You have to sweep the floor again and again

At the beginning of a new year, it’s pleasant to indulge in the spoils and victories of last year. To reminisce over, get comfortable with and entitled to our achievements.

We forget about the hard work. About the struggle, it took to get there. Feel a lack of emotion, interest, and concern about the effort we’ve put into it.

We get complacent. Tell a tale about how we earned it. As if earlier success guarantees and secures future accomplishments.

It’s understandable to be satisfied. To dwell in our palace of memories. To glare at our wall of fame. But we must resist. Fight it.

Whether it was a sports performance, a newly built app, a visual design, a record-high revenue or a business started. This year, tomorrow even, you have to do it all again.

Sweep the floor again and again

In the epilogue of Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday says:

My friend the philosopher and martial artist Daniele Bolleli once gave me a helpful metaphor. He explained that training was like sweeping the floor. Just because you’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep. [1]

It’s an accurate analogy. No matter how resilient a thing is, ultimately it will return to chaos.


The second law of thermodynamics is a powerful mental model. It explains how everything moves towards a state of entropy — disorder.

The Greeks had a word for it. Entropia. Which means “a turning toward” or “transformation”. To what? Chaos! [2]

We battle this force every day of our life. Even while you’re reading this, your body is depleting energy, which you have to restore by eating and sleeping.

Customers churn. Buildings deteriorate. Apps get outdated.

That’s just the way it is. A harsh, unending process.

Business needs cashflow. The software needs refactoring. Muscles need exercise.

One heap of all your winnings

In 2019 I ran the fastest half marathon I ever ran. The time is not the point, so I won’t tell. What is the point is that it belongs to the past. If I want to come close to last year’s accomplishment, repeat the trick, or improve upon it, I have to start again. Refocus my energy. Train just as hard or even harder.

It reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s If: [3]

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

We have to throw all our winnings on a giant heap, without being afraid of losing it. Remember Entropia? In a sense, it already transformed into chaos and soon will be forgotten entirely.

We need to distance ourselves from the past. Forget last year’s success and start again at our beginnings.

Leave it behind. Start again fresh.

As if it were all a dream.

Iterate. Improve.

Everyone can be successful once. It requires mental fortitude to last.

Sweeping the floor, repeatedly, sounds like energy wasted. It can make you feel anxious and frustrated “Must I do this all again?” or insignificant “Didn’t last year matter?”

But, there’s great significance in fighting entropy. Don’t think of it as energy wasted. This year you get to sweep the floor better. You get to build on top of what was already build. You can iterate — improve.

It doesn’t matter if you were successful or failed. Life is an infinite game, there’s only behind and ahead. There’s one thing we cannot do: be passive. The floor will not sweep itself.

Ultimately, if you keep going at it, you’ll acquire new skills. Learn how to sweep the floor better. If you’re lucky you get rewarded, immediately, or in the end.

You’ll discover that that is the road to perpetual success and lasting purpose. To try again and again is a virtue.


1. Holiday, Ryan. Ego Is the Enemy, 2017
2. Entropy,, 2020
3. Kipling, Rudyard, “If”
A Choice of Kipling’s Verse, 1943, pp. 17–20.

Want more? Read The wall of self, on how to build towards something in large and smaller steps.




Thinker, reader, writer (in that order). Passionate trail runner. Works at Kaartje2go as SEO Specialist. Publishes about once per month.

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Remco Wietsma

Remco Wietsma

Thinker, reader, writer (in that order). Passionate trail runner. Works at Kaartje2go as SEO Specialist. Publishes about once per month.

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