A little bit often

Today is the first blog I have written this year. Bad eh? It’s 2nd February and not a written word has been posted. To be honest I’ve had a break, something which is important for everyone to take.

Over Christmas I read a book, that I would urge everyone to read, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. It’s not that it reveals anything that many of us don’t already know, but it is a simple path to follow and is so common sense and obvious, that anyone can see how it would make a difference.

This may not apply to all of you, but I have found at times, that I have burst of energy enthusiasm and focus, then fuelled by this I set off on boundless amounts of tasks. While that burst of energy lasts, I’m on top of the world – unstoppable.The problem I’ve found is, sustaining it, as I just take on too much.

I’ve tried in the past all different strategies, read endless books from eating big ugly frogs, to 30 day challenges, fitness plans that will turn me into an Olympic athlete, diets, New Year’s resolutions, and so on. None I have ever really been able to sustain.

So reading The Compound Effect I discovered the answer is to do with consistency which has then has a compound effect. Simple! So it’s like the tortoise and the hare – and that’s it pure and simple. Life, business it’s not a sprint…it’s more of a marathon. The thing is most of us don’t know how to sustain it.

A series of small smart steps – that at the time don’t feel significant. These steps offer little or no immediate effect. We’ve all been here – quitting after 8 days of running because still overweight. Giving up a marketing campaign 2 weeks in as sales haven’t increased.

A great example Hardy uses in the book, I’m sure many know, is the magic penny. Choice, £3 million now or a penny today that doubles everyday for 31 days a month. So you choose the £3m and I choose the penny. Day 5 I have 16p you have £3m. Day 10 I have £5.12 you £3m. Day 20 I have £5,243. But by day 31 I have £10.7m. Day 29 I still have less than you – £2.7m. Now obviously there are no magic pennies, but there are things that you can do that will have similar impact on your life. Just by doing a bit everyday towards achieving your goals.

Basically, we have to work hard and be consistent for a long time before we see the payoff. As Brad Burton say’s in one of his great books ‘business takes time’ and the same is true of everything in life. There is no get rich quick scheme, no short-cuts, no cavalry, it’s down to hard work. But it is something that can be done consistently and not so hard that it is unsustainable.

We need to move away from the microwave mentality of instant results, the instant gratification mentality that has become the norm now in the affluent developed world. Where previous generations knew the value of hard work, now for many it has to be instant returns for the lowest effort or people give up.

It’s down to choices, obviously there are whopping big mistakes that some make, but for most of us it’s the small seemingly inconsequential choices that we frequently make that lead to the big changes. Many will remember a successful jeweller Ratner’s and one day Gerald Ratner thought it a good idea to describe his stuff as ‘crap’. No surprises that he went out of business, but very few of us make these kind of monumental choices. Most are where we decide to sleep in a little later, eat a bit more etc or the opposite. It is these small, often unnoticeable changes in life, that if repeatedly day in, day out, over months and years, that have the biggest impact.

The difference between the No1 golfer and No10 is only 1.7 strokes but difference in earnings is 5 times. The in difference in percentages isn’t 50% or even 10% it’s just 2%.

In all of this, time is the essence, i.e. the sooner you start the better. At the same time, like all things, equally it s never too late. But make a start, a small start and then build on it.

Habits play a big factor in all of this. Aristotle said “we are what we repeatedly do”.95% of everything we feel, think, do and achieve is a result of a learned habit. We’re born with instincts but not a single habit. We live a lot of our lives on autopilot.The good news is any habit can be changed. Successful people have good habits in what counts, as they do what is needed consistently.

The next most important thing is to find your mojo – your why power. It’s not willpower, as that will only last so long without knowing why. You need to get up and go, go, go, go, go, go, for years. It’s all about doing the gruelling mundane tasks that lots give up on. I have been here, thinking sheer determination will win the day, it won’t.

Hardy uses an extreme example in his book to demonstrate this very point. If I asked you to walk along a 30 ft plank, that is just 10 inches wide, the sort of plank used on scaffolding, on the ground and said walk across it for £100 – you would do it easy – right, no problem.

Now I place the plank at the top of a 100 storey building across to another, same plank, same 30 feet to walk – we would all say no way not even for £100 or even more money. The risk we would perceive as being too great. But the building opposite is on fire and your child is on it. Now would you – yes of course. What changed is your why.

Once you find your ‘why power’ then nothing will stop you.

The one thing we all have to face up to is that change is hard – all successes and failures have one thing in common, they all hate doing the same things, successful people do them anyway. Be patient – some things you’ve spent 20 years building up and only by ‘cutting a new pathway’ in your brain will the habit change. But it has to be repeated and consistently.

The final thing is momentum and it is so critical to success and can only happen if you keep doing the same things again and again. Big effort is needed to get something going and therefore if you stop, then you have to start all over again, however, if you keep going you reach a point where you have momentum. Apple is a prime example – I took them 6 years to dominate the MP3 player market. Google, YouTube and many others had to work tirelessly and consistently to build what they have and there are many other smaller examples of this that we have all witnessed in our lives. Look around you at successful people you know and I guarantee their success has come from consistent small steps done very well over a long period of time.

Our new habits and behaviours have to be incorporated in to our daily, weekly, monthly routines. Golfer Jack Nicklaus was famous for his pre-shot routine his ‘dance’. His routine was once timed and from 1st to 18th hole, it didn’t change by a second and he won.

So take that first small step and buy the book and start making the small changes now and stick at it.

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