“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” — Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)
During the Tokyo Summer Olympics, U.S. swimmer Caeleb Dressel stunned interviewers with his philosophic and deeply insightful perspective on life and sports. In an age where many are looking to live lives that are impressive, Dressel is seeking one of simpler sorts — spending little time on social media and instead devoting time to taking up drum lessons, focusing on his walk with God, or hanging out with his young wife and dog. He’s talked about how, for him, all of life is connected: Something unrelated to swimming like playing drums may help him out in the pool, or something in the pool may help out his marriage. It’s a counter-cultural view, but one that’s centered around a clear principle: finding greatness in the small.
In one interview, Dressel explained this philosophy: “I think greatness is found in mundanity … those boring little ticks throughout the day. I call it putting pennies in the bank; my coach calls it putting tools in the tool box. I think that’s where greatness is found. People want to dream up this big, giant goal without putting the stepping stones along the way, but for me, that’s what gets you to that giant goal.”
Nobody can say Dressel’s approach wasn’t successful; after all, the guy won five Olympic medals in Tokyo, something only 10 other Olympians have ever achieved. But he does raise an interesting point in that people often set their sights on something big, but forget the countless little steps of discipline that are needed in order to get there.
Any great achievement on or off the field of play is only the product of thousands of daily decisions to commit yourself to the process, to stay the course when you want to quit, to invest the time and energy into the people and resources that can help you get where you want to be and become who you want to become. If you’re not willing to pay attention to those “boring little ticks” that Dressel mentioned, your chances of success will diminish.
Jesus actually established this principle in Luke 16:10 when He said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much,” indicating that the degree to which you invest in the details is the degree to which you’ll get positive or negative results out of your investment. Those who are committed to getting the little things right, and harnessing even the smallest of details as inspiration and an opportunity to learn, will often survive those who took shortcuts and simply wanted to get to the top.
Character is established along the journey, not just when you arrive. The achievement is just the evidence and byproduct of what you put in during the process. Make your own “boring little ticks” — those details you may not think matter in the moment — and make those count. Because, in the long run, those are the building blocks for the foundation of a life, and not just momentary success.
— Katherine Singer
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