Ignorance on Fire
My son is fourteen years old and looking for ways to earn a few dollars, so Sunday morning I sent him out to the backyard to stain our fence. Before heading out, he stated his expectation for how long the project would take: “I’ll have this done by lunchtime, and then Michael is coming over and we’re heading up the tracks on our bikes.”
I knew it was a larger project that would take the majority of the day. Not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm, I said nothing. Out he went with the stain and paintbrush while I watched from the kitchen window. The first ten to fifteen pickets went well as he worked enthusiastically. He looked back at his progress and smiled, but then he looked at the hundreds of pickets that lay ahead. During the next fifteen minutes, his shoulders dropped and the swiftness of his brush strokes diminished.
Watching him took me back to my childhood and an identical experience of mine. It also took me back to my first business and the hindsight realization that when the going got tough and business didn’t come as easily as I had expected I lost my enthusiasm and drive to make it happen and simply quit.
When we first embark on a new project, underestimating the amount of time it will take is normal. It is human nature to embark on new things and expect immediate results. I have heard this phenomenon referred to as ignorance on fire. We are ignorant of how long it will actually take to achieve the results we seek; therefore, we do all that we know how to do. We pour our all into our work.
When we first embark on a new project, underestimating the amount of time it will take is normal. - Chris Spurvey
But the key to achieving the desired result (the painted fence, the revenue goal for a company, the ideal body weight, or thriving relationships with our family members) is to maintain the energy that comes with ignorance on fire even when we come to the realization that achieving the goal will take longer than expected.
When I noticed Parker’s enthusiasm for the project decline, I went outside and picked up a second paintbrush. As we worked at the fence together, we talked about how he would feel when the project was completed. We talked about the feeling of achievement, the feeling of working through hardship and coming out on top, the feelings of joy and satisfaction, the feeling of depositing the pay in his bank account. I noticed that, as we focused on those feelings of achievement, the spring came back in his step and his smile broadened. Before he knew it, he was halfway finished with the fence.
At 7:35 p.m. I looked out the kitchen window. The sun had gone down, and there was Parker looking at the finished fence. He was proud of his job and proud of himself.
All too often we start projects and fail to complete them because we lose motivation when we realize they will take longer and be more difficult than we had expected.
Hopefully, this story of Parker staining the fence will stick with you, and you will see within it some of the keys to persevering and successfully completing a project.
I welcome your comments below.
On Sunday morning I will be sending a 5-step formula to my private email list that has helped me acquire the habit of perseverance. If you are interested I welcome you to check it out.
My first book, It’s Time to Sell will be published this month. I am excited to share this one-year project with the world (although I must admit it is also a bit terrifying). I welcome you to visit my website and sign up for my newsletter to be among the early readers. Thanks.