Lessons from the Logpile

logpile at bottom of hillHow do you move 4,685 pounds of firewood 50 feet up a hill?

One log at a time.

This little project seemed like it would be fun because it had a clear goal. It would be easy to measure progress. And we’d gain a real sense of accomplishment.

Turns out it offered the same emotional roller coaster ride of many other types of projects.

At first a project may seem easy. Because the goal is clear and worth achieving. Conceptually, you know what needs to be done. It’s a matter of getting down to work.

Once you actually begin, however, it can actually be a little de-motivating.

As four of us dug into the wood pile, we began to realize that a cord of wood is quite a lot of wood. Handling every piece of it… Moving it up the hill… Stacking it neatly… That all seemed like a lot of work to be done.

Suddenly, the project doesn’t seem as exciting any more. It seems hard.

That happens with many projects. We are excited about the goal and we know how to achieve it. We set out with some sort of plan and we take action.

As soon as the real work begins, we realize that the it’s going to be harder than we thought.

So we look for ways to approach the work. Maybe we can establish a process. Then we start to make progress. We might even get into a good rhythm.

And the project becomes fun and exciting again…

That’s usually not all there is to the roller coaster, though.

Many times, there are more snags. Sometimes we encounter a serious problem. It might just be that we realize that there is no way around the work that is left to be done.

Momentum can wane. Rhythm can be broken. Motivation can start to dissipate.

Here is where we have got to remember the secret: the most important step to take is the next step.

Whatever the very next task might be, we need to do it.

It doesn’t matter how big the project is. It doesn’t matter how lofty the goal is. What matters is that we take action.

It doesn’t need to be a flurry of activity. It doesn’t need to be a big activity. What we need to do is to take the next step.

We need to worry about the next log and only the next log.

Because if you keep moving the next log, pretty soon the next log is the last log. And a cord of wood has moved.

Big things happen when lots of little things happen. But we often really need to focus only on one little thing at a time. The next little thing.

Keep doing that, and soon enough the big thing will be done. And you will feel good about it. Maybe even great. That’s always a goal worth pursuing.