Most people like to think of progress as a straight line.
Consider an ice cube. Ice melts only when it hits 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Does that mean the energy required to increase the temperature of ice from 25 to 31 degrees doesn’t matter?
Of course not. You may only see results when you hit 32 degrees, but you never would have seen the ice melt had you not got the ice warmer over time.
Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change. Often people make a few small changes, fail to see a tangible result and decide to stop.
Like the ice cube that is gradually warming, you are getting closer to success by just focusing on your daily habits to are natural and logical to reach a goal. It’s the process of getting better that is the secret, not waiting for a speculative event to claim the prize.
One thing about success is that it’s tied to a foundation of prior work, during which noticeable improvement is probably not obvious. If you keep randomly changing the manner by which you are heating your “symbolic” ice cube or quit to soon, you will lose the power from compounding your efforts and never get hot enough to start melting.
Most of us have no difficulty recognizing luck when it’s on conspicuous display, as when someone wins the lottery. But randomness often plays out in subtle ways, and it’s easy to construct narratives that portray success as having been inevitable. Those stories are almost invariably misleading, however, a simple fact that has surprising implications.
Consider the history of the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting in the world. After having languished in obscurity for most of its early existence, Leonardo da Vinci’s work was pushed into the spotlight in 1911 when it was stolen from the Louvre. The widely publicized theft remained unsolved for two years until Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian maintenance worker at the Louvre, was apprehended after trying to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. His arrest provoked a second wave of publicity, with images of the Mona Lisa splashed around the world.
If it had it never been stolen, most of us would know no more about it than we do of the two obscure Leonardo da Vinci canvases from the same period that hang in an adjacent gallery at the Louvre. The Mona Lisa is famous largely for being famous.
As in the art world, so too in the world of work. Almost every career trajectory entails a complex sequence of steps, each of which depends on those preceding it. If any of those earlier steps had been different, the entire trajectory would almost surely have been different, too.
To acknowledge the importance of random events is not to suggest that success is independent of talent and effort. In highly competitive arenas, those who do well are almost always extremely talented and hard-working.
As Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Warren Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, once said…….