It’s amazing how lucky successful people and successful businesses are. In fact the stronger their discipline to take consistent actions is, the ‘luckier’ they get!
Progress is more often a series of bumpy steps than a steady incline. Often it is the persistent, small actions taken during the plateau periods that separate the highly successful people and businesses from those ‘with potential’.
That persistence is a bit like boiling the kettle. You fill up the kettle and turn it on. The water doesn’t boil instantly, at first you are applying energy and nothing seems to be happening. Water boils at 100°C, the starting temperature may have been only 20°C so the energy going in at first is heating it from 20° to 40° to 60° to 80°C. Eventually, the water temperature gets to 100°C and the water ‘suddenly’ boils.
Similarly ‘breakthrough moments’ are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential to unleash a major change.
The problem is that most people repeat an action a few times, don’t see any tangible results and decide to stop.
They often stop when the kettle is at 60°C, when they are in reality building potential. Continuing, rather than stopping, means you may get to 100°C and realise that potential.
If you stop too soon the effort has in fact been wasted. You have wasted time and effort for no result. To make a meaningful difference the work you are putting in needs to persist long enough to break through the inevitable plateaus.
Slow Burns Occur in Sport and in Business
This kind of “slow burn to breakthrough improvement” is a well-accepted phenomenon in sport.
Your tennis coach tells you that your serve will be more accurate when you change your technique. You learn this new technique and your serve gets worse! She encourages you to keep practising. You lose several matches you should have won, because of your serve. But you do follow her advice and continue to practise this new technique, albeit through gritted teeth. You practise for several weeks with no real improvement and then ’suddenly’ it works and you are winning easy points off your serve.
This same slow burn happens in business, both at an individual level and at a business level.
If you are criticised for sub-standard service or for not delivering on time you must take actions persistently and consistently before you achieve that breakthrough award for excellent service.
It can take a long time for your client to agree that you have changed and that you now offer excellence. However, when they do you now have a ‘raving fan’ client and there is every chance they will recommend you to others. Your persistent actions, although seemingly thankless at times, have indeed proven to be worthwhile.
Sometimes it’s Best to Stop
There are, of course, risks associated with repeating the same action without seeing any change. At what point do you say, ‘We tried, we have persevered but actually this just doesn’t work’. Of course, it is always easy to be wise in hindsight, however, we must do business forward, not in reverse.
So your initial planning is critical. What is the evidence that this change will work? How much will it benefit your processes, your people’s performance or your business growth? Then design a detailed, robust plan. Only once you have completed this planning will you have the true confidence to say ‘Let’s persist with this plan, with these actions. I believe that they will work for us long-term.’
The evidence in both sport and in business is that giving up on something too soon is much more prevalent than continuing too long. People suffer from what behavioural scientists call the commission bias, the tendency to err on the side of action over inaction. If we don’t see results quickly we get impatient and feel a strong urge to do something else, almost anything else, in the hope that we might make progress. In reality, we were often close to the summit if only we’d stayed with it and taken a few more steps.
Perhaps the real phrase for ‘being lucky’ is ‘persevere, persist – even when you can’t see immediate results’.
Success in business and in life is more a series of rises and plateaus than a steady incline. It is those who keep taking action during the plateau phases who are rewarded with ‘breakthrough’ success. It is those with the ‘will do’ mindset rather than the ‘can do’ mindset. ‘Can do’ mindsets are great for getting us started, ‘will do’ mindsets are the ones that enable you to keep taking action, to push through the plateaus, and to therefore gain that ‘luck’ and ‘breakthrough’ success.
It is this type of success that sets you apart, as an individual and as a business.
It is easier to say that others were lucky rather than to admit that we lack the courage or the discipline to take action persistently. How can you develop that ‘will do’ mindset to take specific action consistently, even when you don’t feel like it! How can you take the action repeatedly even when you don’t see immediate results?
And if you are reading this and saying ‘I already do this, I have a ‘will do’ mindset’ that’s fantastic. Please coach your team to develop this ‘will do’ mindset too. Then your success will be multiplied.