Yes there really can be gold in a stable full of dirt. The metaphorical kind, not the kind that glitters, but it can be just as valuable. Here’s how I discovered my latest find.
My gold nugget was the glaring example of how persistence, small daily actions over a period, can amount to a huge goal.
When we moved to Canada in 2004, we were fortunate to find this rented farmhouse where we can live out in the country. Although old and in need of serious renovation, the house is secure, the rental reasonable and we have the use of a couple of acres for our horses and two old barns. On the side of one barn, there is a huge run-in shelter that our horses can use to get out of the rain, wind and snow. We constructed stalls in the lower level of the better barn where we feed and groom the horses before turning them out into the small paddock around the barns and shelter for the night.
We only have two horses now and a third boards with us over winter. Each evening we bring them into their stalls for a brush, to clean out their hooves and check them for cuts or scrapes. My horse, Magic Penny, has been using the same stall for the 7 years we have had him, the same with Silver, Sue’s horse and Top Gun the winter boarder.
The horses do not spend the night in the stalls, only about 30 minutes for food and grooming. We do not put any straw or shavings on the floor. If they drop a pile of manure, we remove it immediately but we have not been sweeping the dirt out of the stalls.
Over the last few weeks, I had noticed how big the pile of dirt had become in Magic Penny’s stall. On Sunday, I took a wheelbarrow and shovel and cleared it out, 3 full wheelbarrows of it, probably weighing well over 100 kgs or 220 lbs in total.
Where had it come from?
It had come from the dirt I clean out of the horses hooves every day, some days more than others, but generally only a hand full a day, no more than a few ounces. An insignificant amount, but multiplied by 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for 7 years, that is over 2500 hand fulls - or a big pile of dirt.
What has this to do with goals?
Goals are important, the bigger and more audacious, the better, but too often we can be overwhelmed by those goals. Shovelling up 3 barrow loads of dirt in a short time took effort, scraping out a few ounces a day over a long period seemed easy.
To achieve our goals, we need determination, courage and more, but without persistence, consistent daily action, we will not achieve them. Continual forward movement, no matter how small each step might be gets results. Sometimes we can take giant leaps, but the foundation is persistence.
Malcolm Gladwell in chapter 2 of his book “Outliers”, writes about it taking 10 000 hours to become an expert in anything. Those 10 000 hours are not acquired in one giant burst of energy. They are accumulated over years and decades of persistent application, sometimes a few minutes at a time, sometimes hours or days, but always part of persistent action.
If I think back to my running days, important as they were for stamina, it was not the individual long training runs that prepared me for the ultra-marathons, it was running 6 days a week for 3 years that got me through the first one.
How does that translate to our businesses and life itself?
One occasional slack day when we don’t apply ourselves won’t ruin our business or our life, the danger is when we lose the discipline of persistent action.
How persistent are you in taking daily steps towards your goals?
Wishing you success.
p.s. That is not my horse in the photo at the top. I did not have one of Magic Penny in his stall. It is raining to day, so I am not going to try and take one. Here is one of him from a few weeks ago with him standing quietly for a change. Mike the dog and Silver, Sue’s horse also in the photo.