Scott Jurek, a marathon runner who wins 62-mile races divulged his secret: focus on the next inch in front of you. We may not believe that we can run the next mile, but we can move forward one inch.
When we feel like we're stuck, reaching the goal looks like it requires an enormous leap. It doesn't. In fact, every sport is won only by inches, one inch at a time.
The same is true in life.
Greatness is built in inches. So many brilliant lecturers who speak all over the world began with two students in their living room. Yad Sarah, the biggest medical equipment organization in Jerusalem, started with someone lending out a humidifier from his living room. Thousands of poor people in Israel receive food packages today from Yad Eliezer because one woman made a little extra food for a struggling family one afternoon. Segregations laws faded because one woman, Rosa Parks, wouldn't budge an inch from her seat on a bus.
Even a house can be bought with an inch – a one-inch, red paper clip. In June 2005 Kyle MacDonald, a Canadian blogger, dreamed of owning his own house. But his job paid him just enough to get by each day. Until one afternoon, he noticed a red paper clip on his desk, and he had an idea.
On Craigslist, he posted a photo of the paper clip with this message: This red paper clip is currently sitting my desk next to my computer. I want to trade this paperclip for something bigger or better, maybe a pen, a spoon or perhaps a boot. If you promise to make the trade, I will come and visit you, wherever you are, to trade. Hope to trade with you soon! PS I'm going to make a continuous chain of 'up trades' until I get a house.
On July 14, 2005, a few days after he posted a photo of the red paper clip, someone offered to give him a fish shaped pen for the clip. Kyle traded the pen for a camp stove and the camp stove for a generator. He traded the generator for a neon sign and the sign for a snowmobile. Kyle then traded the snowmobile for a two-person trip to British Columbia. One year later, by the 14th transaction, he was able to trade for a two-story house.
Inches are the difference between between mediocrity and greatness.
Today the red paper clip has its own website and book, How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great, Big Adventure. If MacDonald hadn't noticed (and used) what was inches in front him, he wouldn't be an author, a speaker and a home owner. He would be just another guy sitting in front of his computer with a paper clip on his desk.
Purim is a time when we are shown the beauty of all the inches and hidden paper clips in our lives. This is one of the reasons we are obligated to hear every word of the Megillah. If we miss even one word, we have to hear the whole thing over again. Because the story of Purim didn't happen in one big leap; it developed in inches.
Mordechai had to sit by the palace gates day by day; the difference between others' bowed heads to Haman and Mordechai's straightened back was inches, but it was the difference between a hero and an ordinary man. And Queen Ester moved in inches too – each step that she took to approach the king despite her fear. Each party that she arranged with Haman before she revealed her plan.
When we listen to the Scroll of Esther, we remember that each moment and clip in our life is its own opportunity, and that greatness is reached word by word, act by act, inch by inch. The inches we need are everywhere around us and within us. But we have to see them; we have to be willing to fight for them.
Because inches are the difference between illusion and truth. Between losing and winning. Between mediocrity and greatness.