Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Temperature of Instant Success

This week, I had a conversation about the driving force behind the Industrial Revolution. Those early railroads and steamships created the world we know. Before the Industrial Revolution, we lived on farms and traveled on horseback. Afterwards, we lived in cities and railroads and massive steamships made commerce, education, travel and prosperity possible.

So, what powered the Industrial Revolution? Water. More specifically and more explosively, steam!

My friend pointed out that humans have depended on water for thousands of years. Water wheels have been around for a long time, and primitive sailing ships made exploration and early commerce possible, but they had little impact on the average person. Even hot water is of little use. In fact most of us avoid being in "hot water" and use it only for brewing tea or washing dishes. Even at 211 degrees Fahrenheit, water is not very exciting.

But add just one more degree and something amazing happens! At 212 degrees, you get steam and steam moves mountains! I'm convinced this metaphor applies to achieving our dreams.

As a golfer, I know that the difference in performance between a world-class PGA professional and a local club champion is measured in the tiniest of increments. To earn fame and fortune on "The Tour" the professional has to be an excellent putter, but none of them make every putt, every time. In fact, a millionaire professional only makes two or three more putts in a round of golf than some of the golfers at your local club. In putting, small differences are worth several million dollars per year!

When I started as a licensed Psychologist, there were three other people who shared the same specialty in our community. When I arrived, they had a monopoly and there was "no market" for me to make a living. My three competitors had years of experience. They had superb reputations, and our referral sources all knew and liked them. I was a nobody, young and untested. But I found an edge.

My competitors took up to a month to complete evaluations and get reports back to the people who needed them. I determined to dictate my reports, have them typed and delivered over-night. Were my reports any better? Of course not. Given my lack of experience, they probably weren't thorough or as good but when I personally delivered my results the next day, I got lots of attention and soon had all the business I could handle.

The difference between "good" and "excellent" is very, very small. In my case, the difference actually had little to do with the scientific accuracy of my results. I just delivered my results faster, and that made "enough" difference to build my business.

For many people, the difference between being slim and fit, verses gradually becoming heavy and unhealthy may only be a hundred calories per day. Eat even a few more calories than you burn each day and you gain weight. Burn a few extra calories each day, and you lose weight. Sure, optimum health may be more complicated, but it starts with a very small number of calories, maybe only one cookie per day!

This applies to any goal you want to achieve. Remember the old saying, "inch by inch, anything's a cinch?" The opposite is also true. "Yard by yard, everything is hard."

High achievers know that small differences make all the difference. The Industrial Revolution changed everything and it began with only one degree of additional heat applied to common, every day water. Boil the water, channel the steam, and you've got a locomotive to change the world.

What small differences will you make this week? Perhaps you'll make one more sales call, or prepare a bit more thoroughly for your next presentation. Whether in golf or sales or in the more "mundane" things like parenting, the top performers are rarely dramatically better. Typically, they are "ordinary people doing ordinary things, extraordinarily well." This week, do a few ordinary things just slightly better. I think you'll see an extraordinary change in your results.