I have a confession to make: I can be my own best buzzkill. I was this week.
Two nights ago, I was thrilled to hear that I’d made my first affiliate sale. Someone purchased Inside-Out Simplicity via A Wish Come Clear (thank you, whoever you are.) Someone had a fantastic book to read…and I’d made a sale! I’ve had (wonderful, generous) donations, but a sale! I bounced around with excitement. I tweeted about it with Josh Becker (the author.) He was glad to be a part of my first sale. I thought about how exciting it was, how much I’m looking forward to publishing my own ebook and this site’s upcoming redesign.
And then I started downplaying it all.
I put on what Danielle LaPorte calls the ‘happiness muffle’. I subdued my excitement, saying to my husband, “It’s a start, but…it’s not big deal. Just $6.”
It was amazing how quickly my mood changed. I’d been elated, and suddenly, I was downcast. I thought, “I have so much farther to go…the site’s still so small…maybe it was a one-time fluke…”
Have you done this? Have you ever hit a milestone of some kind and then cut short the celebration with rationalizing or comparing yourself to others?
I considered the impulses behind my downplaying:
1. Fear of showing enthusiasm/revealing how much I care about a certain milestone or success. There’s a false belief that, if I show too much joy over something, it will be snatched away.
2. A ‘don’t rest on your laurels’ approach that pushes me past celebration and back to work right away. It’s another false belief that, if I am happy with a success, it will take away my determination to work toward a greater goal.
3. Belief that small things are insignificant.
I’ll focus on number 3, because it’s the most insidious one.
Small things get a bad rap. My mom used to quote me the verse, “Do not despise the day of small things.” She must have sensed within me a tendency to associate bigger with better. When we think this way, we miss out on opportunities. We get paralyzed by our own big dreams. We forget that doing a little bit every day can get us where we want to go; that giving a little bit matters; that overcoming our fear means taking one small courageous step at a time.
Luckily, my friends at L’Arche have helped to re-introduce me to the beauty of small. As I wrote in 2007:
“I observed Theresa* hunting for pennies as we walked around the block together. Other assistants had told me about her penchant for finding coins, but it was an education to see it firsthand. Theresa scrupulously searches every street she walks down, finding pennies wherever she goes. Yet what strikes me is not so much her capacity for locating pennies but her method of gathering them. When she comes upon a coin, she stops and raises her hands in slow, deliberate delight. She bends to retrieve the coin, but never snatches at it. She just cups the penny into her palm and smiles.”
My friend Theresa has shown me that delighting in the small things isn’t foolish…it’s life-giving.
This week, I’ve been intrigued by Everett Bogue’s piece, “The 333 Project: How To Create A Six-Figure Writing Career in 2011.” In it, he outlines how he’s “closing in on” 333 subscribers to his newsletter (because 333 subscribers at $25/month adds up to six figures.) This is impressive, but I’m not intrigued by the numbers so much as the philosophy.
What he’s saying is: think small. Don’t assume that you need to do big things or please everyone in order to make your dreams come true. Think about what a small, dedicated group of people could do for your business, and what that small group could do for this world. Regardless of whether you’re selling newsletters or saving whales, this is valuable.
So I asked myself: How do I cultivate this kind of thinking, this way of being? Put another way: What qualities does Theresa exhibit in her search for pennies?
1. Theresa doesn’t compare one penny on the sidewalk with a huge jar of them in her room. She rejects comparison in favor of celebration. Each penny on the sidewalk makes a measurable difference to Theresa.
2. Theresa’s persistence practically guarantees that she’ll accumulate lots of pennies in her lifetime…because she’s always got her eyes open for them.
3. Because Theresa is proud and unashamed of her passion for penny collection, everyone in the community knows about it. And lots of people give Theresa pennies for her birthday. Huge jars of them. (You’d better believe THOSE add up.)
The small currencies of love I find at L’Arche enrich me every day. And because of Theresa’s example, I’m proud to say I earned $6 in affiliate commissions this week. While of course I have bigger dreams, I’m just starting out, starting small. This is where I’m at right now, and it’s a place worth celebrating.
Plus, when you think about it in Theresa’s terms: Six dollars, baby…that’s six hundred pennies.
How about you? How could you ‘think small’ when it comes to your big dreams? Tell me in the comments!
*Names have been changed.
It’s easy when you’re talking about pennies. It’s harder on some of the other things in life. But, my grandfather, who was a successful businessman, echoed Theresa’s thoughts when he said that 100 pennies equals a dollar and 100 dollar bills equals 100 dollars. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Likewise, our lifetimes are made up of millions and billions and trillions of tiny moments. Without them, we do not live.
Well said, Astreil! I know what you mean ~ it’s harder to translate ‘pennies’ to ‘perseverance’ in other areas. And yet you say it so well ~ small moments are what comprise a whole lifetime.
This is a philosophy that I hold near and dear, but one which also sometimes gets overshadowed by my day-to-day existence.
It is so important to allow ourselves to celebrate the small things in life – the small accomplishments, moments of discovery, gestures of love, instances of true connection. Sadly, our modern society is so often focused on The Next Thing and on comparing all our Things to everyone else’s Things, that those small treasures slip away before we have the chance to experience and savor them.
I completely relate to your “jinx” feeling – that if you get too happy about something, it’ll be taken away. Pretending we don’t care that much is a self-defense against disappointment. I get that. But the tragedy is that without opening ourselves up to the risk of disappointment, we can never fully enjoy the joy of the moment. It’s a work in progress for me. 😉
Anyway – loved the post. Lots to chew on for the day. Thanks for sharing it!
A work-in-progress, indeed ~ I’m with you 😉 Thanks for the comment~ I’m glad to meet you, Jamie!
Thanks for the link love 🙂
Anytime 🙂 “Giving is Living” is a great post!
Chris Guillebeau has a similar post to this that I sometimes go back and read to ground myself. What should the saying be: don’t sweat the small stuff, relish it?
Love that sale. It means something and you’re going places, lady! 🙂
🙂 I like the revised saying! Thanks Jen. Sale #2 just came through, & there is much rejoicing in the land!
It’s only when we are able to appreciate the small stuff, that we are prepared for the big stuff…stuff won’t steal our simple pleasures!
Wise words from a wise woman~ thanks! 🙂
I LOVE Everett Bogue’s site! Thanks for sharing. I know what you mean about celebrating small things. This week I got my first subscription from a fellow book blogger (one I link to on my site). I was so thrilled! Then I put up a post that got no comments, and I was downcast. You and I are a lot alike (but we knew that already)! Also, so that I don’t have to email you separately, look for something in the mail early next week!
Me too; I always look forward to his next post…they’re consistently surprising. (Confession: I saved my favorite Far Beyond The Stars posts as Word docs before he deleted the site.)
Congrats on your first subscription! & yes, indeed we are ~ so I must tell you that Books Distilled rocks, and I’m so psyched to read today’s post. Infinity, here I come.
Lastly, I can’t wait to see what’s in the mail 🙂
What a sweet post. Big can feel so overwhelming. When I think small — one baby step at a time — I accomplish more and feel better about the process too.
Congratulations on your first affiliate sale!
You said it! Thanks Tara 🙂
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[…] Do You Dare to Think … Small? by Caroline McGraw. This is an older post, but it’s just as true today. Caroline’s mom gives her good advice: “Do not despise the day of small things.” Celebrate the small victories, instead of putting yourself down! […]