Adding up to Achievement

by Chris Stones


How am I ever going to <SOME BIG ASPIRATION>
if I can't even <SOME SMALL TECHNICAL PROBLEM> ?

I've had some variation of this conversation with myself many times throughout my
life. I think the first time was with a Javascript countdown timer and then a php hit
counter. More recently, it was a simple program to integrate mathematical functions.
But despite the headaches, I've persevered.

It's what happens when you just keep going.
And that's what I advise.

How we handle the little setbacks indicates how we'll handle the large
ones. I seldom stop to think about how far I've come. Normally, I freeze and stare
off into the distance sighing as I note how much further I must go. But
that's unfair to moral. Moral is a bit like a plant that must be nurtured as you
go. Maintaining a sense of it helps root the self in preparations for the storms
ahead.

That's why little setbacks feel so frustrating. They injure moral. And when so
much weight is placed on every little problem-outcome cycle the bridge to the
future breaks a bit under the stress.

It shouldn't feel like an epic struggle to win the day with the whole future
resting on the result of every bump in the road project. But it does
because the parts add up to the whole. In my mind, the little struggles and
victories forecast the endgame of the ambition.

That's why I get so mad when I can't seem to get a simple program to properly
integrate functions. It's not so much about the program itself but about the
reality slapping me in the face. Like a kick to the heart the world reminds me
just how hard it is to make things real.

In the case of the integrator, I gave up for a long while. It was probably a
year later before I found myself pacing back and forth in front of a chalkboard
thinking about it again. I suddenly realized the piece of the equation I was
missing and I finally wrote what you see up there. The paper sat near my desk for a few
nights before I made the code that would grant it life.

Amazingly, it worked. But why not? During the long break I was learning and
working out new things. (And failing at them.) But a shift in perspective, new skills
and a clear mind brought me back to wrap up what I was once too frustrated
to achieve.

It just took a bit longer than a night.

But that's the point. Things add up. If you know anything about integration you
know it's a way of adding up pieces of things to arrive at a sum. And that's
what progress is.

It's adding up to achievement.


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