It’s Not the One Big Break

Why Incremental Progress Will Get You to Where You Want to Go

I once heard a story about a young, aspiring actor in Hollywood who was invited to go to one of the local parties. It was in effect a Hollywood networking function where famous actors and actresses attended. One of the movie actors there was Walter Matthau. Walter Matthau during his lifetime appeared in more than 60 movies, and won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and two Tony Awards. Reportedly, Matthau asked the young actor how it was going. The aspiring actor replied, “I’m just looking for that one big break!” Matthau laughed, and said, “Kid, it’s not the one big break. It’s the fifty big breaks.”

one big break

Just like the aspiring actor, you won’t achieve overnight success. One big break will not help you. Unless it is supported by other breaks, that one big break will fade. You will attain success through incremental progress—by gaining one big break after another.

You can achieve the success you want if you will focus on these practices.


1. Show up. Consistently.


Half of success is just showing up. The key is to do it consistently.

I once heard a great quote about the difference of amateurs and professionals: “Professionals show up to work. Amateurs wait to be inspired.”

I consistently force myself to write. And I have found that the inspiration comes when I show up consistently. Because God shows up when I do.


2. Slog on. Diligently.


Work is still work. There is no short cut.

One great quote about work comes from Thomas Edison: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Inspiration is about as necessary for success as a spark is to a roaring fire in a wood stove. The spark is necessary to get it started, but without ample fuel and consistent tending, the fire will go out—and so will your inspiration.


3. Press on. Persistently.


You can get to where you want to go if you will persevere. Even in writing this article, I have had to persevere through my head feeling cloudy.

Nietzsche surprisingly said that the essential thing to produce good results is “a long obedience in the same direction.” Only by persevering can you hope to obtain what it is you want to achieve.

So show up, slog on, and press on. Over time you can produce the results you want to see if you are willing to focus on incremental progress—and not wait for that one big break.


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