Harry Smith

Building a Wall

Life is a lot like building a wall, brick by brick.

Building a wall isn’t so different from life. When you build a wall, you place one brick at a time. Life is very much like that as well, as you make progress one step at a time. Bricks are small and easy to lay. You make the most progress when you take actions that are like bricks. If you don’t place each brick well, you don’t get a sturdy wall. If you go out and look at a real wall and find a sloppy brick in it, you’ll notice it takes many, many bricks to correct itself.

But you won’t build a wall if you don’t lay any bricks. That statement is a little obvious. But it’s not so obvious when you talk about life. Most people know exactly what their wall (life) should look like. You can even spend many hours designing your hypothetical wall. But you haven’t laid any bricks. The only thing that counts is the actions you take, not the ones you intend. Did I go to the gym? Did I work on my novel? Did I reach out to that contact? What bricks have you actually laid recently?

A wall needs many, many bricks. If you decide to lay a few bricks and stop, you don’t have a wall. You have a pile of bricks. There is some critical moment when your efforts transition from a pile to a wall. That transition point is the smallest amount of work worth doing. If you don’t reach that point, then it’s as good as not starting at all. So before you stop doing anything, make sure you’ve at least built a small wall.

Imagine yourself sat next to a big pile of bricks. You know there is a legendary wall worthy of the upmost respect deep inside of you. You’re sure of it. But you know that you can’t do it without any help. The problem is that none of the potential helpers are taking any notice of you. They keep walking right on by. They can’t tell you’re building a wall, because you’re only siting there. If you haven’t started working, you are invisible. If you start building your wall, people will start to take notice of it. And soon someone who has built a similar wall will see you. And they may stop to help you on your way.

Once you’ve built some of your wall, you’ll notice that it doesn’t always look the same. Most of it will be a bit wonky and ugly. But every now and then you have a good section. The longer you build your wall, the better it will get on average. The good sections of wall become common, and remarkable sections emerge. You have to build a lot of bad wall to get there. But make sure you remember the early sections, so that you can see how far you’ve come. Change is not a perfect process. It comes in fits and starts.

Some people build their wall for a little while, and then decide it’s time to start selling their wall building services. These peope never succeed. No ones going to pay you to build a wall unless you’ve already built a big wall. To get paid you have to get good, and you get good by building big walls. When someone asks you to build them a wall, that’s a good sign your good enough. Until then, don’t get distracted setting up your wall building shop. Get back to laying your bricks.

The bigger you make a wall, the more people there will be that notice it. The more people that notice it, the more people that will stop and help. Very soon, you’ll have a much larger wall than you could build alone. When you decide to start a new wall, you’ll already have a bunch of people to help you. That’s why already successful people often win again and again. They built a gigantic wall once, and along with it, a team. And they can use that team to launch whatever they decide to do next. The first wall is the hardest. But if you build it, you’ll be able to build as many walls as you like.

You don’t have to know what wall you’re trying to build. It doesn’t even have to be the same wall that you started with. The only thing you need to know is what brick you’re laying next. So what you do is you lay that brick the best you can. And you keep laying them, until your wall begins to appear. But it all starts with one brick.

Right now.

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