Give Yourself The Permission To Start Small

Big endings often have small beginnings. And it happens far more than you realize.

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

There’s something about the BIG that captivates us: big ideas, big solutions, big profit, big data, big goals, big visions, big breakthroughs…

We all have big aspirations and we want to get there fast. We are enthralled by the big, the brave, the bold.

This is compounded by the media-spawned highlight-reel lifestyle that we are now getting accustomed to. We look at folks with all these big, amazing achievements, and we are thrilled and inspired — even envious.

We totally forget that what we see is just the highlights and there’s much more under the hood. From the 15 minutes highlight reel shown to us, we are certain that this is nothing but an overnight success. If only we can be as fortunate too.

What we can’t see — or fail to see — is the night that was about 10 years long, fraught with doubts, insecurities, setbacks, problems, adversities, rejections, sacrifices — the same ones we experience and think it’s unique.

So, combine our ignorance of the behind-the-scenes of many success stories with the fact that we often get to see and hear about things only when they become big and you get to see why we often show so much disdain for the small start.

An achievement so big, so enthralling couldn’t have started so small, we reason.

Think about it. The Guinness Book of Records which, for over half a century, has kept world records of human achievements — the biggest and the bests — does not record all the behind-the-scenes effort that led to those achievements. Understandable, or the book will be at least 100 times its normal size.

Your favorite success story too does not have the time, the space or the ability to correctly convey to you how small it all started, neither does she have a meter to measure and show you how much insecurity she coped with along the way to the top.

What you can see is big, record-breaking achievements.

Yes. But that is not how those things started.

We find it very difficult to understand how often great things start in such a ridiculously small way that we are often tempted to ignore.

This is why the story of Rosalie Bradford is so instructive.

She knows a thing or two about how the laughably small and insignificant can become extremely big and jaw-dropping.

The Ridiculously Small

Rosalie held two amazing Guinness Book records: one for the heaviest woman in the world (in excess of 1,200 pounds) but most importantly, one for the largest weight loss ever recorded by anybody (950 pounds).

But that’s the highlight reel. Let’s peek into what her behind the scenes looked like:

After several failed weight-loss attempts and an attempted suicide in 1989, Rosalie’s weight loss journey was kick-started again when concerned friends contacted health specialist Richard Simmons.

Simmons reached out to Rosalie and as the story goes: He showed her compassion, gave her hope and permission to believe in herself to make a new start.

He then sent her a number of videos and a dieting plan that could provide a path forward.
There was no talk of training for a marathon or any extreme diet. There was simply an acknowledgement of her worth as a person and some resources that she could use if she wanted to.
She did. And so she took the first step she could towards weight loss by applying one bit of straightforward advice that Simmons made clear: “Find something you can move, besides your mouth, and move it.”
Not the most eloquent but clearly effective. Rosalie started small by clapping her hands along to the videos. “It was the only movement I could do,” she explained. She focused on her diet and stuck to Simmons’ plan. After a year she had dropped 420 pounds…
She started by clapping her hands. But clapping hands became moving arms became moving body became a total weight loss of 768 pounds.


If there is something that stumbles us so much, it is our inability to fathom how small beginnings connects with big ending. We seem to hit a brick wall trying to understand the path that links mere clapping of hands to losing 768 pounds.

And that path is called compounding.

The Magic of Compounding

Progress, almost as a rule, rarely happen linearly. It compounds, following an exponential growth curve where initially, it happens too slowly and too small to notice, and then when compounding is allowed to do its magic, things happens so fast and so big in way that completely beats our imagination.

This is why progress often frustrates us, and we, sadly, often do not stay long enough to allow compounding to take over and do its magic. I wrote about it here:

Compounding is what happens whenever a small start is combined with consistency of action for long enough time.

When we don’t understand the power of compounding we underestimate the small start. We erroneously think that the goal must be reflected in the plan, such that, if the goal is big the start must be too. We fail to see big endings that have very small, insignificant beginnings happening far more than we realize.

  • 10 minutes walk a day can be the making of a successful weight-loss and a fit body.
  • One push up a day can be the making of a great exercise and workout habit.
  • Writing 100 words a day can be the making of an international bestseller.
  • Reading one page a day can be the making of a vastly knowledgeable individual.
  • One line of code a day can be the making of a world-famous programmer.

But first you have to give yourself the permission to start small, then allow habit to take over and compounding to do its magic.

If you set your bar at “amazing,” it’s awfully difficult to start.
—Seth Godin

Big endings often have very small, insignificant beginnings — and it happens far more than we realize. Give yourself the permission to start small today.