As I get back into the habit of blogging (and redesign a few things), I plan to release excerpts from my upcoming–and long overdue–book, “Make It Look Easy”. Here’s a section from Chapter 3 that I wrote this morning:
Zeno of Elea (great name!) was a Greek philosopher from the 5th century BC. He is famous for creating philosophical paradoxes documented by Aristotle. I first heard one of them in an algebra class in high school, and it’s stuck with me ever since. It basically goes like this:
Suppose I wish to shoot an arrow at a target ten feet away. In order for the arrow to hit the target, it must first travel half way, or five feet. But in order to travel the five feet to halfway, it must travel half of that distance, or two and a half feet. It must always travel half of the distance first, dividing in half to infinity. Therefore, the arrow can never reach the destination, and is in fact, motionless.
Of course, we all know that an arrow can travel the ten feet and hit the target. That’s what makes it a paradox. It can both hit and not hit the target based on logic and observation.
The answer lies in Calculus, a subject I never mastered. Basically it has to do with dividing an infinite distance with an infinite time to get a finite result or something. Try Google if you want a better explanation!
What I love about this paradox is not the paradox itself, but the concept of breaking any task into smaller tasks. If I have a major goal, I can move myself halfway to that goal. And before I can get halfway to that point, I can go halfway still. Eventually I get down not to infinitesimally small steps, but realistic and doable steps.
The division of the steps may be different to different people, depending on our skills, talents and abilities. But at some point, we look and say that the first step of our journey, not matter how small, is doable! And therefore, the big goal, no matter how big, is therefore also doable if we will only take each step on the path to achieving it.