Success by a Thousand Small Victories

We’ve all heard the term “Death by 1000 cuts”.  I recently heard that phrase and began thinking about it in terms of success and recalled how success doesn’t occur all in one day.  Instead, success is the result of several (maybe 1000) small victories achieved over time.  That thought re-energized me in my current pursuits.  That encourages me to daily focus on providing consistent effort.  Doing so will ensure success through 1000 tiny victories.

Be encouraged to provide daily effort toward your goals and for small success every day.  Significant results will come if we simply take care to make progress every day.  We will achieve success through a thousand small victories.

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Looking for Things That Are Red

Before you begin reading this post, take 10 seconds, look around your current environment, and see how many things you can identify that are red.

(C’mon now, really do this.  You’ll enjoy the rest of the post more if you do.)

Ready?  GO!!

<10 seconds later>

Time’s up!

How’d you do?  What items did you identify that were red?  How many were you able to observe in 10 seconds?  Were you surprised at the number of red things you were able to locate?  I was!

Here’s another question, why do you think you were able to locate so many red items in the exercise above?  Perhaps you’re thinking, “Because you told me to, Scott”.  While that’s true, I believe the real answer is… because you were looking for things that were red.

It makes sense, right?  We tend to find what we’re looking for.  Since you were specifically looking for red items, your radar was up and you were on the lookout for things that were red.  After you spotted the first couple of red items, it probably got easier to find other things that were red.  It felt like that for me.  Before I knew it, I had located about a dozen red things.

I think a similar scenario can occur in our daily lives regarding how we view the world and the people we interact with.  For example, have you ever thought that the world was going downhill, and then had that thought reinforced by a news headline or an on line article?  Suppose we hold a particular belief about an organization.  This organization could be a group like Congress, a corporation, or a specific demographic of the population. The list is endless.  Without consciously intending to do so, we will be looking for evidence like a story on the news, or an article on line, or even in the behavior we may witness from this demographic that supports our belief.  With every piece of evidence we find that supports our belief, the stronger our belief becomes.  The stronger that belief becomes, the easier it is to spot the evidence for the belief.  The easier it becomes to look for things that are red.

Let’s dig a little deeper and apply this concept to our relationships with others.  Have you ever been annoyed by a person close to you, and harbored thoughts like, “She’s so (fill in the blank with their personality trait that annoys you)…!” or “He is always (insert their behavior that drives you up the wall)…!”   This person could be a spouse, significant other, boss, co-worker, child, friend, relative, or any other person you interact with on a regular basis.  The more we think these negative thoughts, the easier it is to spot the evidence that supports our thoughts about this individual.  We can spot the evidence without even trying.  In fact, it is usually the first thing we notice about this person, regardless of the other great traits and attributes they may have.  Their positive traits get over looked because they are not what we’re looking for.  We’re too busy looking for red in this person.  And since we’re looking for red, red is what we’ll find.

How damaging that can be to a relationship.  Looking only for red can be so insidious, starting out as a small observation and over time ballooning into an unshakable negative belief.

Let’s be mindful of what we’re looking for in others and in the world around us and how it affects our outlook.  No longer will we look for red in others, and miss the myriad colors that represent their positive attributes.  Since we find what we’re looking for, let’s cause something to happen by looking for something good or positive in others and in the world around us.

There are so many beautiful colors to be seen.  Let’s not focus solely on red.

 

The New Normal

I like change.  Change can bring opportunity, new experiences, and adventures that shake up our daily routine.  Although, I think my thoughts on change are probably like that of most people, as expressed in the following quote:

“We all like change, to the extent that it makes what we’re already doing even better.”

I certainly like change when it benefits me, or improves what I’m already doing.  However, sometimes events occur that change our lives in a way that we do not desire or that we would not have chosen for ourselves.  These could be things like a severed relationship, the loss of a loved one, an unexpected illness, or a host of other events.  As a result, our lives can be changed forever.  The way we once knew things, will never be again, and the future implications are yet to be determined.  One thing we do know is that the future will look very different from our recent past.  This difference is what will become our “new normal”.

Here’s the good news about the new normal:  we have the opportunity to largely determine what that new normal will look like.  We can shape it by deciding what we want it to consist of, and taking steps to bring about that future we envision, thus creating our new normal.

Sure, the situation that caused this change is still present, but that doesn’t mean it has to be what defines our future.  We can spend all of our energy bemoaning our misfortune and focusing on the event that caused this new normal.  We can also squander our ability to define what normal will be and leave it up to others or circumstance to define for us.  But I don’t believe any of those options will yield the results we’re looking for.

If you find yourself facing an event that includes the promise of a new normal, and after you’ve had sufficient time to grieve, get angry, mourn, etc, begin to envision what you want your new normal to look like.  Think about all the things you’d like it to consist of.  Then, when you’re ready, cause something to happen by taking action to turn your vision into the reality of your new normal.

Your future-self will thank you.

Let’s Get Disruptive

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word “Disruptive”?  I tend to think of a noisy child in a classroom (probably because I’ve had experience as this child in school) or of someone who is going against the established order or protocol of a community.  Usually, what comes to mind is someone who is disturbing several other people.  But have you ever thought of being disruptive as disturbing yourself?  More specifically, disrupting your thoughts, or engaging in disruptive thinking?  What is disruptive thinking, and why should we even bet interested in it?  Let’s find out…

We all have established beliefs that influence how we view ourselves, others, and the world around us.  They form our ideals about how the world works according to “insert your name”.  These beliefs influence our decision making and self-talk, affect our attitude, and shape our outlook on life on a daily basis.  Being disruptive challenges our long held beliefs and causes us to ask ourselves questions like:

  • Is this belief still accurate, valid, or relevant today?
  • Is there a better way to do what I’m currently doing?
  • Is there evidence that supports or disproves this belief?
  • Are there other possibilities I should be exploring and considering?

In short, being disruptive is about challenging the status quo of our own thinking.  To me, this concept is extremely important, because if we want to change any aspect of our lives, it is going to require changing what we’ve been doing on a daily basis, which usually requires a change to our current thinking and how we view the world around us.  Changing our thinking will often cause us to be confronted with one or more of our strongly held beliefs.

So what does it look like to be disruptive in our thinking?  Here are a few examples of how a disruptive thought can challenge a long held belief in order to change your thinking:

Long held belief:  An artist might have always been told, “Artists don’t make money.  Being an artist and being an entrepreneur are mutually exclusive.”

Disruptive thought:  The artist could shake up that long held belief with the disruptive thought, “Why can’t artists run a successful business that showcases their art?   What if I were to … (insert disruptive thinking idea)?”

Long held belief:  A would-be business owner might have been taught to believe, “It costs too much money to start a business.  Doing so requires going tens of thousands of dollars, or more, into debt. “

Disruptive thought:  The budding entrepreneur could challenge that long held belief with the disruptive thought, “Who says I have to go into debt to start a business?  Why can’t I leverage my skills, talents, and experience and technology to start an on-line business for less than $1,000?  I’ve got valuable skills the marketplace needs and would willingly pay for”

Long held belief:  A young person in high school may have been taught to believe that, “The only way you can be guaranteed a bright future is by getting stellar grades in high school, scoring high on the SAT, and graduating from a top tier college.”

Disruptive thought:  What if this student were to challenge that long held belief with the disruptive thoughts, “Why do I have to go to college for 4+ years, and spend all that money on tuition to be successful?  What if instead I gained some experience in my chosen field now and started learning from people who are currently doing what I want to do?  Is a degree really required for what I want to do?  Could those 4 years at college be better spent gaining real experience to help me become successful?  Is there another path to success that I haven’t considering yet?”

Are you getting the idea of what disruptive thinking looks like?  Can you see how it can challenge your current way of thinking and cause you to consider other possibilities that you may not have been able to consider before, due to the interference of a long held belief?

I’m not saying that we should abandon all our long held beliefs, but we should be willing to examine them and determine if any could be keeping us from achieving better results in our lives.  As mentioned before, if you want to cause something to happen that is different from what you’ve been doing, a new way of thinking will most likely be required.  Be mindful about disrupting your thinking on a regular cadence to see if you have any long held beliefs that are acting as logjams to the advancement of your goals.  The faster track to your success might just be a disruptive thought away!

What’s Essential?

Why is it so easy to get distracted from pursuing our goals?  Even more so, why does it often seem like our progress is moving at glacier-like speed, leaving us feeling like we’ll never get where we’re trying to go in life?  I think it’s possible that we’re concentrating our efforts on tasks that won’t yield the high level of results we’re looking for.

I was reading Pamela Slim’s book “Escape from Cubicle Nation” recently (yes, I’m planning an escape!) about a person who was gaining control over their finances.  When asked what the most important thing they did to gain control over their finances was, they responded with, “Simplify to identify what’s essential, and then eliminate as much as possible everything that isn’t essential.”

That makes perfect sense in the context of personal finance.  It also got me thinking about how this same principle could be applied to the pursuit of goals.  I find plenty of examples in my own life where my focus is on something that is non-essential to an objective I’m trying to achieve.  The result is usually wasted time and delayed results.

For example, I recently signed up and created a user profile on a social networking site for voice overs.  As part of creating my profile, there was an option to add a photo.  A photo wasn’t required, it was optional.  Stated another way, it was non-essential to creating my profile.  Would you believe I wasted close to an hour trying to decide on the right photo to use?  What’s wrong with me?!  I had plenty of other essential tasks to do, instead of wasting time on this non-essential task.  (In my own defense, I learned this concept AFTER the incident I just described)

It’s amazing how quickly an hour can be lost to a non-essential task.  Imagine doing several non-essential tasks over the course of a day, a week, or a month.  Carry that out a year, and it’s staggering to see the negative compounding effect of wasting time on things that aren’t essential.

If you really want to cause something to happen in your life, start identifying what’s essential and what’s not.  Strive to spend the large majority of your time on essential tasks, and seek to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, the amount of time you spend on non-essential tasks.  You’ll notice a marked increase in the progress you make toward achieving your goals.