Q. Michele’s driveway is 45′ x 25′. It is covered with 25″ of snow. How many cubic feet of snow is that?
A. Uh. I have no idea – I always did better on the verbal part of the SAT.
By now you’ve no doubt heard about the Blizzard of 2016, dubbed Snowzilla by The Washington Post (although Make Winter Great Again was a crowd favorite). I have lived in the Washington, DC area for most of my life and I have never seen a storm like this. The snow came so hard and so fast – at the rate of two or three inches an hour at some points of the thirty-six hour storm.
The power flickered, the wind howled and as the snow began to pile up in three to four foot drifts in front of every door, I wondered how in the world I would ever be able to shovel myself out. At one point, I decided to give it a try. I grabbed my shovel and went to clear a path to the sidewalk – just in case I had to get out (to the neighbor’s house for a glass of wine, of course).
Looking at the forty-five feet I had to clear felt impossible. The snow was so deep that every lateral twelve inches required three passes: One cut to get the top layer – move into a pile – and another cut to get the middle part – move into a pile – and a final cut to get down to the pavement. My pile got larger and larger. I kept my head down and focused on step by step, twelve inches at a time, the top, middle and bottom of every foot. I didn’t think about how far I had to go – I just thought about where I was and what I was doing.
And I did it. I cleared a path.
I felt all accomplished and whatnot.
I went to sleep knowing that there would be a lot of shoveling work ahead of me the next day. When the dawn broke, the sun came out and the sky was a brilliant blue. The snow lay like a beautiful, white blanket spread thickly upon the Earth. And thickly upon my driveway.
I went out to see if I could find the path I’d shoveled to the sidewalk in the height of the storm. It was sort of there, filled in by new and drifting snow and I began shoveling again – top, middle, bottom. Top, middle, bottom. Step by step until I got to the sidewalk. Then top, middle, bottom, I cleared the sidewalk. Then, top, middle, bottom, I made a wee path to the street.
Snowplows had cleared a single lane down my street and kicked up a barrier that was icy and tall. Again, step by step, top, middle, bottom, I went through it.
Then I cleared the snow away from my house on the deck. Step by step. Top, middle, bottom.
I am sure you see where I’m going with this.
Maybe you got snow. Maybe you didn’t.
Maybe you live some place where it’s currently summer. If so, I will be coming to visit you immediately.
The lesson is: If there’s something that needs doing in your life and it feels too big, too impossible, too much – so big, perhaps, that you can’t even get started…think “step by step”. Think “top, middle, bottom”.
Think less about how much there is to do and more about what you can get done.
Focus on that, and before you know it you’ll be finished.
And, when the next literal or figurative storm comes – because there will always be another storm – you’ll know exactly what to do.
You’ll take it step by step. Top, middle, bottom. One foot at a time.
And you’ll feel really great about yourself and whatnot.