Here is the question: when will you be ready to ditch all the bad habits and finally get organized?
The simple answer is you’ll get organized when you are ready. Simple, but not easy.
The Best You Will Emerge
Yogi Cameron Alborzian tells a great story about Michelangelo in The One Plan:
In 1501, a twenty-six-year-old Michelangelo petitioned members of the Florentine Office of Works for the opportunity to work on a sculpture. The job was to transform a nineteen-foot-tall block of marble known as “the Giant” into a sculpture commemorating the city’s recent liberation from the book-burning rule of Girolamo Savonarola. Two sculptors had attempted to work on this immense marble over the course of the nearly hundred years since it was extracted. It had been poorly blocked with a huge gaping hole, and had been left exposed to the elements for decades. Despite the damage, Michelangelo saw the marble’s potential. He used a steady hand to gradually strip the block of its nonessential pieces until—almost three years later—he revealed the Hebrew youth who had always been underneath. The result would be a source of joy to the world for many centuries to come, for the statue is what we now know as the David. This came to be because Michelangelo had a vision and allowed the statue to emerge in its own time.
Read that last sentence again.
He had a vision and allowed the statue to emerge in its own time.
Our journey to organization should follow the same path.
Work off Your Timetable
I read a great article recently that put this mindset in perspective. The author argued that all our failures in the past weren’t signs of weakness or because of lack of trying.
They were just signs that we weren’t ready to change yet.
This isn’t about making excuses and blaming everyone and everything but ourselves when we fail.
This is about using the past as prologue as someone much wiser than me said once.
It reminds me of the Stoic philosophy. The Stoics argue that the only thing we can control is how we respond to what happens to us.
Maybe we’ve taken years to get to a place where we can begin to change. Those years are behind us. We can’t get them back and we can’t make up that time. All we can control is the here and now.
What if all those years were just practice runs to get us to today?
What if we are that statue and we finally found our time to emerge?
It Only Takes a Grain of Sand
An article on Farnam Street titled A Cascade of Sand: Complex Systems in a Complex Time discussed theoretical physicist Per Bak and his cone of sand metaphor:
So, if most of the threats we face to today are so multifaceted and complex that we can’t use the majority of the strategies that have worked historically, how do we approach the problem? A Danish theoretical physicist named Per Bak had an interesting view of this which he termed self-organized criticality and it comes with an excellent experiment/metaphor that helps to explain the concept.
Bak’s research focused on answering the following question: if you created a cone of sand grain by grain, at what point would you create a little sand avalanche? This breakdown of the cone was inevitable but he wanted to know if he could somehow predict at what point this would happen.
The article dealt with complexity, but as I thought about it I had an idea.
Going Granular on Organization
What if our behavior change is like that cone of sand. We don’t know when, we might not know even if, but what if one tiny grain, one tiny change, could cause a cascade in our behavior?
As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Start doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
It might seem impossible to get organized. Maybe it was to our past selves. We could be ready now because of that experience.
The old saying is when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. What nobody thinks is what if we are the teacher and the student.
We try, we fail. We try again, we fail again. That is quite a lot of experience.
Perhaps after all those false starts we are ready to teach ourselves how to finally change for good.
In sum, get organized when you are ready. You’ll know you are ready because every experience, every failure, will have prepared you for that final grain to fall.