"You don't set out to build a wall. You say, I'm going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. And you do that every single day, and soon you have a wall." ~ Will Smith
When Will Smith was 12 years old, his father tore down a wall in front of his business and told Will and his 9-year old brother to rebuild it, which they thought was impossible. When they finished the wall a year and a half later, Will's father said, "Now don’t you ever tell me there's something you can't do."
I have given this story and the above quote a lot of thought, and there are at least three lessons that aspiring artists, athletes and entrepreneurs (or anyone, really) can learn from this story. That is, there are at least three reasons why you do not set out to build a wall.
1. Do Not Overwhelm Yourself by Thinking About Achieving Some Grand Outcome. The idea of building a wall, especially to a 12-year and his younger brother, can be overwhelming or, as Will said, even impossible. So too can the idea of pursuing your dreams. Rather than thinking about achieving an end result, which may seem very far off or unrealistic, instead focus on the first step that needs to be taken, and then the next step and the step, etc. Too often, if you spend too much time thinking about how far off an ultimate end result may be, then you never start in the first place because of how overwhelming or impossible the tasks seems. You think, "I can't possibly do that." Ironically, the only way you for sure cannot possibly do something is if you never try. The key is to take that first step, lay your first brick, and continue moving forward.
2. Strive for Perfection in the Little Things. Everything you do is a reflection of who you are. You have a gift, something of value to give to the world. Why would you ever want to give half of yourself? Allow yourself to shine. Everything you do in life, every brick that you lay, you should care about and give it everything you can. Try to make it perfect. Not for perfections sake, but because that brick and how it is laid represents you. In addition, if you lay each brick perfectly, then when you are all finished you will have built the strongest, most perfect wall. The quality of an end result is only as good as the steps you took to get there. Otherwise said, there are no shortcuts to success.
3. Life is Not About the Wall; Life is About Laying Bricks. Whatever brick you lay, whatever journey you start out on by taking that first step, you’d better love and be extremely passionate about. The worst thing you can do is to put yourself in a day-in-day-out situation where you are unhappy because you think the end result, your wall, will be what you want. Most often for people, that wall is mistakenly money. The reality is that it could take years or a lifetime to build your wall. And let's face it, many walls are never finished. Success is a journey, not a destination. And life is not a means to an end. So make every day count by finding bricks that you love, and laying each one perfectly.
Check out some inspirational clips of Will Smith here (the wall story appears at 3:02): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfWGoLj1JCM