It is often said that we get rewarded in public for what we diligently practice in private. One of the hallmarks of the highly successful is their obsession with sweating the details; they are usually the hardest workers in the room, and they are also the first to get to the gym and the last to leave. They sweat the small stuff, paying attention to details and executing relentlessly.
It is that time of the year again when we are all setting new year’s resolutions and goals. As the saying goes, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” As the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, once noted: “We often underestimate what we can achieve in a year and overestimate what we achieve in five years.” The hardest part of starting most journeys is the beginning.
We often underestimate what we can achieve in a year and overestimate what we achieve in five years
I am often asked how I am able to read more than 100 books in a year. My short answer is I put in the hours and stay consistent with it all year long. In 2022, I explored and experimented with various goals such as the 365 podcast listening challenge, 100 books reading challenge, 365 meditation session challenge, learning to swim, cycling and consistent blogging. One of the greatest lessons that I learnt from trying to achieve these goals is “The key is self-discipline: How you do one thing is how you do everything.” The discipline that is required for one goal is what is required for other goals.
“How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
Take baby steps
In his 2014 University of Texas Commencement Speech – Make your Bed, Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, B.J. ’77, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, remarked:
“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
In his book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World, Naval Adm. William H. McRaven advised, “Start Your Day with a Task Completed.” He writes:
Throughout my life in the Navy, making my bed was the one constant that I could count on every day. As a young SEAL ensign aboard the USS Grayback, a special operation submarine, I was berthed in sick bay, where the beds were stacked four high.
The salty old doctor who ran sick bay insisted that I make my rack every morning. He often remarked that if the beds were not made and the room was not clean, how could the sailors expect the best medical care? As I later found out, this sentiment of cleanliness and order applied to every aspect of military life.
In battle soldiers die, families grieve, your days are long and filled with anxious moments. You search for something that can give you solace, that can motivate you to begin your day, that can be a sense of pride in an oftentimes ugly world. But it is not just combat. It is daily life that needs this same sense of structure. Nothing can replace the strength and comfort of one’s faith, but sometimes the simple act of making your bed can give you the lift you need to start your day and provide you the satisfaction to end it right.
Coach John Wooden – Lacing your shoes.
John Wooden is often regarded as one of the most successful National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) coaches of all time, with ten championships won in his 12 years reign as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins; including seven national championships in a row: 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969,1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975. One of the lessons that coach Wooden emphasized to his players is – paying attention to details and sweating the small stuff, such as lacing their shoes and putting their socks on properly. One of the tenets of his Pyramid of Success framework is “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
In his book, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, Coach John Wooden remarked:
“I believe in the basics: attention to, and perfection of, tiny details that might commonly be overlooked. They may seem trivial, perhaps even laughable to those who don’t understand, but they aren’t. They are fundamental to your progress in basketball, business, and life. They are the difference between champions and near champions.”
For example, at the first squad meeting each season, held two weeks before our first actual practice, I personally demonstrated how I wanted players to put on their socks each and every time: Carefully roll the socks down over the toes, ball of the foot, arch, and around the heel, then pull the sock up snug so there will be no wrinkles of any kind.
I would then have the players carefully check with their fingers for any folds or creases in the sock, starting at the toes and sliding the hand along the side of and under the foot, smoothing the sock out as the fingers passed over it. I paid special attention to the heel because that is where wrinkles are most likely.
I would watch as the player smoothed the sock under and along the back of the heel. I wanted it done conscientiously, not quickly or casually. I wanted absolutely no folds, wrinkles, or creases of any kind on the sock. Then we would proceed to the other foot and do the same. I would demonstrate for the players and then have the players demonstrate for me.
This may seem like a nuisance, trivial, but I had a very practical reason for being meticulous about this. Wrinkles, folds, and creases can cause blisters. Blisters interfere with performance during practice and games. Since there was a way to reduce blisters, something the player and I could control, it was our responsibility to do it. Otherwise we would not be doing everything possible to prepare in the best way.
Running Six Marathons in 2022
I ran six full 42.2 KM Marathons in 2022 (The 2022 BMO Vancouver Marathon – 5:00:31, The 2022 Tartan Ottawa International Marathon – 4:37:39, The 2022 Servus Edmonton Marathon – 4:00:20, The Beneva Montreal Marathon 2022 – 3:44:14, The Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2022 – 3:56:14, The Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon – 3:55:18) and I also participated in three 10KM runs (2022 Toronto Waterfront 10K – 50:02, 2022 Toronto Carnival Run – 47: 45, Oasis Toronto Zoo 10K Run – 46:28). I started the year with a 50:00:31 time in Vancouver and ran a personal best of 3:44:14 time in Montreal.
I trained hard for these runs with long weekends and treadmill runs. I started by setting the goal, staying disciplined and showing up day in and day out. The training regimen for the multiple marathons positively affected other parts of my self-care routine, such as swimming twice a day, daily cycling, daily meditation (382 days streak of 30 minutes sessions and counting), daily gratitude journaling etc.
The Marathon training required that I have a consistent routine. The regimen transferred to other areas of my self-care routine. How you do one thing is how you do everything. The self-discipline required to train for a 42.2KM Marathon, do daily meditation, swim twice a day or read 100+ books a year is the same discipline required to execute other goals. As the Greek poet Archilochus once quipped: “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.”
The challenge with most of us is we get overwhelmed with reading for two hours daily instead of trying to read for 30 minutes daily. If you read 30 minutes per day, by the end of the month, you would have read for 15 hours/Month and 180 hours/year. 180 hours of dedicated reading is enough to finish at least 20 books. You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. How You Do One Thing Is How You Do Everything.
You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.
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