The Secret to Living a Productive Life
“Inch by Inch”
20 years ago, a sports movie called, Any Given Sunday opened with a whole lot of audacity, and to largely mixed reviews. The big-budget film starring Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, and many big Hollywood stars and former pro athletes, made good money at the box office. But it wasn’t quite the epic, behind-the-scenes look at the, well, kinda scary world of pro football that its directors had hoped for.
The movie’s lasting impact is a speech that has transcended sports cinema and become a powerful mantra for living espoused by millions of people. The speech is delivered by Pacino’s character, Tony D’Amato, who is the head coach of the fictional Miami Sharks.
A broken down, weathered Pacino is addressing his team before the biggest game of their season. The longtime coach very humbly shares his personal disappointments, and how he’s let all of the people down in his life that he’s loved.
Yikes. Not exactly setting up as the best motivational speech!
But the turn it takes from there is what I’ve come to adopt as a central theme in my life. I wanted to share it with you now, and hope its message could resonate and positively impact you.
Pacino goes on to share his brilliant opening to the heart of the speech:
“Life’s this game of inches… the inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second…”
His point in setting this up is truly a masterpiece lesson in self-awareness, one of the bedrock, foundational elements of emotional intelligence. The opportunity to awaken our senses to the fact that the greatest advances in life start “local.” We can begin to do great things right where we are! He then adds:
“Because we know when we add up all those inches, that’s going to make the difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!”
A little dramatic? I used to think so. And heck, I guess in some ways I still do. But, there’s so much truth and power in his speech. Heart and Soul. There are so many things all of us can take away. Here are a few:
What I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur has provided me with a wealth of life lessons. Nothing good ever comes easy. The “hard” part of things may seem frustrating in that moment. But (to borrow from another sports movie) as Tom Hanks famously said in the classic, A League of Their Own:
“The Hard is what makes it great.”
True success and fulfillment isn’t a one-size fits all approach. It’s not just one thing. It’s literally hundreds- and later, thousands and thousands of things that add up into the composite picture we see. And as Al Pacino would tell you, we get there inch by inch.
It’s a sobering, frustrating, YET exhilarating truth. Why would something so great (the life and career we truly want!) ever come easy? The inches are accumulated every day.
Where we lose is thinking that each inch is something much bigger than just one inch. When we think that inch is more like a mile.
We lose when we think one inch is something we shouldn’t bother with. That it’s a negligible, meaningless detail.
We lose with temptations to take shortcuts.
We lose thinking that these inches are below us- that they’re a waste of our time.
When we ignore the inches, we put off progress. We may not take a step back, but we sure as heck don’t take a step forward. So we stay in the same spot. And in so many ways, that’s actually worse than going backwards.
At least when we go backwards, we can learn from our mistakes. Staying stuck in neutral is the most surefire way to lose in life. That’s indecision. That’s the wrong lane, my friend.
As Pacino says, the inches are all around us. The opportunity to go out and meet a co-worker or business contact for lunch.
The opportunity to send that one email that you’ve been dying to send (but you’ve been afraid to). The friendship that you should rekindle, were it not for your foolish pride. The chance to help someone in need that could wholeheartedly benefit from your kindness and generosity. That ripple effect could change not just someone else’s life (and probably many others), but it could magnificently change your own.
Life truly is this crazy game of inches. I’ve seen in my own life how positively I’ve reacted to simply doing the very best that I can every day with maximum effort and the best, positive attitude I can muster. The success I’ve experienced has come from living and being the person I want to be. It’s come from consistency.
It’s come- not from thinking I can be and do everything I want in one day, week or month…. but rather from realizing that I must plan and set goals, and I must focus on the process of inches every day. It’s paying huge dividends.
My friend, as you look out on this new month, I encourage you to focus on the inches in front of you every day. By all means, see the big picture and set life-changing goals. But make progress every day.
Do everything you can for that inch. Keep getting more inches. Keep going and re-evaluating, then keep going some more. Pretty soon, all those inches will add up.
Imagine where you’ll be then.
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