Weight and see
James Clear, master of all things habit, wrote a fantastic piece late last year called This is the Greatest Weightlifting Lesson I’ve Learned. If you are training for anything there is some great advice here. However, I think there are some principles that apply to your business for 2019 as well.
Lesson 1: The difference between progress and achievement
James says, “I think embracing slow and easy gains is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. Here’s the problem: a focus on achievement in the here and now usually comes at the expense of slower, more consistent progress. Achievement is so ingrained in our culture that we often ignore progress.”
This is as true for your business as it is for lifting weights in the gym.
Most businesses I know say they set goals. Yet most of the goals they set are achievement or outcome focused; such as their turnover target for the year. They then run around frantically trying to hit the target. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
Even the businesses that do hit their target can be making no progress in my opinion.
The real goal
What’s the real goal here? To hit this year’s target or to build a great business that also hits some big numbers? The first option allows for lots of activity judged by only one criteria: did it get us to our achievement target? The second option requires laying foundations that make the business better, now and in the future.
It might appear slower this year, but over the medium term, businesses that focus on progress accelerate past their rivals in later years; the compounding effect.
James says, “I want you to go into the gym this week and lift one pound more than you did last week. You are not allowed to do two pounds more. Only one pound. Do you think you could do that? Most people would be like, “Of course. That’s easy.” And they’re right.
But here’s the funny thing: If you do that every week, then you’re going to add 50 pounds to your lifts in the next year. Stick with that for two years and you’re lifting 100 pounds more.
How many people do you know who are lifting 100 pounds more than they were two years ago? I don’t know many. Most people are so obsessed with squeaking out an extra 10 pounds this week that they never find the patience to make slower (but greater) long-term gains.”
If you grow by 15% p.a., you double your business revenue every five years. Who do you know who’s done that? There’s not many businesses that achieve that sort of growth. Yet there’s loads of businesses saying they’re chasing growth of more than 15% this year.
Most businesses are focused on lifting ten more pounds right now, rather than building slowly and consistently.
Lesson 2: Slow gains help you handle intensity later on
James says, “For some reason, we think that starting easy and going up slowly is a waste of our time. It’s not. When you start with easy weights, you build the capacity to do work.”
My favourite business one-liner is, “Don’t learn the tricks of the trade, learn the trade.”
Sure, it takes longer and you don’t sound quite so clever when you tell people you’re still doing your apprenticeship, but there’s plenty to be said for mastering your craft. It takes time.
In times gone by craftspeople did an apprenticeship with a master for a few years. They then left and became journeymen, travelling from place to place and working with other masters, to truly learn their craft. Finally they became masters in their own right.
It’s the experience you gain from taking time and learning the basics of your profession or business. It will give you the well-rounded skill set to handle both faster growth and the intensity that comes with that later in your business career.
James says, “The body has an amazing ability to adapt — if you give it time to do so. When you place a stimulus on the body, it will either find a way to handle it or die.”
Slow and steady wins the race.
Lesson 3: Hard, hard, hurt vs Slow, slow, never stop
James says, “If you try to push the body too far, too fast, then it will find a different way to adapt. Namely, inflammation, injury, and stress.”
Anyone who’s exercised knows this to be true.
Exactly the same principle applies in business. If you’re a committed, hard-working business owner it’s easy to go so hard for so long that you burn yourself out, or literally have a breakdown. Not nice.
Even if you’ve not experienced this yourself, no doubt you’ve seen it in others. Much better to set a pace that you can do consistently for the next 30 years, than to push yourself and burn brightly for a very short period of time. That won’t get the job done. Overnight success usually takes about 20 years.
Ready for the long haul
James says, “At the end of the day, it comes down to this: Are you just trying to put up a big number right now? Or are you really in this for the long haul?”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.