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Progress is Invisible

By: Michael Blankenship |

“The progress from infancy to boyhood is imperceptible. In that long dawn of the mind we take but little heed. The years pass by us, one by one, little distinguishable from each other. But when the intellectual sun of our life is risen, we take due note of joy and sorrow.”

– Bryan Procter

Did you know that, according to this study, the average parent doesn’t get a full night of sleep until six years after their child is born? Pretty wild. But the good news is that my daughter will be 6 in August this year. So I’m almost there! 😆

– Mike & Alec 

Progress is Invisible

This video is freaky. 

It shows a child progress to old age in a single five-minute shot. What’s crazy about it is that, in every moment of the video, you can’t really see aging occur. And yet you know something is happening. You know this child is getting older.

Watching it feels a bit like watching my daughter grow up. 

Every moment of her growth is entirely imperceptible to me — I can’t see differences in her height from day-to-day… but I can see great leaps and bounds when I look at old pictures or reminisce about when she was just a toddler. 

This reality isn’t just true of children, though, it’s true with any type of growth.

If you’re trying to forge a career, write a book, build a business, or do something else meaningful, you rarely will be able to see progress in the moment. 

The growth is invisible. 

But then suddenly, often years or even decades down the road, you’ll look back and realize just how far you’ve come. 

Don’t mistake the imperceptibility of progress for a lack of progress.

If you’re taking action over and over again, you’re growing. You might just not see the fruits of your labor yet. 

Small Wins

Your day is probably jam-packed with to-dos. 

Maybe you’ve got such a long list that you don’t even know where to start or how you’re going to accomplish it all. 

Charles Duhigg might recommend you start with some “small wins”. 

“Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves.” 

Doing the dishes, for instance, or taking the trash out, or even going for a quick walk. 

In and of themselves, these things are relatively insignificant. But they have a snowballing effect. 

“Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage,” one Cornell professor wrote in 1984. “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.” Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.”

I (Mike) now use these small wins whenever I’m feeling lethargic. Most often, I’ll do one of the three things I mentioned above. It only takes about 15 minutes and I always have a little more energy afterward. 

That’s because I’ve accomplished something, I’ve moved a little bit, and it’s easy to keep that momentum once it’s started. 

This works because action and results lead to a release of dopamine (which feels good). This, in turn, leads to more action and more results. 

Small wins can plug you into this winning cycle. 

The cycle many of us plug into unknowingly, though — we call it the “Un-Success Cycle” — does just the opposite. 

We don’t take action (even though we know we should) and so we don’t get results. Which means we don’t feel good about ourselves. This makes us take less action and get less results. 

Give it a try, the next time you’re feeling down, get up and just do one simple thing. Here are some ideas for things you could do to feel better and build some momentum. 

  • Go for a quick walk
  • Do the dishes
  • Do a load of laundry
  • Sweep
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes of work
  • Do 10 pushups
  • Choose the easiest thing on your to-do list


This video just made me get up from my desk and go for a walk. 

It’s a TED-Ed video that describes why the human body isn’t meant to sit down for long periods of time and how doing so harms our health. 

For example, did you know that our circulatory system depends on the contracting of our muscular system? Or how about that we get less oxygen to our brain when we slouch while sitting? Not to mention that too much sitting is related to long-term health problems such as cancer and heart disease. 

The video is only 4 minutes and 51 seconds. And it’s well worth the watch. 

If nothing else, it’ll convince you to stand a little bit more and to go for more walks. 

Image of The Week

This Week’s Riddle

Here’s this week’s riddle — the answer is at the bottom of the email!

Turn me on my side and I am everything. Cut me in half and I am nothing.

What am I?

This Week’s Journaling Prompt

Take some time to think through the following journaling prompt. 

Why is progress invisible? And what does that mean for the way in which you pursue your passions? 

This Week’s Challenge

Stack some small wins. Every day, if you find yourself feeling unmotivated, get yourself a small win. It’ll make you feel better, more motivated, and maybe even more optimistic. 

Riddle Answer: The number 8.

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