Are you on track for your one percent today?

Three Key Takeaways:

  • Respect and execute the power of marginal gains.
  • Learn to connect the big visions with small steps.
  • The secret to outstanding performance is that there is no secret.

In 2023, there will be plenty of data and information or knowledge about the importance and benefit of daily improvement. There is a common understanding that we as a human race must continuously improve to achieve a better outcome. 

If you ask any person, they will share a story on how they achieved something outstanding in their life or career. They may aspire to choose a healthier lifestyle, go to Yoga classes, be a better parent, learn how to play an instrument or make more intelligent planning and execution processes better and more effective and be proud of themselves and the environment they work and live in.

But looking at the trends and outcomes, you will see there needs to be more tendency to stick to the visions and big ideas for the long term and gradually fade away. 

The question is, why we can’t make it work ?

I believe that going back to get a deeper understanding of “Why” and “What” motivates you to start the journey in the first place. Based on my experience working across countries and sectors over the last nearly two decades, I see a lack of deep connection to the purpose and executing small steps every day instead of making big steps here and then.

From an Infrastructure Investment perspective, a 1% improvement can achieve a better result than a major reform. 

I come from a non-athletic background, and the sport was not a big thing in our family. I had all the excuses on why it’s not possible to live a healthier lifestyle. I used to work in the resource sector doing national and international fly-in fly-out. On my recent Fly Fly Out work, I had four flights on the 8/6 Roster. Living my life in a Plane, Airport Lounges, a 3X4 room in mining justified me not exercising, consuming the average alcoholic beverages in Airport Lounges and having below average lifestyle. It was a disconnect with purpose, a lack of motivation and a plan to move forward. 

Working 12 hours shifts, sleep deprivation, red-eye flights, and time zone differences were my legitimate excuses not to improve my well-being. It was a choice, and I had all the reasons to tell myself continuously about it. 

We are all in the same boat, at least here in Australia. Living in a very supportive environment, experiencing some day-to-day challenges, and having access to above-the-average opportunities. Fair to say that we are privileged, mainly since I lived and worked in a few interesting places during my career around the world.

I had all the reasons to justify why it’s impossible to improve my life and the company culture I am work in.

The analogy between personal choices is linked deeply to how we show up in our family, sports, and work environment. It all goes back to what’s our intent and why we do those things.

As a keen triathlete, I spend a lot of time reading books, articles, and podcasts about mindset and performance to help me function better. Recently I have come to cross the work of Sir Dave Brailsford , former performance director of British Cycling, who revolutionised the sport using the theory of marginal gains.

Brailsford believed that the cumulative benefits would be extraordinary if you make a 1% improvement in a host of tiny areas. The theory of marginal gains has been credited for vaulting the British cycling team from a mediocre performer to 16 gold medals over two Olympics, and seven Tour de France wins in eight years.

There are countless examples of personal development, major reform projects or outstanding athletic performance about how people gradually improved and enhanced their outcomes towards a vision. 

For the past five years, I have made a significant change on the athletic front and come to the realisation that there are a lot of things people from business can learn from athletics and people from athletics can learn from the business world. It’s a same world with a different context. It just goes hand in hand.

Dave Brailsford has made an incremental improvement in bike set-up, equipment, training plan, mindset, emotion, and goals that result in the 16 gold medals. 

The Team you are working is a gold medal-producing Team, or are mediacore performance like a norm?

The Team you are working with has the same capacity to deliver exceptional performance in their personal and professional life. 

The tendency when my Team is underperforming is to look for big gains or big leaps to improve performance, but those are hard to find. As David shows, it’s better to go for 1% incremental improvement and work towards sustaining the outcomes.

If you were going after these incremental gains and aggregated them, you will have your first medal, and anything after that can be accumulated one after another. This is how I set the culture right and set the pace for the Team to deliver it. You will keep getting better; that’s the promise I can give based on my personal experience. 

  • If I plan to be in good shape, I will start by seeing my GP and have one extra glass of water every day for the next seven days. I normally leave the glass of water by the tap or next to the fridge.
  • If I plan to run 5 Km on my next park run event, I normally start by going to a walk-in park next my house every day for the next seven days. I will make sure that my clothes ready by my bed in the morning.
  • If I plan to have a calm mindset, normally start by deleting one of my apps on your mobile phone, based on the screen time and activate the focus time function on my phone from 7:00 PM.
  • If I plan to develop a better investment plan for the next business case I am writing, I will start having a conversation with my clients for 1 hour for the next fortnights. I will document the discussion on a whiteboard and gradually build up the story, every week, until the story is sound.

Small steps are how you can gradually improve and shape what you want to achieve.

The secret to outstanding performance is that there is no secret.