In high school, I took an art class in which I had to illustrate the essence of a famous person, and being slightly obsessed with science, and the idea of space exploration (my senior thesis discussed the future of space travel), I elected to draw Neil Armstrong. His visage occupied one corner of the paper, and from there, various quotes of his were written in the trails of smoke from the launching of a shuttle.
Our President’s statement about Armstrong’s death was, “Neil Armstrong was a hero not just of his time, but of all time. Thank you, Neil, for showing us the power of one small step.” The last sentence reminded me of another quote that has been circulating the Pinterests and the Tumblrs: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” It’s from the movie We Bought A Zoo. For some reason, this quote always bothered me, and why, surprisingly enough, is expressed by the late Neil Armstrong, “I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work.”
Sorry to throw yet another quote at you, but, like Aristotle said in his Nicomachean Ethics, “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” The truly great people are those who are great day in and day out: not just for 20 seconds. There is, of course, some merit to Obama and Matt Damon’s words, but I think Neil Armstrong and Aristotle are more correct: that single performance of greatness is made possible by forming habits of greatness.
Considering this, I am afraid, because I am not consistent. Exercise? Sporadic. Sax practice? Erratic. Good study habits? Patchy.
Thanks for reminding us, Neil Armstrong, that large steps are only made possible by practicing many small steps first. I’m off to go form better habits. If you need some accountability, Joe’s Goals is a great little webapp.