Today is my birthday. 35 years old today. A nice round number, but nothing to really celebrate. The memories behind my birthday today was the full circle life seemed to have taken. Exactly half my life ago, I took my first ever international flight, over to Scotland for a year travelling. 17.5 years later, I sat in a cafe with my family, enjoying a relaxed birthday lunch with the kids, watching my son literally demolish the food in front of him – enjoying the entertainment of creating a mess over the taste and satiety.
So many lessons were learned in this trip 17 years ago, and it’s been so much fun taking the kids around the beautiful country that is Scotland, reminiscing the old for me, and seeing the new excitement in their eyes.
They say everyone has a book in them, perhaps this is the beginning of my first book. I say first book, because I have so many ideas flying around my head, I’m sure I could write a few, they’d just be short at the moment. Needing the time to pad them out into something that someone would actually want to read. Hopefully this can serve as a warm up to a new skill I never thought I would develop. In fact at school if I managed a pass in English class I was proud. A conceded pass was normally my modus operandi, with teachers turning a blind eye to my poor English skills on the back of my Maths and Science scores dragging me over the line.
So today I sat in that little cafe in a back street of Edinburgh, a handful of people walking past braced against the frigid winds of a country only a few sleeps away from ‘Summer’. I thought of the decisions that I made 17 years ago, the decisions I’ve made since, and how everything has ended up to bring us all to this point.
So many people are scared to make that big leap, scared to do something crazy in case they leave the pathway and never come back. But, as Henry David Thoreau says, ‘the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation’. Desperate to do something different but suffering in silence. The decisions that have allowed us to get here haven’t been easy at times, have been met with plenty of judgement and ridicule. But if we can inspire others to take the leap of faith and end up in a happy place at the end of it, then we’ve left the world in a better place.
The truth of course is that it’s never one major leap, it’s never 1 critical decision that changes everything. It’s the accumulation of small everyday decisions that seem so meaningless at the time, even irrelevant. But really, it’s a matter of building a different mindset in, that allows you to review those decisions from a different perspective and take a slightly different path. The results won’t appear overnight, but give it a month, a year, a decade – and people will be asking you how you did it.
There is a great book by Jeff Olsen called The Slight Edge, where he discusses these exact concepts. The slightly better decision every day. Having a handful of nuts rather than a snickers bar. Doing it once won’t really change your body – either way. Skipping the gym one morning won’t do any damage, nor will spending an extra 5 minutes there one day make any discernible gains. But multiply these small decisions over a year and imagine where you’ll be. The person who skipped the gym every morning, vs the person who got there every morning. The person who had a handful of nuts for afternoon tea vs the person who had a chocolate bar. The problem is, we never take into account the accumulation of our decisions. We tend to look at them as isolated incidents. Successful people develop the mindset that every decision matters, and they know that success takes time to develop. The growth curve at the start is slow to get off the ground, then at the end it’s exponentially fast.
Taking a leap is a great expression, but huge decisions are rarely followed through with the same gusto they were made. But turning small decisions into successful habits will take you places, take you amazing places; just might take a little bit of time. But one day, someone will tell you you’re lucky, and that’s when you know your hard work and discipline has paid off.