“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
This episode takes me back to when I first started seriously writing these blog posts. I asked myself, what’s changed from then until now? I would argue, not much! However I would also argue that the quality and delivery of these newsletters has significantly improved.
I asked myself why I felt this way, and thinking about this made me wonder how anyone accomplishes anything great. So naturally it caught my attention and doubly inspired me when I watched a TED Talk this week called “How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals”. This TED Talk had me intrigued as I watched the entire video front to back.
Stephen Duneier explains in his Talk that marginal gains are small gains, almost insignificant or not meaningful – at least to the untrained eye. Making small or minor adjustments are in fact how we improve and how we become experts at anything. Small battles fought and won each and everyday are what creates the success we desire and pushes us ahead towards our goals.
We make marginal gains by improving our process just a tiny bit each time we set out to do something. This is relatable to a principle called Kaizen developed through Toyota’s lean manufacturing process. The principle is focused on making small 1% improvements each day to achieve great outcomes. The theory is that these tiny improvements will all add up over time.
Keep Marching …
The most powerful way to accomplish your goals by realizing these gains is to commit to a 20-Mile March, which I talk about in a previous blog post. Continuously setting out to accomplish a bit everyday will allow you to interact with whatever it is you are trying to improve.
The key difference is that rather than spending all your time and energy entangling yourself with your endeavour, you must make it manageable so that you have time to ask yourself “what is one thing I could do better?”. This reflection time is absolutely critical to improving your process and bringing about the greatest achievement possible.
Even though I was unconsciously developing my abilities when I started playing football, it took me a long time to become conscious and aware of the power in this concept. I wasn’t mindful about consciously capitalizing on the power of marginal gains until I was well into my professional career; where I began to experiment with my process to make small improvements. It was almost like a personal research project. By taking the time to reflect on how I could do things better and triangulating with others (asking them for their thoughts and advice on matters) I was able to bring forth significant developments in things that were even extraneous to my football play, but that had significant impacts on how well I performed.
I always liken this concept to climbing mount Everest, which I personally know nothing about. However it reminds me of people telling me they want to get in shape in their consultations. Well you don’t just climb Everest, you’ve probably gotta do a few expeditions first, and before that you’d probably better enjoy hiking. That’s a great place to start.
When you do plan for that climactic summit, you’ll probably plan, question, experiment, and think about every single different aspect you need to in order to be sharp for that trip. It would be a tremendously involved process that would take years if not decades of time to prepare for. Mastering your health and wellness, performance of a sport, or any other endeavour, I would argue, is very much the same as the listed Everest example.
How do you get there? By taking small steps, reflecting on your process, and making small marginal improvements each and every day.
Happy improving, and making one marginal gain at a time …