Little by Little by Brian Johnson

“Little by little a person become evil, as a water pot is filled by drops of water…Little by little a person becomes good, as a water pot is filled by drops of water.” ~ Buddha from The Dhammapada

I hart that. Seriously. We all want everything soooo fast. Including self-mastery. Which is kinda funny when you really look at it. 🙂

Any time I find myself wanting/expecting something to happen on *my* time line (which is usually about 10x faster than God’s time line :), I re-read this brilliant line from Epictetus (the Stoic Philosopher, see Notes on his Enchiridion): “No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

I can also hear the voice of my Vipassana meditation teacher, S.N. Goenka in my head.

During my 10-day silent meditation (10 hours a day for 10 days. Pure silence. No phones, no computer, no journal, no books, no talking, no eye contact, no nothing. You, your meditation cushion(s) and silence–well, other than Goenka’s rhythmic Burmese voice. 🙂 Goenka said this dozens and dozens of times:

Work diligently. Diligently. Work patiently and persistently. Patiently and persistently. And you’re bound to be successful. Bound to be successful.”

About the 78th time I heard that (or so 🙂 I GOT it. And it’s become a defining mantra in my life. I KNOW that if I work diligently, patiently and persistently, I can do *anything.* Fun.

And one more little bit here cuz I think this is so important! Have you heard the story of the stonecutter? Goes like this:

A stonecutter hits a rock with his hammer. The stone splits. The casual observer sees this and thinks, “Wow. That guy is really strong. I can’t believe he broke that huge rock with a single blow!”

The reality (obviously) is that the stonecutter didn’t break it in a single blow—he’d been hammering away at that rock for a long time. Many, many blows went into the rock before it finally split. Most people see someone who has achieved some level of success–whether it’s enlightenment or celebrity status or financial wealth–and think, “Wow, they sure must be lucky.”

Obviously, the stonecutter isn’t strong enough to break a rock in one blow and no one is “lucky” enough to reach any level of excellence without an equally diligent and consistent effort.

So, hit the rock.

Again. And again. And again.

You will break the rock.

(Oh, and btw, quick FYI: once you’re done with that rock get ready to start swinging at the next one. 🙂

“Make your mind pure as a silversmith blows away the impurities of silver, little by little, instant by instant.” The Dhammapada


Brian Johnson is the Philosopher + CEO of en*theos. He also created PhilosophersNotes, taught Optimal Living 101, wrote a little book called A Philosopher’s Notes, is featured in the documentary Finding Joe and has a monthly “Big Ideas” column in Experience Life magazine. Learn more about Brian Johnson »

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