Doing Big Things

Doing Big Things by Paul Schmitt

When comes to creating large projects or solving large problems it is easy to get lost in complexity. Often times it begins with profound awe or terror with regard to the sheer amount of work that needs to be done. Most times it’s difficult to figure out exactly where to start and how exactly you will solve the problem or complete the project.  While problems or projects can seem too large to be solved or accomplished their complexity is usually superficial. There is a time tested, nature proven, money making principle that makes all big problems or projects manageable.

All seemingly big things are nothing more than a bunch of small things put together in some fashion.

Evidence for this principle is found everywhere. Look around! Matter in all of its complexity from enormous stars to tiny insects to limitless galaxies and nebulas to plastic and slice bread, can be broken into simpler structures. Look at basic atomic theory. All of matter is nothing more than the organization of three particles (i.e. the proton, neutron, the electron).These three particles can only exist in about hundred basic elemental composition (i.e. a periodic table of elements). Living organisms are composed of systems (like the circulatory system) which in turn are composed of organs (like the heart) which in turn are composed of tissues which are nothing more than a group of cells. Cells and can be reduced even further down to proteins and then amino acids.

The reason why this principle is so powerful when comes to solving big problems is that people are fantastic when comes to solving small problems! People can only handle a few simple concepts at a time. Things like 1+1 = 2, turning on a light switch, writing a sentence, or fastening two boards together with a screw are simple and straight forward. They are bite size and manageable which contrasts more sophisticated things like finding a pattern to prime numbers, wiring a microprocessor, drafting a doctoral thesis, or building a house. As the principle above states all of these sophisticated tasks can be broken down into smaller simpler bite size pieces.

Here’s a fun example to illustrate this principle. Suppose for whatever reason a giant pizza the size of Texas has materialized in the Midwest of the United States. It has now become the utmost goal of the world to consume this giant pizza. Could any individual in the history of humanity consume this pizza in its entirety in one day? No (neglecting Chuck Norris and Jesus). But if small bite size pieces of the pizza were eaten a little bit every day. Eventually the pizza would be consumed and the goal would be accomplished.

Likewise with any complex project or problem, start by breaking the problem down into small bite size manageable components. Eventually the problem will be solved and the goal accomplished.

 

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