Little By Little

Recently I was in Wal*Mart, and the lady in front of me bought a whole stack of Powerball tickets.

She paid cash. 

One shouldn’t judge others, but she didn’t look like she could afford her groceries. Someone wins the Powerball. Maybe it will be her. Except I once read that hitting the big payoff would be like reaching into a domed stadium filled with ping pong balls and pulling out the only red one. Powerball tickets only cost $2, but given the odds of winning, they are pretty expensive.

Luck is a crazy thing. No one thinks they will be struck by lightning, but it’s way more likely than winning the Powerball! 

I am not enamored by luck. Taking small postive steps over an extended period of time is a far better strategy for success. I call this approach “little by little.”

Sometimes we observe someone who is exceptionally healthy or financially well off and think how lucky they are. To be sure, luck can be involved, more often however, “little by little” is the true driver. 

Here are some personal examples.

When I graduated from college, we didn’t have any money. Yet, beginning with our first paycheck we saved a small portion and invested it. We weren’t smart enough to get in early on Apple, Google, or Facebook. We just elected to have an automatic deduction from our paycheck sent to a reputable mutual fund. For years, our paltry deductions didn’t add up to much. However we stayed the course. After thirty-five years those deductions grew to become an important source of  financial security.

Little by little!

Physical fitness is another example. I used to be a regular jogger. I am competitive by nature and often participated in 10K races. Being on the heavy side, I never finished in the upper half of my age group. Still, I ran for decades. Running doesn’t take much time, and I liked staying in shape. After my heart attack, I had an emergency angiogram. It revealed a major blockage in a vital artery. It turned out that regular strenuous activity forced my body to develop detours around the blocked artery. The cardiologist said my long term commitment to exercise probably saved my life. 

Little by little!

The little by little approach can be applied to numerous situations in life. To reap the benefits we have to make a commitment to take action, and then have the discipline and perseverance to follow-through over an extended period of time.  Such an approach is almost always boring, until it isn’t!

I don’t support Powerball lotteries or gambling in general. My position has nothing to do with ethics.  The pursuit of luck usually ends in disappointment.  Little by little isn’t as exciting as The Powerball. That’s unfortunate, considering the odds of success! 

Little by little is common sense. The only problem is, common sense is often uncommon. Little by little should be a required seminar for high-school students.

 I would volunteer to teach it!


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2 Replies to “Little By Little”

  1. Tim— You would be a tremendous TEACHER and matter of fact are showing those skills and values in your Sunday “Towards a Life Well-Lived” Series !!! I would gladly attend your class—and would even pay attention in class !!!

    Little by Little—- totally agree with this philosophy —— and I add the statement I have heard throughout my entire life given to me by my father. He said to me—” Son, work hard and stay focused on what you are trying to do and you will create your own luck!!”


  2. Thanks for sharing, Tim. Little by little is a solid approach to many things. I am forever grateful to the people who gave me that guidance as a 22 year old when they encouraged me to start saving for my 401K that very first paycheck. I am also grateful that I had a college education, never had huge amounts of student debt, and had parents who taught me strong values. If I didn’t have those things, my “little” would be tiny or non-existent and a $2 lottery ticket might bring me hope I didn’t have.


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