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“We’re building something special.”
Our 2015 Mules Rising promotional video for Muhlenberg wrestling was filled with similar sound bites. This effectively turned my coach into cannon fodder for years to come. You could call him Peanuts because he kept getting ROASTED.
Another sound bite talks about getting 3% better every day because 1% wasn’t enough to beat the “best guys”.
In response to this, someone’s mom, aunt, or grandma asked, “What happened to 2%? Why are we skipping numbers?”
All joking aside, this raises a fantastic question- what does 1% better even look like? Is it just a catch phrase or is there more to it than just a sensationalized statement?
Since we all know that I occasionally geek out in Microsoft Excel for the sake of gainz, here’s what 1% better every day looks like in spreadsheet form on day 1 compared to day 100 and day 365.
Impressive, steady improvement, right? Those percentages continue to stack up. However, on a daily basis, the changes are so incremental that they’re barely noticeable. When you take a step back to get some perspective, you’ll realize that you’ve made some serious progress, especially as time goes on. Day 1 looks a lot different from Day 30, which is tiny in comparison to Day 100, and so on. This is the idea of getting 1% better theoretically.
In theory, this is a great idea. It also highlights the undeniable principle that time and consistency lead to the most growth (as opposed to a short burst followed by little to no action).
In practical terms, life isn’t just raw numbers and percentages calculated in a spreadsheet. Achieving the extraordinary is also never a linear or exponential growth process. Chances are, you’ll have to be more vigilant with the micro-level improvements before you notice macro-level changes.
We’ll start with an easy example in Track and Field, where events are timed and measured. When your best mile time drops from 6:41 to 5:46, then that is serious improvement. Did you win the race? Maybe not. Do you have something to feel good about? Absolutely.
In some sports where the results are a bit harder to quantify, this is challenging but still possible.
One method to catch the improvement on a daily basis is to use something from my journal method- the “Awesome Three” and “One Improvement.” Ask yourself these two questions:
“What were three awesome things that I did today in practice?”
“What could I have improved upon? Additionally, what will I do in order to improve in this area?”
In light of honesty, here’s an entry straight from my journal (forgive the wrestling jargon if you’re unfamiliar with wrestling):
Three awesome things from practice-
1: I hit a great cross hand single leg shot in practice. The takedown finish was clean, too.
2: My jab fakes are working better and I have a much better idea now of when I should be able to fire off a clean shot.
3: I mentally pushed myself to that dark place.
One area of improvement-
1: I missed a few opportunities to counter-attack my opponent after their initial attack. I’ll need to practice setting my feet in position to strike after my opponent attacks.
This doesn’t have to be limited to physical wins. Mental wins count, too. In fact, you can argue that the mental wins are more valuable over the long run.
This method allows you to stay the course by noting the micro-improvements. All of a sudden, wins and losses matter less because they’re not as precise in measuring improvement. Often, people find that by focusing on the process instead of the goal, the goal eventually becomes attainable. This allows you to stay the course despite not seeing the conventional indicators of performance such as wins and losses. Does the goal matter? Certainly, but the most effective way to reach that goal is to focus on the effort and the micro-improvements on a day-to-day basis.
The main principle is to focus on the effort and not the outcome. Those micro-improvements lead to serious jumps in performance in both the near and distant future.
What can you do today that’ll get you closer to your goals?