Keeping small, and not aiming to be “epic” can actually be incredibly, powerfully effective, one small step at a time.”
In many ways, I could’t agree more. The way I see the “Do Epic Shit” mantra is not a prescription for how to do things, but instead a prescription for what to do. The distinction that I’d like to draw out is “doing small things” vs. “doing big things in small steps.”
“Epic” is Contextual
Doing epic things requires us to do two things: 1) take the long view, and 2) know where we’re starting from. Following the thread of Mark’s comment, Dr. King clearly had both things in mind. In his time, racial animosity made it such that a meal shared between the two races was huge. At the same time, Dr. King was realistic enough to know that such a change would take time; he had the long view.
Similarly, what seems to be the small feat of changing socio-economic classes is epic for some people. To arrive in this country with nothing and be able to build a future for your children such that they can have a life you couldn’t is a feat because of a) where you’re starting from and b) how long it can take to attain that future.
That said, it’s hard to say what’s audacious and epic in general terms. But it’s the ideal that we’re seeking – the ideal to push the limits of ourselves and actualize our potential. It’s recreating ourselves each new day with the long view in mind and understanding that we are each writing a chapter in the story of humanity.
The Journey of A Thousand Miles…
Every great thing that anybody or any society has done has started with one small step. Every building started with a shovel breaking the earth, every painting started with a stroke, every book began with one word that began with one letter.
The difference between the great things and the small things is not in how they were done, but why they were done and how tenacious the people doing the creating were. Some people never dared to dream and took small steps; others were daunted by the journey and stopped partway; a rare few looked to the horizon, smiled, and resolved to take the small steps along the long, weary path.
Let’s not forget that epic shit is about people as much as it is about things. The conversation hitherto has been focused on great “things,” and some of that is a misfortune of the English language. Inspiring people to do epic things is epic itself; being a positive social change agent is epic; building a strong community is epic.
So the call to “Do Epic Shit” is merely a call to look to the horizons and dream, but we can’t focus merely on the bigness of the dream or be content to dream. It’s the call to see the world different than the way it is and to accept that it’s within our power to change it. I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes by Oliver Wendell Holmes:
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving… we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie the anchor.
Your two small steps: 1) look to the horizon, and 2) put up your sails.
(Thanks to Andre for the title of this post.)