David Hemphill


Small Wins

It's easy to put up a facade of success. Social media has trained us to only show the best parts of our lives. The pressure is on to announce and celebrate the big wins. To curate the narrative in the biggest and most glorious manner possible. The bigger the better.

And it's really easy to keep silent when you're unknown, when you're only making small progress, and when everyone else seems to be doing much better. It's easy to get down on yourself when people announce an exciting new project. Or when a company gets acquired and the owners are instantly millionaires.

It's easy to forget the people celebrating the biggest wins usually started somewhere humble themselves, and whatever they did was rarely an instant success. It's easy to forget there were probably more than a handful of past failures, and more than a handful of smaller successes that led to larger ones.

Every so often, I begin to forget to celebrate the small wins. The satisfaction of incremental progress becomes no longer good enough, as though something was only worth celebrating and sharing if it was life-changing. When I got the huge raise. When I got the fancy title. When I moved on to the next exciting adventure. When I launched the big projects. When the money really started coming.

I've missed out on a lot of moments where I could've been celebrating but my brain had already moved on. I skipped opportunities to feel more accomplished by compiling the aggregate progress. The endgame became only about the nonexistent ideal future, and not the path to getting there.

It's way too easy to forget the hundreds of small things which go right. Sometimes, you can get so caught up in what you haven't achieved, you forget how far you've come. And that can keep you from pushing through to the bigger successes.

Like when you begin to learn a new language and it starts to click. Or when you finally get your web development environment just right. Or the times you land the project a little bit larger than your previous ones. When you finally launch the landing page for the project you're nervous to share.

Don't be upset you didn't finish the big feature early in the week. Be glad you figured out what you need to do to finish it in the next few days.

Don't be bummed your project isn't an overnight success. That almost never happens, and if it does, there's probably a great deal of, hard work yes, but also luck involved. The luck will never come if you quit during the hard work, because you got down on yourself.

Crack a smile when the first fifty people star your project on GitHub.

Celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Don't rob yourself of the collective joy of each of those wins. Enjoy the ride. Work hard, knowing the only reward may be the knowledge of a job well-done, but by celebrating the small wins along the way, you could be motivated to break through to the next level.


What’s something small you didn’t celebrate like you should? Tell me over on Twitter.

Published: 2 weeks ago