My 1000 Small Steps – July 20, 2017

Posted on: July 15th, 2017 by Kathie England | Time for Success 1 Comment

By Bob Knopp, UnCommon Sense

Stacking rocks…small steps

A few years ago I built a small, decorative garden wall from stone. It was easy. It took two dozen stones about the size of bricks and I didn’t engineer it to last for generations. The whole project was finished in around an hour, but the change it made to that part of the garden was remarkable.

Stone walls are built one stone at a time. I couldn’t go buy a stone wall and tilt it up in the garden like builders do with concrete warehouse walls. I had to buy the stones, haul them home, figure out which to install first, and then stack them up. Small steps, of course, but it’s kind of cheating, isn’t it? A little garden wall isn’t much of a project and it is a stretch to say I really accomplished much. But it scales very nicely.

Back in the year 1163, a bunch of stone masons started hacking up some limestone and stacking it into walls. They kept at it until the year 1345. When they were finished, their stack of limestone blocks turned out to be the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. 182 years of piling rocks on top of each other. That’s a lot of small steps.

When Kathie talks about her project, My 1000 Small Steps, that may not be enough, but it is a good number to get you thinking about taking more than a few steps. It is important to understand that even very large projects or goals can be parsed into bite-sized increments.

While thinking about these two projects, I came to realize a couple of axioms about small steps. First, the size of your project has no bearing on whether it can or cannot be accomplished with small steps. The only things that limit you are time, money, and other material resources. Dividing the process into ever smaller steps can help with management of these resources as well. But there is no project too small or too large that would not benefit from using small steps. Buildings, governments, and civilizations were all created one step at a time and they can all be changed one step at a time.

Second, small steps not only offer the obvious advantage of reducing the amount of work to manageable increments, they also give you an opportunity to make adjustments more frequently. A builder who pours a hundred square foot slab and then stands it up only to find a crack right down the back has to start over. A stone mason building a wall gets to check every stone as he goes. If he finds a bad one, he can replace it and continue with no backtracking.

Here is another interesting observation about small steps. I could claim that projects finished using small steps are more durable. My little garden wall is still standing after a couple of years. The Notre-Dame Cathedral is still standing after a couple of world wars and a French revolution. The question is: Can that durability be traced to using small steps?

Try this: During the construction of Notre-Dame, the design was changed to increase the height of the main walls. While building these higher walls, the architect noticed that they were beginning to buckle at the top. If you remember history, you already know what comes next. One of the things that makes Notre-Dame distinct and famous is its use of the Flying Buttress. These added-on supports solved the problem of wandering walls. It was the use of small steps that allowed the architect to make the adjustment that saved the whole project.

Everything changes over time and it’s the 1000 small steps that allow us to keep buildings, governments, and civilizations relevant.

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I invite you to ponder your progress taking small steps since January 20, 2017, the day I launched this project, My 1000 Small Steps.

Bob Knopp is the fourth guest writer who agreed to help me keep the commitment of publishing a blog and newsletter each month until November 2020 to encourage us to keep taking small steps to resist and change the political climate in this country.

I conclude this month’s post with a wonderful short video that my friend, David Poulshock, discovered. David is a filmmaker, director, writer, editor, and one of the most creative people I know. (David’s production company is Red Door Films.) This video explains how even creativity involves small steps. I hope it inspires you to keep taking small steps!

http://bigthink.com/videos/beau-lotto-creativity-is-another-form-of-logic

 

My 1000 Small Steps – June 20, 2017

Posted on: June 17th, 2017 by Kathie England | Time for Success No Comments

By Janis Collins

Literally small steps…

Colin O’Brady was nearing the summit of Mt. Everest when a dangerous windstorm forced him to turn back. If he failed to reach the top of the mountain, his 130-day effort to complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam by climbing the highest peak on each of seven continents would be in vain. 

If he could finish this climb, he would have just one more peak to conquer. But with every passing minute it looked as if his physical stamina and chances for completion were blowing away with each strong gust.

But Colin was not a quitter. Earlier, on a backpacking trip to Thailand, he had suffered third-degree burns on his legs and feet – jeopardizing his ability ever to walk again.

With sheer determination and coaching from his mother he beat all odds. She set a goal: a chair placed a short distance in front of him. Just one month after his accident, he took one tentative step after another until he reached the chair. Every day the chair was moved a little bit farther away.

When the weather broke on Mt. Everest, Colin pulled his fatigued body out of his tent with renewed resolve.

“Our own minds are our biggest obstacle,” he said. “I had to think of Mt. Everest as just a stack of small rocks. And I just had to take small steps toward that imaginary chair.”

Colin made it to the top of the world and 10 days later summited Mt. Denali in Alaska, his final peak.

Colin had used the Japanese concept of Kaizen, or continuous small steps toward improvement to become an internationally recognized athlete.

I learned the concept of small steps from Kathie England of Time for Success.

Our brains are developed to shut down when we are confronted with overwhelming challenges or change. Our minds can be, as Colin says, our biggest obstacle. But we can do an end-run around that tendency by perceiving our challenges in small, digestible bites.

Whether our goal is political change or simply completing a huge writing project, we can achieve wonders when we take one small step at a time. Maybe it’s making one phone call. Maybe, it’s finding a small foundational piece of research. Before you know it, you are at the top of your mountain. Which, after all, is just a stack of small rocks!

Janis Collins, the author of this month’s post, is a gifted writer, storyteller, an amazing cook, and a very dear friend. As a storyteller, Janis participates regularly in the Beaverton Library’s Story Slam.

 

My 1000 Small Steps – May 20, 2017

Posted on: May 13th, 2017 by Kathie England | Time for Success 1 Comment

Remembering the value of small steps

In this fifth post about our journey of taking 1000 small steps to impact the outcome of the presidential election on November 3, 2020, I share more ideas about the value of small steps.

First – let’s look at the flaw in the logic of “bigness” described by Charles Eisenstein in an article I read in the Winter 2016 issue of UTNE READER.

For Big Problems, Small Solutions – Now more than ever, we must recognize the logic of “‘bigness” devalues the personal and seemingly small when it comes to making a difference.

Article by Charles Eisenstein (excerpted from his upcoming book, Scaling Down)

Shortly after last year’s election, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, American poet and author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, wrote an inspiring piece titled “We Were Made for These Times.” Every time I have read her words, I am energized and encouraged not to slip into thinking that only bigness can create the change we seek.

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of the poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.”

“What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.”

This perspective reminds me of the March 20, 2017 post about random acts of kindness written by my sister, Judy Caforio. She was motivated to offer this idea when her friends said they felt uncomfortable with my suggestion in the introduction to My 1000 Small Steps to take “small political steps.”

I recently heard an interview on NPR with Mohsin Hamid, the author of Discontent and Its Civilizations. Born in Pakistan, Hamid has lived and written in many cities throughout the world including Lahore, Pakistan, New York, and London. The interviewer, Steve Inskeep, asked Hamid about the lessons Pakistanis have learned from their experience that are transferable to those of us who live in the United States, especially at this time in our history.

Hamid replied: “The biggest lesson is you get the country you work for. If you sit back and simply allow your country to be, it is highly unlikely to be the kind of country you want. You have to be active. And many Pakistanis are struggling for political rights. People are risking their lives in some cases. And I think in America, something similar is called for – real activism and real passion to protect democracy.”

What kind of country are you willing to work for?

What small step will you take today to create the kind of country you want?

My 1000 Small Steps – April 20, 2017

Posted on: April 13th, 2017 by Kathie England | Time for Success 2 Comments

My fervent belief in the power of small steps was the driving force in creation of My 1000 Small Steps, the project that evolved from the despair I felt on the morning of November 9, 2016.

But why take small steps?

In this fourth post on the journey of encouraging individuals to take 1000 small steps to influence the outcome of the next presidential election on November 3, 2020, I decided to share some of the thoughts that have shaped my perspective about the value and power of taking small steps when we want to create change.

First, let me set the stage with the words of Howard Zinn from You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. I found this quote in Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker J. Palmer.

“The essential ingredients of [all] struggles for justice are human beings who, if only for a moment, if only while beset with fears, step out of line and do something, however small. And even the smallest, most unheroic of acts adds to the store of kindling that may be ignited by some surprising circumstances into tumultuous change.”

One of the earliest proponents of small steps was Lao Tzu in the Tao Teh Ching. Many scholars date the ideas in the Tao to the fourth century B.C.

“Sow the great in the small…Big things of the world can only be achieved by attending to their small beginnings.”
“A journey of a thousand leagues starts from where your feet stand.”

When I read Jodi Picoult’s wonderful book, Small Great Things, I discovered that the name of her book was inspired by the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Shortly after reading Small Great Things, I learned of these words by Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States.

“In a nation of millions, and a world of billions, the individual is still the first and basic agent of change.”

I want to conclude my thoughts about small steps with the words of Marilyn Paul from her book It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys.

“Small steps actually taken lead to more progress than great steps that never happen.”

I invite you to reflect on the thoughts I’ve shared this month about the value of small steps.

I encourage you to take a small step and remember the words of John F. Kennedy: “One person can make a difference. Everyone should try.”

My 1000 Small Steps – March 20, 2017

Posted on: March 18th, 2017 by Kathie England | Time for Success No Comments

When my sister, Judy Caforio, shared how she had responded to the concerns of friends who felt uncomfortable with my request for individuals to take “small political steps,” I invited her to share the wonderful idea she provided to shift their perspective about “small political steps.” Judy graciously accepted my invitation to be the guest writer for this March 2017 post of My 1000 Small Steps project updates.

I invite you to consider Judy’s perspective, especially if you’ve also struggled taking “small political steps.”

My sister, Kathie, gave the family her project My 1000 Steps to Profound Change over the Christmas holidays. This was her strategy for coping with the new administration and dealing with our incredible devastation. When I shared the concept with friends, I found that though they were equally as devastated and frustrated, they were also intimidated by the idea of taking political steps.

I tweaked the idea just a bit deciding that political steps might mean making calls to senators and representatives, but it also could mean finding a way to make the world a kinder place at a time when many of us aren’t feeling particularly kind.

When I taught fourth grade, I ran a “Random Acts of Kindness” unit…RAKs, attempting to teach elementary school kids that they could do something every day to impact someone’s life. Saying “thank you” or “excuse me” or “please” were all RAKs that were underused and very appreciated in the adult world. Complimenting someone for something they did or said was a way to spread kindness.

We journaled daily. Kids who initially were not able to come up with a single RAK were filling pages and smiling as they wrote about their experiences.

The climate in our classroom changed. And though we didn’t change the world…there was less bullying with my kids…there was an attitude of nice that started to prevail.

Moms wrote and called to tell me that for the first time their kid thanked them for a delicious dinner and clean clothes. One dad said his kid thanked him for driving him to school…and that had never happened. Profound, really!

I figured if it worked for fourth graders, maybe in my little corner of the world it might have an impact with my adult friends. I suggested they keep track of their steps…political, RAKs, any act that makes the world a better place.

The response was delightful…this wasn’t intimidating…all of us can say “thank you” and compliment someone once a day, particularly on those news conference days, rally days, cabinet appointment days, and even executive order days. These are challenging times…no question…but I really do believe, “It’s better to light one candle, than to curse the darkness.”

One of my friends took the idea into his grandson’s first grade class. They discussed the idea of RAKs, then drew pictures of themselves doing some Random Act of Kindness. Pretty wonderful!

Princess Diana said, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”

Parade Magazine recently encouraged readers to start a kindness revolution and pass out kindness cards when they see someone who’s been kind. There is in fact a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation site at https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/ and readers can post their good deeds.

I’m trying to do an RAK every day. I encourage you to take the challenge as well. Rabbi Harold Kushner said, “When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.”

Kathie quotes JFK in the introduction to her project, “One person can make a difference. Everyone should try.”

“Nothing less than the future of our planet is at stake!”

I want to thank Judy for her act of kindness in sharing this idea first with her friends and now with those who have joined My 1000 Small Steps project.