David de Souza
Small but Consistent
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Born in rural Vermont in 1921, Ronald Reed was the first person in his family to graduate high school. After serving in World War 2 and returning home, Ronald lived a normal life, working as a janitor, driving a second-hand car, and collecting firewood on weekends. Despite his humble appearance, when he died at 92, Ronald stunned his community by donating over $8 million to his local library and hospital.
How did a janitor with a high school education become a multimillionaire? By regularly investing in the stock market and allowing his investments to grow, Ronald established his legacy as a philanthropist and multimillionaire, despite his low-paying job.
Small but consistent choices compound in other areas of life, not just in finance and this was one of my biggest lessons of 2021.
At the start of a new year, I would normally set myself a lofty goal, such as running a marathon. When I achieved my goal I would stop training and it took me weeks, months or another New Years' resolution to build up my fitness again.
In 2021 I only ran shorter distances. I no longer had the endurance to even think about running a half marathon, let alone a full one. But despite opting for shorter runs, I recorded more miles in 2021 than in any other year of my life.
Consistency was key, but it was my change in thinking about what it meant to be consistent, that caused the switch that was previously holding me back. My belief that consistency meant doing something every single day had set me up for defeat. When travel, COVID, or life got in my way, my consistency ended and I lost momentum.
A wave has regular highs and lows, just like our lives. I discovered the key to being consistent is following the pattern of a wave but changing its length, depending on the circumstances.
If a machine does not have excess capacity, it breaks down when there is a bottleneck. My plan on a normal week was to run 5 days and rest on weekends. If something would crop up during the week that meant I couldn't run, I would make up those runs on Saturday or Sunday. The weekend was my backup for any bottlenecks.
In previous years when my routine changed, due to travel or illness, my normal schedule would fall apart. I needed to accept the reality that I couldn't do as much exercise when I was away from my normal routine. I realized that I needed to change my idea of what it meant to be consistent when I was ill or traveling and to have an extra backup system in place for when life wasn't normal.
On weeks that I was traveling or unwell I would invert my normal schedule, running only twice a week and allowing myself 5 days of rest.
Consistently running (but only twice a week) provides structure but also flexibility to decide when I run. Another benefit is that when I return from my travels, I don't lose my endurance and momentum. In previous years it would take a month to get back into my groove, building back the momentum I had lost after stopping.
Consistency is the key to becoming both wealthy and healthy. The key to being consistent is adapting your definition of consistency, and having a backup routine even when things don't go to plan.