Slow and Steady

Picture from Official US Navy Imagery via Flickr

Picture from Official US Navy Imagery via Flickr

Tell me which of these scenarios is more likely:

  1. Small business gets a call out of the blue and is offered a huge distribution deal – instantly growing their top line (assuming they can deliver) by 10X what it was before.
  2. Small business focuses on getting the little things right, gets a little better every day and over the course of 3-5 years grows by 10X.

We’ve all heard anecdotes about the lucky strike, the cool business that gets profiled on Oprah and takes off like crazy – but unfortunately it’s the equivalent of winning the lottery.  Yes it can happen, but it’s not something you seriously plan on and if that’s the extent of your long term strategy, you’re in trouble.

Overnight successes almost never actually happen overnight, regardless of how they’re portrayed in the news.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shared his theory of the 10,000 hour rule – that is, it takes at least 10,000 hours of focused practice for someone to truly excel and become a master at whatever it is that they do. To put that into context, it’s about 5 years of FULL TIME effort in order to reach that threshold. Most ‘overnight’ successes have put in at least this much time before they’re ‘discovered’.

But we’d all like to change, to succeed now! Every year most of us write down a big resolution or two and end up disappointed and frustrated…usually within a few weeks.

Why the failure?

One of the problems with resolutions is that we try to take on too much. We ignore the 10,000 hour rule and attempt to jump directly to mastery. We try to run too fast and end up running out of gas instead – because success, especially meaningful improvements are hard and don’t happen overnight.

A Better Way To Change

The good news is there is a better way. A proven technique that will, if followed with discipline, almost guarantee that you can achieve great things.

A few caveats before we get into the heart of this ‘secret’:

  • You have to want…I mean REALLY want the change.
  • You MUST take responsibility for yourself and the outcomes in your life. It’s up to you and no one else.
  • There are no shortcuts or silver bullets – change requires time and effort and there’s no way around it.

What’s the ‘secret’? It’s likely that you’re going to be disappointed, but the best way to change and improve personally and professionally is to get a little better each day.You’ve likely heard it before – slow and steady wins the race. It may be a cliche, but it’s still true.

Financially a lot of books have outlined this theme for success – starting with The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. After interviewing U.S. millionaires for a number of years, they developed a list of 7 rules that can help anyone achieve Millionaire status.

The first rule?  Always live within your means.  

Profoundly simple, yet clearly not a rule that a lot of people follow…at least not on a consistent regular basis (based on the Average Credit Card debt over $8000).

Start Small

Whether you’ve done your New Year’s Resolutions or not, if you really want to change, the best bet is to start small.

The first step is to figure out what you want to change – because you’re starting small, you need to be focused and intentional. Identify 1 area that you feel is really holding you back –  it could be your health, finances, or your relationships. There’s not a right answer, but pick the area that most often come to mind as holding you back…or pick the area that you think you have the most control over. The important thing will be to make progress over time, build up confidence and momentum and that will enable you to address other areas of your life.

Once you’ve identified the area of your life that you want to change, then come up with a small change that you could start doing immediately and consistently. It should be really easy to do, but still be meaningful. Here are some quick ideas that might give you a starting point:

  • Start a savings account and religiously put $100 in it every week / month (obviously the amount and timing depend on what you could afford).
  • Every time you want to eat potato chips, have some fruit or vegetables instead. Don’t change anything else, just make this 1 switch and do it every day.
  • Start reading great books to broaden your mind. Commit to 10 pages a day…or a book a month…something that’s easy to do but meaningful.
  • Schedule lunch/coffee/dinner once a week with someone on your list of friends who you don’t see often enough. Be consistent and don’t miss a week for any reason.

Imagine if you really committed to any of the changes above (or something along those lines that was more important to you). Imagine sticking to your new rule for a full year…you will be better off than you were before and because it should be easy to do (by definition based on what you picked), it should be something that will become a habit going forward.

Do you feel like you need a bigger change than what’s outlined above? There are no shortcuts – but if you start small, then you can roll in another change on top of what you’ve already started to master.

Remember – slow and steady wins the race.

Want some more insight into these ideas?  Check out The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson or The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy.

What small change could you make this week? Have you tried this approach? Did it work for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

2 thoughts on “Slow and Steady”

  1. Love this one Shawn. 3 of your 4 examples are things I started last week for myself. And, we started a reading incentive program for our employees at to help them grow as well.

  2. David – thanks for the comment and it sounds like you all are doing some cool things. Change isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be really hard either!

Comments are closed.