When nothing seems to help... remember the stonecutter

Have you ever come out of a practice session feeling just useless and totally deflated? Where nothing seemed to feel good, you didn't feel like progress was made at all and to be honest you were probably regressing?

My son's 10, and if you've been reading these emails for a while, you know he's soccer-obsessed. He's quite good at it, but a lot of that came naturally. At this age, kids start to play pretty seriously, they play on larger fields, can start doing "headers" and get scouted for travel leagues. The game is more competitive and he's reached the point where he the learning curve starts shallowing out.

So, he comes in from doing his juggling this morning (that drill where you repeatedly kick the ball, without using the hands or arms, in order to keep it in the air) and says, clearly frustrated, "Mom, I only got 23 today". His record is 54. He continues, "I just can't do it anymore. What's the point?! Ughhhh."

Because he's my son (and I like to try out little kid-sized nuggets of wisdom on him), he knows that growth and improvement happen at the point of frustration, and also that foundational skills should be practiced every day. Yet there are days when we all just feel … yeah, incompetent.

So I told him the quote about the stonecutter:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

It's by a Danish social reformer named Jacob Riis, and this quote hangs famously in the San Antonio Spurs locker room as the team's core mission and philosophy. So much so that the head coach, Gregg Popovich has a wine label called, you guessed it, Rock and Hammer.

Check out this video to appreciate what it takes to split a rock in half! 

All this is to remind us that just because we can't always see the results of the effort we are putting into something, our efforts over time really do have an impact. Day by day, we don't necessarily make huge strides or have big outcomes. Like my son, we might see significant progress with little effort at the beginning of learning new things (when the learning curve is steep) but frustration and discouragement can set in once we're settling in for a long-term goal.

It becomes easy to tell ourselves, "What's the point?" or convince ourselves to quit, that it's not worth our effort to continue.

We want (and need) to see progress, to feel competent, to have proof the needle is moving.

But don't forget, the little actions we take, the habits we form, are leading us to our greatest successes! So even if it doesn't feel like you're making any progress, or just a little progress over weeks, months, or even years in with some projects, know that with every effort, you're on the way to cracking that stone!

Be patient. Keep pounding.

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