I recently crossed one-hundred subscribers on my YouTube channel. It’s a small accomplishment when compared to the dizzying views and subscribers the top YouTubers see daily. There are channels and videos that count progress by the thousands, tens of thousands, of views and subscribers. Obtaining only one hundred subscribers in a week/day/hour would be some kind of catastrophe to these titans. But having one-hundred individuals care enough about the videos I produce to check in regularly for new ones and then go further and follow-along on the journey is an accomplishment. And I’ll allow myself to celebrate it even though it’s small.
I think it’s important to recognize small things.
It’s important to recognize small accomplishments and small defeats too. We are what we do regularly after all. When we wake up earlier than necessary to advance a little farther on our writing assignment because we felt it needed the extra attention. When we work out a little harder than we planned for because we were so taken by the moment. When we stop ourselves from buying the new video game, at least for this week, then we have a small win. Repeat these small wins enough and you have the foundations for a new life. You have the makings of a big win. Similarly, understanding the small defeats: missing a deadline, eating the donut, being insensitive to a coworker — these too are worth recognizing if only to catch ourselves in the next go-around.
Avoiding defeat is a part of achieving victory.
I still remember clearly having the very high-school debate with a close friend: How can we deserve to feel so poorly when there are so many people suffering so harshly in the world? There are variations on this theme. You might have heard this one growing up at some point: eat your food, don’t you know there are people starving in Africa right now! As an aside, that last one always bothered me. I plan on never uttering that sentence to my young son. There are likely people going hungry in my own neighborhood right now, there’s no need to travel to another continent to find suffering.
I have to admit, the appeal to these vast forces acting on galactic levels is hard to argue against. The scale is so different. Why do we deserve these joys and sorrows when they are dwarfed by giants. What right does the ant have in celebrating his colony when the traffic of the city buzzes past. The connotation is that it’s indecent to complain, or express too much emotion, for things that are commonly experienced.
The answer my high-school friend gave is still the one I come back to when I’m feeling trapped: They matter because they are your experiences.
No one else can experience for you. No one else has experienced like you. And these are the only experiences we know — the only experiences we can know.
The perspective of each and every person on the planet is unique. The joys of the toddler earning his first steps are his own joys. The pride I feel watching him take those steps is my own pride. Likewise, the pain in his backside after falling over is his own pain. This too is something he needs to learn about: personal, intimate pain. We share so much with the world but we each experience our own reality.
Even though plenty of people know how to walk this toddler doesn’t know. He must learn. The way he will learn is by trying and failing. When he tries and succeeds he can and should celebrate it. I know I will be there celebrating it.
There’s one other aspect of one-hundred subscribers that I’ve been thinking about: momentum. Nothing succeeds like success is a phrase you might have heard from a coach. I believe it. Success has a way of building on itself, making the next success easier to come across. I cannot physically get people to subscribe to the YouTube channel but I can continue doing the things that have made the channel successful thus far: providing consistent valuable content to people who want it. I can stop doing the things that drive people away: poor editing and incoherent narrative jumps.
Each hour of practice is another brick in the foundation of experience. The act of doing the thing mindfully, intentionally, is how you become a master of it.
And so the small accomplishment of one-hundred subscribers is something I celebrate.