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Gradually, then Suddenly: Hemingway Warned Us About Habits!

Although unnoticeable, gradually eventually leads to suddenly.  It builds momentum.  It succumbs to the compound effect.  I borrowed this idea from Steven Dennis and Seth Godin. While we’re trekking along doing our thing, great and magical forces are at work using the effects of our labor to fortify the foundation for our future habits. These effects compound our daily acts, both good and bad, into a grand result that can take us by surprise. Whether it’s a savings account or a credit card balance, the effects of our habits always happen gradually, then suddenly.


Awesome image by adege at

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

That’s my favorite line from Earnest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.

In 14 words, Hemingway sums up Darren Hardy’s Compound Effect and Seth Godin’s Drip. He summed up creeping obesity, laziness and doomed relationships. He told us how weeds ruin yards and how termites destroy homes.

The First Way: Gradually

Hemingway’s first way is the drip.

Gradually is the deposits into our savings account or the meals you charge on our credit card. It’s the calories we consume or the calories we burn.

Gradually is time you spend connecting with loved ones or the time we spend on the Internet. The best way to connect with your loved ones is to share this blog with them.

Every puff on a cigarette gradually kills.  Puff by puff, drip by drip.

The initial effects happen gradually. The first way is delayed consequences. We don’t notice gradually. We don’t realize the gradual change occuring until it becomes something dramatic, like a canyon.

You don’t notice gradually, until it becomes…

The Second Way: Suddenly

Hemingway’s second way, gradually, is the first day we put on a swimsuit and realize how it doesn’t look so good any more.

Suddenly is getting that credit card bill that says the $15,000 line of credit is maxed out. True story.

Suddenly is also when we’ve saved up enough money to book that trip to Universal Studios Orlando. Mmmmm…butterbeer.

Suddenly is when we arrive home to an empty house, except for that note saying “goodbye.”

Suddenly is the Beast getting comfortable, because it’s got us.

Suddenly is a trip to the ER, because of chest pains.

We need to pay attention now to how we spend your time, money and calories. One way or another it is adding up and it is compounding, drip by drip.

Two ways, Mike said. #Gradually, then #suddenly. #Hemingway Click To Tweet

Gradually will one day become suddenly.










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