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April 23rd, 2018

There are only two reasons for tiny steps

The first is for fine-tuning. 

But just as the largest switchbacks are at the base of the mountain where it is widest, and the smallest, tightest, fine-tuning switchbacks are at the top where there is simply very little room – tiny steps for fine-tuning come only after large leaps.

The second reason for tiny steps is: fear.

Those who wish to change but are unwilling to take those initial large leaps in different directions towards progress falsely comfort themselves with tiny steps.

“I like to take my time.”

 “I do small experiments to get a more detailed understanding.”

“It’s just dramatic and crazy to make such big changes! And it could be a mistake that’s as big as the leap! If a mistake is going to be made, better it be only a small step in the direction of that mistake. Easier to turn back, less distance to retrace.”

Less distance to retrace back to that comfortable little bubble.

How many Disney movies do we need before we intuit the fact that substantial change and growth starts with huge moves, far flung adventure, drastic measures, grand experiments, taking chances and courageous risks? These movies start with a boring status quo: a comfortable little bubble. And then that bubble pops.

Only tiny steps are possible inside that comfortable bubble and they will never result in meaningful, substantial change. 

(This does not actually mean we must go on some far flung adventure. We can very easily make a huge leap regarding the contents of our refrigerator. All that requires is a trip to the grocery store with a new and radical intention about what we will buy.)

Relying only on tiny steps towards progress is similar to expecting an ant to one day give you a detailed map of the planet. An ant takes tiny steps.

Unless it’s an immortal ant and we have an absolutely ridiculous amount of time, we’re only going to get a very detailed map of a tiny portion of say, a neighborhood. (Think about how fast and vast the distance travelled by a GPS satellite – THAT will give you a map.)

The other aspect of Tiny Steps Vs. Leaps is that our observational abilities are fairly dull and flawed, especially when it’s with regards to self-observation

The actual results of tiny steps are simply really difficult to accurately and reliably notice without a large context as a backdrop for the arena of our experiementation.

We kid ourselves that a tiny step we have taken is having a noticeable effect, but fail to take into account the placebo effect -  which works even if you know you’re taking a placebo! Chances are, the positive effects of that tiny change are just all in our head

That’s not necessarily bad. 

But it’s a delusional understanding of one’s self.

A positive mental attitude is just first-gear. It will only get you so far.

These delusional effects are harder to ‘fake’ if the changes we institute are more on the order of a giant leap.

Large leaps are more likely to result in actual, noticeable changes. Good changes, unexpected changes, unneeded changes... the whole shebang of experimental results. Changes that are unforgivingly noticeable, and therefore constitute reliable information about the world and ourselves.

We learn more, and we learn more accurately by starting with drastic changes, and working from those large leaps down to smaller and smaller tiny steps in order to fine-tune exactly what works for us.

Think of it this way:

When Michelangelo started sculpting his ‘David’ out of a giant solid block of stone. Do you think he started with sandpaper?


We must not delude ourselves into thinking that we’ve already made those large leaps or that they aren’t useful.


Take out the biggest chisel, the heaviest mallet and start. . .

blasting away.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 8: Tiny Steps and Leaps

Tinkered Thinking

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