It is getting cold, and I started to use my beloved wood stove on a daily basis. I am not a novice, but I have not been lighting a fire for quite a few years because we have been moving about. After a few failed attempts trying to light a fire – mostly trying to shortcutting the process – I gained renewed insights and learned something valuable.

First, it has to follow a small-to-medium-to-large sequence. You set fire to something light first, like a few piece of paper or wood shaving or dried leaves. Then you add kindlings like small branches or wood chips. Then small logs. Finally big logs on top.

A few times I tried to shortcut the process by skipping kindlings, or small logs. The fire went out without the sustained power to heat up the big logs.

I cannot help but relate this to our life’s quests, whether it is learning a new skill, or writing a book, or getting rich. One simply cannot get there in one step. In fact, you have to start small. Then follow the sequence by making the next bigger step. And the next. And the next. Do not skip any steps. This is perhaps another version of Seinfeld’s famous “Do not break the chain” rule.

For each step, we need enough to sustain until the next, which means that for each step we need to exert enough effort to make it count. Do not do it half-heartedly, hoping to be able to coast to the next stage. Each step depends on the successful completion of the previous one. Rome is not built in a day, and every day of building needs to count because the next day’s work depends on it.

Another lesson is that it seems the system is more vulnerable in the beginning, more likely to succumb to negative forces – not enough starting files, wet wood, less air. But once the big fire starts, then it becomes very robust. You can stack wet soggy logs on it and it will just keep burning – Of course, it will not be as hot, but at least it will not be out. So, pay more care in the beginning and do not let the kindling fire out.

Life’s achievements depends on making the first step, and the next, and the next. Do not give up. Do not leapfrog. Be consistent. Be persistent.