Every Little Bit Helps

Imagine 30 people carrying water to fill up a pond. Since they’re pretty good at carrying water, they each transport an average of a gallon every ten minutes. The pond is filling up.

Now imagine 30 more people come along and want to help. They’re not as good at carrying water as the first 30, though. The members of this group, on average, only carry a quarter of a gallon each every ten minutes. So now that they’ve started helping, the average water-carrying speed for the whole outfit has dropped to half a gallon every ten minutes.

Oh no! It went from an average of a gallon every ten minutes to a half a gallon every ten minutes. So the pond is filling up more slowly, right?

Of course not. The average isn’t what’s important here – it’s the total. When only the first 30 people were carrying water, the pond was filling up at a rate of 30 gallons every ten minutes. With all 60 carrying water, now the pond is filling up at a rate of 37.5 gallons every ten minutes.

Those extra people didn’t improve the average, but they helped the total. Even if they carried a drop of water each, they’d still improve the end result.

That’s important to remember. There are many situations where the average doesn’t matter. I make myself write my book for 30 minutes every day. Some days that lets me clear more than fifteen hundred words, and other days I barely crack three hundred. A 300-word day pulls down my average, but it’s still pushing me towards my goal. The average isn’t important, what’s important is writing every day.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that averages always tell the whole story. Sometimes you need to remember that even a little drop of water raises the sea.

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