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Walk Slowly, but Never Backward

Camilo Nova

Camilo Nova

Apr 26, 2022

1 min read.

Here is a short story from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. He makes an excellent point about making little progress vs. a big moment to reach a goal.

On the first day of class, Jerry Uelsmann, a professor at the University of Florida, divided his film-photography students into two groups.

He explained that everyone on the left side of the classroom would be in the "quantity group". They would be graded solely on the amount of work they produced. On the final day of class, he would tally the number of photos submitted by each student. One hundred photos would rate an A, ninety photos a B, eighty photos a C, and so on.

Meanwhile, everyone on the right side of the room would be in the "quality" group. They would be graded only on the excellence of their work. They would only need to produce one photo during the semester, but to get an A, it had to be a nearly perfect image. At the end of the term, he was surprised to find that all the best Photos were produced by the quantity group. During the semester, these students were busy taking photos, experimenting with composition and lighting, testing out various methods in the darkroom, and learning from their mistakes. In the process of creating hundreds of photos, they honed their skills. Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection.

In the end, they had little to show for their efforts other than unverified theories and one mediocre photo. It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change: the fastest way to lose weight, the best program to build muscle, the perfect idea for a side hustle. Unfortunately, we are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get to taking action. As Voltaire once wrote, "The best is the enemy of the good."

--My takeaway from this story is that small improvements over time in your life, work, or software, will make a huge impact in the long term. Keep building.

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