A Rotten Walnut and the Key to Success
My generation struggles with patience. Many of my peers and I spend a little time working hard, and then we expect the rewards and recognition to follow almost immediately. We are easily frustrated by a slow and steady approach, especially when the Internet is readily throwing examples of the super-fast super-successes in our face.
At family gatherings I often hear stories about how dirt poor my grandma’s family used to be growing up in the Dakotas. For example, one year my grandma received a walnut as her lone gift for Christmas. But when she opened it, the walnut was rotten on the inside. That was a rough year.
Over Christmas, I had a nice chat with my grandma about her and my grandpa’s business success. She was talking about the many hard years she had with Bob, my grandpa. My grandpa had tried to run several businesses in his twenties and thirties, none of which panned out.
As a grandchild, I’ve only known relative wealth in the family. My grandma and grandpa later did well in business. My parents have been steadily working hard and earning a nice income. Because I have been surrounded by prosperity, it can be hard for me to have a healthy perspective on challenging times.
I think about this often as I pursue my own career and run my own freelance business. I’m thirty-three. And it’s easy to get down on myself because there are people younger than I who are more financially successful than I am.
I know many young people feel similar frustrations that the world has not opened to them faster, or their business hasn’t taken off like they thought it would, or their dream of making it as an artist is a lot slower and harder than they imagined. It can be especially discouraging when others around you have had their breakthrough and are now reaping the rewards.
That’s when conversations like I had with my grandma are helpful. Only at age 39 did my grandfather start to make some real headway. But all those years leading up to that time were necessary to prepare him for the opportunities that would later come.
Our perspectives are so easily shifted away from appreciating the consistent hard work necessary for life, even though that’s the story that almost everyone shares.
Sure, there are outliers. Some people achieve things in their 20’s that most of us can’t do in a lifetime. But it’s not healthy to spend time lamenting how that could or should be you.
It was helpful for me to look over the work I did last year and see how much I improved. I got better in my trade by consistently working on it. My work now prepares me for work down the road. Incremental progress is incredibly powerful when stretched across several decades. It’s important to regularly reorient ourselves, and then to steadily push on with patience.
In almost every case, steady, incremental progress is the magic elixir of success.