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It’s Not the Last Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

So why do you expect overnight success?


Photo by Robert Nordahl on Unsplash

Many of us are aware of the compounding power of making tiny improvements, or Atomic Habits, popularized by James Clear.


A 1% improvement each day, or a tiny bit better, will lead to a 3778% improvement by the end of the year. That is almost 38x better than where you started.


But it’s easy to lose sight of your goals. When you make tiny changes, you won’t see immediate results. Who knows what 1% is, anyway? When can I see real change?


It wasn’t until I read Clear’s ice cube analogy that I truly got it.


It isn’t just about making tiny improvements. It’s making tiny improvements consistently to reach visible improvements or breakthrough moments.


I think we’ve all tried our hand at one thing or the other, and then after weeks and months of trying, we give up. We hit the “valley of disappointment.” We become impatient. We don’t see the results we are looking for, so we let go of that new goal. We conveniently conclude, “This isn’t for me. It’s not going to work, so there’s no point in trying.”


I’ve been there many times. But before you give up, think of this.


There’s an ice cube in a room with a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit. You heat the room temperature 1 degree Fahrenheit at a time, and you wait for the ice cube to change.


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 degrees. No change on the ice cube.


11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 degrees. Still no change. Time to give up?


21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 degrees. What the hell? Definitely give up. This is pointless.


31, 32… WAIT! It’s melting. That 1-degree difference between 31 and 32 made the ice cube melt.


But it wasn’t that last degree that made this possible; it was all those preceding degrees leading up to the last degree.


We give up way before reaching 32 degrees because we don’t see enough progress.

But in Clear’s words, “Complaining about not achieving success despite working hard is like complaining about an ice cube not melting when you heated it from twenty-five to thirty-one degrees. Your work was not wasted; it is just being stored. All the action happens at thirty-two degrees.”

When you’re tempted to give up, remember it’s the little things that count. They will lead you to a major breakthrough. It doesn’t happen overnight; it never does.


It’s a series of events, a series of improvements, a series of tiny wins that lead to your breakthrough moment.


It wasn’t that last straw that broke the camel’s back. It was all those straws that preceded it.


You might not see these tiny wins, but they see you. Don’t give up on them.