What Have You Done in the Last Five Years?

A lot can happen in five years. Think back for a second.

In 2012, President Obama had not yet been elected to a second term. The U.S. had just won the London Summer Olympics. No one knew Edward Snowden’s name. And I was still in college…well, technically, I was on a leave of absence from school interning full time at an advertising startup (that would go under a few months later).

Back then, I had no idea I’d end up working in advertising for real. I didn’t know I’d be engaged (I hadn’t even met my fiancé). I didn’t know I’d start this blog. I didn’t even know I’d be teaching improv—I wouldn’t sign up for my first class until January of 2013.

We all set goals at the beginning of the year. And now, as we slide into the holidays, we’ll look back at those objectives and realize we didn’t make as much progress as we’d hoped. I know I will (there’s a book draft sitting in my Google Drive, shaming me). Some of us will get discouraged—we’ll put the book draft into the desk drawer, cancel our gym membership, and go back to watching Netflix and making excuses.

But soon, it’ll be time for the yearly resolution ritual to commence once again. We’ll wake up on January 1st, 2018 with a new lease on life. We’ll make new goals. We’ll say “this is my year.” And then we’ll repeat the same tired cycle.

But time is made up. Years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds are human creations that help us feel better about an uncaring world.

So don’t get discouraged if progress or success isn’t coming fast enough. Bill Gates once said:

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Very little happens in a year. But a lot can happen in five or ten with consistent work.

In 2014, mad that I wasn’t cast in a specific improv show, I started writing this blog in an effort to “show them what they were missing.” A year later, I still wasn’t cast, but I did have fifty two articles showcasing my improv expertise (plus, I was over my bitterness). So I wrote a book. I kept performing. I kept coaching new teams. I used those experiences to get a summer gig teaching middle schoolers improv. I upgraded to coaching a more elite team. Finally, I leveraged that experience to become an official, paid instructor at the theater. Had I gotten frustrated and quit at the end of 2014, I never would have ended up where I did today.

It’s not just improv, though. I could tell a similar story for any success I’m experiencing now—it’s happening because of something I started working on nearly five years ago. I am also confident that the reason I’ve failed in other goals is precisely because I quit in frustration. It’s because I didn’t want to do the work.

We’re careening into the holiday season—the least productive 90 days of the year. That makes this a perfect time to step back and take stock. Where do you want to be in 2022? Are you doing what you need to do to make that happen? If not, better get started today.

Each week, I write a new article helping busy people find meaning and fulfillment through sustainable creative habits. If you enjoyed this week’s letter, you can sign up to get them delivered to your inbox each week by digital carrier pigeon.