, idea, single point and building it up again step by step that always leads to the best work. When I forget, the quality starts to drop, and I get burned out.
Zoom Out: One post per week. Yikes! What's it about?
Zoom In: An hour of writing every day. Piece of cake! Focus on one concept.
It's the same story with software. Thinking of the end result can make your head spin, especially if you are at the beginning. Most meaningful software is complex and can take months, if not years (almost always years) to build (that's why the Lean Startup methodology can be a good idea). But each piece, tackled "Gradatim Ferocitar" — adds up to something meaningful over time and is indistinguishable from the everyday flow of life.
At a higher level, this is why it helps to be passionate about the work you are doing. If you aren't excited about the granular work, then it's not going to matter what the end product is. It will always just be a reflection of the quality of the individual pieces. That's where most of your time will be going and will also bring the most fulfillment. Steve Jobs said it best — "Love what you do." See the last post — How to get "rich" for a deep dive on how to construct such a mountain for yourself if you are still looking. Or, you can always take the detour and "scratch your own itch." That'll usually do the trick just fine.
The time itself can be flexible. I say an hour a day as a ballpark, but sometimes it can be a lot more, and sometimes it's a lot less, maybe even a few solid minutes. The actual base unit of time for me can vary, and it's more about the discipline. If I need to train my concentration or work on something I don't want to, or don't have much time, I just crank up the Pomodoro timer. That's 25 minutes.
This is really just about training yourself to be super focused. Once the timer is running, the only thing you can focus on is what needs to be done, or each step, and tackle it ferociously! If you get distracted by something urgent, then just pause the timer. Otherwise, smash that distraction and crank that timer up again. After some training, it's not even going to matter. You'll just be able to resume the timer without any hassle. Many people think it takes hours of no distractions to get into flow state for creative work like coding, writing, etc. I used to as well, but now I think this is simply not true. It's just a matter of training your brain to be fully on at will and getting stuff done in a short time. Then, you can hit flow in even a few minutes. The more focus sessions you complete successfully, with passion, intensity, ferocity, the easier it becomes. Try it.
There are some more tricks here as well. Drop a comment below if this interests you, and I'll cover it in more detail.
In learning, this very clearly means the fundamentals. Focus on the fundamentals instead of aiming to move on to the next thing. Something I constantly need to remind myself, but am getting better at, step by step.
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." - Bruce Lee.
The fundamentals are the steps or the building blocks, and every complex skill can be broken down into them. If you are struggling to learn something you need or want to learn, always go back to the fundamentals, perhaps from a different angle. While the fundamentals might be the same, there can be an infinite number of ways to learn them. For example, if you are learning how to code, I might teach you the fundamentals one way compared to someone else, who might teach you a completely different approach. I might even have a totally different idea of what the most important things you need to learn are. You'll never know which one would *click* until you try different techniques.
Practice the fundamentals ferociously, from different perspectives, and over time, you'll be able to build world-class skills or get even better at the ones you already have.
This can really go all the way down to a microscopic level, but let's stop for a moment.
A project, pomodorro, skill, life, can all be broken down into a string of moments. In these moments, is where we do all our work, and everything comes together. That's what we need to focus on, step by step, each moment building up into the symphony of life.
Wanna slow down time? Simply become more aware of each moment. One breath at a time.
That's it, really.
That's how you climb a mountain.
Wingardium Leviosa Gradatim Ferociter — Step by step, ferociously. 🚀
Set your vision, and then focus on the process. Each step, with intense passion, dedication, and ferocity.
Conquer big mountains while enjoying the climb.
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