The 365 Commitment

How Many Licks? – 127 Days Left

The most powerful life lesson that I have gained happened this last year. Somewhere along this 386 day path, I discovered the power of the increment. A strange word, and one of the many parts of my vocabulary picked up from teaching computer science for 20+ years. In the computer science world it has to do with variables, specifically the amount of change in the value of a given set of variables. Simply stated the degree by which something changes. That is probably the more modern definition if you were to look it up in a dictionary. The secondary definition is centered on the idea of a series of regular and consistent additions. Finally, the world implies an action or a process of increasing value.

Incremental progress is something that on initial consideration is easy to accept, but very difficult to put into practice. My favorite analogy is the question posed by the little boy in the animated commercial for Tootsie Pops – In this commercial he asks the age old question that the world has wondered for years. “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”

The boy stumps the cow, smart fox, the old turtle, and finally the wise owl who attempts a practical exercise resulting in 3.  In 2015, the NYU Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences estimated in their hypothesis on how fluids generate “unique shapes through erosion or dissolution” that it would take at least 1000 licks. Their study proved that they underestimated. Their conclusion is that it would take 2500 licks at a minimum. So the world finally does know the age old question.

Having the patience to tolerate slow and steady incremental process is the concept behind this analogy, and we can accept but rarely put that into practice. We do just as the owl did, take a bite after 3. However, if you had the patience to do something positive everyday for 365 days in a row – you would have enough incremental progress to see a dramatic and transformative effect on your life. Incremental progress builds slowly over time and it is very hard to see on Day 3, Day 16, Day 50 and even Day 90. However, something starts to happen after 90 to 180 days.  Your incremental progress slowly gets to a tipping point and then suddenly you start to really see results. Suddenly you understand that if you just had been working on solving this problem in small increments for the last year – it would have been solved already. Rather you wasted the time hoping for a miracle cure, a sudden inspiration, a gift from the heavens, an accident. You delayed, avoided, and stayed away from a solution because you thought it was too hard to do, would take too much courage, too much initiative, too much focus, way too much time. When you understand the transformative power of the increment, you realize that for the entire time of your procrastination you could have been doing some small thing every day and that you would have made far more progress than any one miraculous moment.

How many licks are you going to have to take in order to find your center? I do not know either, but it starts with incremental progress and it starts with the habit that you have committed to do every day.

Guy Reams (386)
365 Alumni
127 Days Left to 1st Marathon

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