My Two Year Theory

“Baby step to the elevator. I’m in the elevator. AHHHHH!!!” ~ Bob Wiley, What about Bob

I’m impatient. I want things to happen right away, all at once and if they don’t, I sometimes go without. A good example of this just happened this morning. In fact, it happens often. I don’t like to wait in line. Again, I’m impatient. So what happens is I wait for the line to die down in a cafe so I can just walk up and order my coffee. If the place is busy or if there is a rush, I often spend so much time waiting for the line to die down that I go longer without my coffee than if I had gotten in line in the first place. I see people drinking their lattes that would have been behind me had I just gotten in line. This is a metaphor for my life.

I am always waiting for the big payoff, the big score. I don’t want to lose a pound a week for a year; I want to lose fifty pounds in a month. I don’t want to put $100 a month in a mutual fund and be a millionaire in twenty years; I just want to be a millionaire right now. In fact, I am still not putting away $100 a month so that I can be a millionaire twenty years from now. I’m still waiting for my big break even though I know that I could have been rich by now had I just started when I was a 19-year-old kid.

During one of the few coaching sessions I conducted in my short career as a coach, I recognized something in the person I was trying to help. She was impatient. Had she just been chipping away at her goal a little at a time, she would have achieved it by now, but she was like me — all or nothing, and the all had yet to happen. Because I didn’t want to tell her what to do, I gave her examples from my own life. This works really well with coaching. (Is that why I spent the first forty years of my life messing up?) As I said the words to her, I could hear them click with her as they also clicked with me. “If I had been working at it this whole time, instead of waiting for it to come all at once, I’d have it by now.”

This reminded me of my days as a Heating and Air Conditioning instructor. I would find myself standing at the white board saying something that was as eye opening to myself as it was my students. Things would just click for me standing up there in front of the class. I would, all of a sudden, understand an issue I had years back when I was on a ladder or a roof somewhere trying to troubleshoot a broken A/C. It was amazing, still is — to be teaching and learning simultaneously. That’s what I was experiencing as I coached this woman, I was coaching myself too.

Incrementalism –  a policy of making changes, especially social changes, by degrees; gradualism.

None of this quite hit me until I heard a podcast and the word incrementalism was used. Incremental means to do in increments — a little at a time. The suffix, -ism, means the process or the practice of. I needed this word in my life. It explained everything I was trying to tell others and what I had experienced in my own life but couldn’t put into words.

Incrementalism is how I slowly built a business with six full-time employees while I failed several times trying for the big score. Incrementalism is what got me to the top of the Manitou Incline, one step at a time. 2700 mini-goals instead of just one big one.

I realized that I needed to start chipping away at what I want in life because waiting for the big thing to happen isn’t working. At least it hasn’t yet, and it’s only been 42 years. That day on the phone with my coaching client, I told her about my two-year theory.

It’s going to take two years.

“Anything of any significance is going to take at least two years to accomplish.” This is something I thought was cool to say, but why do I say it?

It gives a realistic timeline. Granted some things may take longer, maybe even ten years or twenty, but two is good for most things, like losing 100 pounds, paying off your student loans, or buying a car cash. If your goal is two years and you don’t accomplish it after six months, you are less likely to give it up. People tend to get frustrated when thy have barely made a dent, but with a two-year timeline, it can give you hope of accomplishing your goal.

Getting things accomplished in a shorter time period is totally cool. Between myself and a partner a few years back, we paid off  $50,000 in debt in five months. It was quite an accomplishment, but if I had given myself a two-year timeline to get out of debt. I would be out of debt by now and would not of have gotten totally burnt out on being a real estate agent, which I pretty much gave up on the moment I paid my last bill off. I also wouldn’t have had a huge tax bill the next year as a result of all the hustling I did. And, I wouldn’t have put my relationship under a tremendous amount of stress.

Personally, I have given up on things that didn’t show immediate improvement or probability of being accomplished. I never looked at the long game, what Gary Vee calls the “Macro.” I began my real estate, a completely commission based job, career with high hopes. After months of struggling, I was frustrated and was wondering if I had made a mistake. In the meantime, my contracting company was growing slowly but surely. If I had given myself two years to start making money as a REALTOR, I probably wouldn’t have drunk so much or gone in debt thinking the big payoff was coming soon. My goal was to have passive income coming in so that I could take off on a trip to Europe. It never happened. Funny thing was is that the passive income did happen, just not from real estate. It was my contracting company that was paying me.

Realizing that something is going to take two years might motivate you to get started. If losing 100 pounds is going to take two years, you better get started. If you wait two years even to start, then it will take two years from then. Now you’re looking at four years. Two years sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?

Macro Patience and Thinking — Micro Speed and Action

The incline is the toughest mile I have ever walked. When you stand at the base and look up the two thousand foot climb — the macro, it looks impossible. If not impossible, it at least looks not fun. It definitely looks impossible after you have climbed a few hundred feet, and your lungs and quads are burning like hell. In either case, the thing to do is look down, in front of you. There you will find your next step — the micro.

The big goal is the top, but it’s going to take a while. It is going to take 2700 little successes to achieve that goal, so be patient. In the meantime bask in the glory of your mini goal achievement. In this case, each step. I would like to say that I knew I was doing this whole Macro-Micro thing, but I didn’t. It was exactly what I was doing, though. My mantra was one foot in front of the other.

I think the incline makes it easy to see, but this applies to everything you are striving for in your life. Think macro, what is it you want to achieve? Act micro, what are the little steps you need to take every day to get there. If you know the steps you are going to take you can figure out how long it is going to take for you to get there. My guess is it will be two years.


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