Writing, Physics, and Dominoes


When I was in college / university I took several creative writing courses. One instructor who I encountered a few times over multiple years was particularly fond of “journal pages”. This was a requirement to fill a certain number of pages every day and then show her periodically that you’d written by flipping through the pages (she didn’t read them).

At the time I wasn’t big on keeping a journal and just wanted to write stories, not “journal pages”.  I also foolishly believed that stories would only come out of me when I was in the right setting, blah blah blah. It was ridiculous, but I was young. 

I remember filling many a journal page with something along the lines of “I have to write these pages, but I don’t know what to write. I procrastinated on doing this yesterday, which means I’ll have to write even more today and I still don’t know what to write.” Seriously. I know for a fact that I wrote things like that a lot.

Here I am, a good 25 years older, sitting in front of my computer during the time I scheduled to write a blog post in danger of writing something very similar to what filled those journal pages. Even though I have an ongoing list of things to write about I couldn’t think of what I’d write for this post.

For just an instant I thought, “I could just not write one right now. Nobody else knows that this is the time I scheduled for me to write.,” before pushing that thought out of my head.  I know and if I don’t write now I’ll feel like I need to squeeze it in at another point and it will be like the marathon, hand-aching journal page writing of my naive youth.

I’ve written before about the importance of taking the first step to accomplishing something. Recently I read the book The One Thing, which I highly recommend. In it the authors use an interesting domino analogy to bring this point home.  I even Googled this to confirm that the physics are real before sharing this, so here goes.

It seems that a domino that falls over can knock over another domino that is one and half times its size, and then that domino can do the same. Apparently, if you start with a regular domino that you’d play the game with (about 2 inches tall) and do this experiment with 18 dominoes each growing by a size and a half of the one before it, the 18th domino would be about 164 feet, just shy of the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (183 feet). Knocking over that first, two inch domino would soon lead to the all of the other 17 falling as well. Pretty cool, really.

But what does that have to do with procrastinating on writing? I’m getting to that.

The overall message in the book is that you need to figure out what you can do now that would be the next step in reaching your larger goals. The authors walk the reader through a process called “Goal Setting to the Now”  up with your “someday goal” and then asking “what’s the ONE Thing I can do in the next five years to put me on track to achieve my someday goal” followed by “what’s the ONE Thing I can do in the next year …”. After that they have you break it down to the next month, the next week, today, and right now.

I have a someday goal to be a successful speaker and consultant who helps people live their lives as the best people they can be. This blog will play a role in raising my profile while helping people along the way. I won’t be successful at my someday goal if I don’t get some name recognition in this area. I won’t get that name recognition without putting myself out there through things like this blog. Nobody is going to read this blog if I don’t produce regular content (and can’t help people through here without it either). If I didn’t sit down and write something at the time I blocked off to do this I wouldn’t have new content to post. Writing this is just pushing over a small domino. 

It might seem like a small thing, but it in the end it may just lead to something much bigger.

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