One of my favorite bloggers had this title recently, “Gradually and Then Suddenly.” Seth Godin writes mostly about marketing and business but his points are applicable across the whole spectrum of life. So many things happen gradually and then suddenly.
Most things don’t happen suddenly. We just notice suddenly. It usually happens gradually. After ten years of foundational erosion, cutting corners here, inattention to details, opportunities missed, quite suddenly it all falls apart. It didn’t happen suddenly, you just noticed it suddenly.
This principle of truth is seen in business, in marriage, in churches, in careers, raising children and more. Everything is going along with just tiny incremental changes and then suddenly. The good news is, the flipside works the very same way. After ten years in business, we suddenly notice an overnight success.
Godin writes, “This is the way it works, but we too often make the mistake of focusing on the ‘suddenly’ part. The media writes about suddenly, we notice suddenly, we talk about suddenly.” Jim Collins in his Good to Great book uses the image of the “Flywheel Effect”—the additive effect of many small initiatives continued with intentional discipline over time act like compounding interest and lead to great success. It’s much the same as the Bamboo Principle.
I’m reminded of the Scripture: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Life is mostly about a lot of small day-to-day decisions that morph into one big direction of life. We look for the big break-through to success moments. We watch for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We anticipate our moment in the spotlight.
I reflected on this principle yesterday while remembering and celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Dr. King didn’t just give an “I Have a Dream” speech and everything changed. He made day-to-day decisions to speak out, to march, to write letters, to preach sermons—which led to years of hardship, jail time and non-violent confrontations. Civil rights changes were so very gradual, but then suddenly.
What small thing do you need to do or change today in building your character, your marriage, your business, your faith, your career or your organization so some day, it will suddenly be everything you want it to become? Gradually is the only part you can actually do something about.
QUESTION: What examples of gradual and then suddenly would you add? Please share them.