What Progress Looks Like

Sometime between yesterday and today I realized that my personal push-up challenge is a great metaphor for what success looks like. What happened was that on Tuesday I surprised myself a bit by successfully doing 75 push-ups which meant that Wednesday morning the target number moved up to 80. I was able to do 61 before collapsing to the floor and then this morning I did 76. Neither are 80 and the target might not be reached tomorrow as the push-ups above 70 have been quite difficult.

It is those 61 push-ups I think about. It is likely that I could have done more that day. A couple more, at least, but I could feel failure coming and my mind and body collaborated to stop at 61. The thing is 61 is also 14 push-ups shy of the 75 I had done just a day before, but here is the big secret about success. It is not a straight line. The biggest quality that leads to success is perseverance.

People that succeed end up having more failure than they do success. The real question is can they endure when the loses start piling up and the wins grow fewer and further between. Accomplishing any goal is difficult but I do have advantages with this push-up challenge. I used to be able to do quite a bit of push-ups and the body remembers. It just sometimes needs a reminder.

In a way that is also a good metaphor for success. I am no stranger to push-ups. My muscles are no stranger to strength. I am starting from a place of privilege. It is how I was able to get from targeting 10 push-ups on the first day of the year to 80 on the 19th.

Eventually there will be other reactions. Reactions that also mirror success. The push-ups will get more plentiful and more difficult. I will eventually hit 80 and then owe 85 and upward from there. We are only in January. At some point someone will ask if I am still doing that push-up thing and I will tell them I am doing over 100 each morning and they will say something like isn’t that special or good for you or perhaps they will be genuine and will be happy for me. Success in others brings about all sorts of reactions in ourselves. Some people choose jealousy and others choose pride.

I am only doing it because I want to not be so fat and adding a muscle building exercise to the cardio I am doing is the best way to achieve that goal. I do not want my children to lose their father too soon and being 5’7″ and 250 lbs is not a good way to accomplish that. I need to be in better shape so my heart has less work to do, and the push-ups are something I can do.

It remains a task with no goal, a lot like this website. I do push-ups in the morning and write at night. Where either takes me I do not know. All I know is that tomorrow morning I will rise once again and attempt 80 push-ups for the third day in a row. This has been my longest on a single number, and where each day of success starts to feel like a curse because soon comes 85 then 90 then 95 then 100. It is still only January. I did not think it would come so soon. That 100 could be within reach before the first month of the year closed, but here we are. Four days of success is all it takes for the target to be 100.

What I think will be most interesting is where I am on December 31. What number do I get to, and how do I get there? More failure than success lies ahead of me but ultimately it is going to look like a big success when I say the number of push-ups I can do successively on December 31, but right now that is forever away. Let’s focus on tomorrow first.

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