To Go Big, Go Small!

This post is a little longer than some; I make no apology.  I didn’t feel like I could break this one down to smaller sections.  But I believe you will find it worth the time.

Sometimes when we want to change we hesitate, thinking that unless we make huge changes it isn’t worth changing at all.  We buy into the myths that are sometimes told in movies and popular fiction about one man or woman single handedly (with or without superpowers) save the world.  We accept as a foundational premise that if an idea or action doesn’t take hold immediately that it won’t ever gain enough traction to make a difference.    We apply this to changes in our own lives and environments as quickly and easily as we apply it to changes in the market and politics.  We allow ourselves to be intimidated by the disparity between our vision of huge change as compared to the reality of our current state;  we allow this intimidation to fuel feelings of fear and inadequacy, which in turn solidify our current situation like an ant being frozen in amber.

If this sounds familiar to you, take heart.  You are not alone.

The reality, of course, is often much different than the myth.  While it is true that some political movements, social movements and even dance movements seem to spring upon us suddenly and completely (like Gangnam Style and the Hippie movement of the 60’s) many more grow out of a long and patient process of promotion and public awareness campaigns (like the civil rights movement, ecological conservationism and country line dancing).  Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point does a wonderful job of illustrating how these things happen; I, however, want to focus on making changes of a different type.

I want to talk about making changes in our lives.

Whether it is becoming a better father or quitting smoking, most of us look at these desirable changes and say, “That’s for me!  I’ll get it or die trying!” And then, when the enormity of the task starts to set in, we withdraw to the television or to that cigarette we bummed off a friend and say, “Next time, surely next time.”  Yet, all too often, the next time never materializes.  In my own life, when I have watched these patterns occur, it was rarely because the end wasn’t truly desired, but because there was no clear map for getting there and no coach to help me fine tune my performance along the way.

Hence, today’s title.

If there is something you want to do, and it excites you, it is probably something fairly big and meaningful.  Great!  As the saying goes, Go Big or Go Home.

But don’t feel like you have to be immediately big. Recognize that all moments of big grow out of a multitude of moments of small.

Every high level athlete, musician, performer, or professional in any field will tell a similar tale; they find out what the smallest components of success are in their chosen field, they practice them until they perfect them, and then they practice them perfected until they become permanent, and then they commit themselves to continually fine tuning them to keep them sharp!

And they are patient.

I have told classes that getting to a 90% level of effectiveness in any skill generally requires only a relatively small amount of time, most often measureable in hours or days.  But 90% isn’t what most of us are after when we are trying to make significant changes in life.  So we have to commit to developing the last 10% of the skill that we are looking for.  And the way we do that is paying careful attention to our execution of the fundamental components . . . and committing to a lifetime of continual fine tuning.

Small adjustments on small components over time yield major changes!

Find something you want to do that scares you and inspires you!  Recognize that the beginning is the hardest, but commit to it, find a coach, a mentor, or someone that can help hold you accountable for the work that will be necessary.  Next, identify the smallest components, and pick one to work on until it is perfect.

Then, add to that perfected component another component, and do it again.

Before you know it, you will have an amazing journey, and the thing that inspired you and scared you will be part of you.

In that spirit, I commend to you the following poem, by Edgar A. Guest

It Couldn’t Be Done

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
      But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
      On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
      At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
      Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
      There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
      The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
      Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

What do you think?  Leave me a note below, and enjoy the unfolding journey!

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