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Before You Build High, Build Deep

The importance of solid foundations

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Before You Build High, Build Deep - The importance of foundations - My Home Vitality

The third floor

It’s ancient China, we’re pottering around, doing what ancient Chinese people do, when, all of a sudden, a nobleman rolls into town on his one horsepower chariot – the Ferrari of it’s day.

People stop and turn. The background noise of bustling labour silences as the chariot screeches to a halt outside our tremendous three-story mansion.

The nobleman steps out and peers intriguingly up at the building, which is shimmering in the sunlight.

“Congratulations,” he says.

“This building is a masterpiece!”

We thank him, and politely invite him inside for a tour, to which he immediately agrees.

It seems the nobleman is only interested in one thing. The third floor.

He insists on skipping the formalities of the lower floors so he can embrace the enchanting architecture of such a tall building.

You see, the nobleman has never seen a building three floors high before.

“Breath-taking,” he says, ogling the views.

“Who built this? I must see him at once!”

We lead him to our village’s master mason, who the nobleman immediately hires to replicate this wonderful feat in his own village.

The mason amasses a crew and gets to work immediately.

A few days pass and, as repayment for our hospitality, the nobleman invites us to see the progress of his new mansion.

When we arrive, the excitement on his face falls into a state of confusion.

“What are they doing?” he enquires.

“It looks like they’re working on the foundations sir,” we reply.

“Why are they doing that?”

“Well because you need foundations to build on sir.”

“Okay,” he says, “what will they be doing after that?”

Not certain whether he is joking, we humour him, “well, they build the first floor on the foundations, then the second floor on the first and then the third floor on the second.”

“No! Stop!” he squealed, waving his arms and galloping over to the mason.

“This is a big mistake! I’m glad I got here in time!”

“I only want the third floor. Forget the foundations, just build the third floor!”

The relieved nobleman makes his way back, “phew, that will save us a lot of time and money,” he gleams.

The importance of patience

We live in a world of instant gratification.

  • Want a partner? Swipe right.
  • Want a chicken tikka masala with cheesy naan and extra papadums? – it’s at your door within an hour.

Just like the nobleman, we are starting to lose patience – a key ingredient for success and happiness, regardless of your measurement.

If you really want to build something strong, something that will stand the test of time, something that will change lives, you must be patient.

it took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success - Lionel Messi Quote | My Home Vitality

You may have heard the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree that takes five years to emerge from the ground before it grows to over 80 feet tall in the space of a few weeks.

Although not quite accurate, it is true that bamboo plants spend a disproportionate amount of effort putting out roots in their early years. They do not try to rise tall above the ground until their roots are established.

Although it does rise above the ground, the bamboo plant doesn’t appear to do much. Then, after a couple of years, it soars!

A cane can grow almost a foot a day in the spring, so it appears to shoot from nothing to 12 feet in just a couple of weeks.

Be like the bamboo tree. A few years of patience can lead to a short period of massive growth.

As for happiness, the very fact that you have persevered through toil and hardship makes the result even more rewarding. Why do you think extreme races are so popular?

When you sign up to run a marathon, you don't want a taxi to take you to the finish line - Derek Sivers Quote | My Home Vitality

Examples of patience

  • Want to build a business? Take time to plan, test and execute your idea.
  • Want to build a chiselled physique? Take time to study, understand the process, eat well and workout consistently.
  • Want to build a family? Take time to find your soulmate, enjoy each other and have children that share your beautiful traits.

Anybody who has ever rushed into one of these examples will know that haste (the opposite of patience) often leads to undesired results:

  • Failed businesses.
  • Energy and weight fluctuation
  • Unsatisfying or broken relationships.

The importance of building deep

Have you ever seen the guy at a networking meeting who throws business cards around like a top table Bellagio dealer?

Do you trust him enough to do business with him, or would you rather stick with the person you’ve spent the last hour talking to about your child’s sporting achievements?

Relationships, business or otherwise, are not built on shallow words and houses of cards, they are built on QUALITY time and nourishment, just like the bamboo tree.

I emphasise quality because it’s not just time that’s important, it’s the quality of that time.

Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect- Vince Lombardi Quote | My Home Vitality

The principle of building deep, like patience, applies to anything worth developing.

Examples of going deep:

  1. Self-discipline requires a deep understanding of your emotions, mind and body.
  1. Self-love requires a deep relationship with yourself through introspection, meditation and practice.
  1. Mastering skills requires deep knowledge of foundational principles through study and organised practice.

Foundations are everything

I have realised that developing solid foundations is a key principle of life.

The realisation came to me when practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Not only was I taught the importance of a strong physical base (posture, balance, etc.), I was also taught the importance of grasping, and mastering, the most fundamental, or “foundational,” techniques.

This principle has featured across so many areas of my life that I’ve even developed my own mantra for it…

Excellence is just consistent faultlessness of the basics - Shaun Cadwalleder Quote | My Home Vitality

We all want to build masterpieces, whether it’s our family, a business or a skill, and it’s human nature to look for hacks or shortcuts, but understand that it takes long periods of quality time and effort to get to that third floor.


“If you take shortcuts, you get cut short.” –  Gary Busey

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