Small wins lead to victory
Being a great adviser is about a whole lot more than being technically strong and giving your clients great advice. Genuine business success involves having the right mind-set and one which allows you to grow and flourish as a professional. In the latest in his series for IFA Magazine, Brett Davidson of FP Advance reminds us of the power of small wins in our quest to get better rather than bitter.
There are two huge mistakes we can make as human beings:
- Comparing ourselves to others
- Failing to notice the small wins
Recently, I’ve had two reminders of the power of incremental improvement and how important it is to focus on oneself, rather than comparing to others.
The first one came when I joined a ski instructor’s course a year or so back in Saas Fee, Switzerland. I was a late starter to skiing which doesn’t help, however this was something I’ve always wanted to do. My goal was not to become an instructor, but I felt it was the best way to improve my skiing in an intensive focused period of time.
Most of the other students were 20 year olds on a gap-year course, and we all lived together in a hotel. That was an experience in itself and loads of fun.
To tell you that I found the course very, very challenging will come as no surprise. However, all the 20 year olds struggled too.
When you think that they had all been skiing since they were four years old, and one guy used to head off to the fun park to do backflips off a professional-sized jump in his lunch break, why did they struggle?
They struggled because they were asked to change the way they ski to fit the course’s way of doing things. It was tough.
The only way we were able to progress (and stay sane) was by focusing on very small wins; incremental improvement. I can’t say I was always Mr Positive, but when I wasn’t, my instructor (Emma Cairns from Element Ski School in Verbier) would give me a verbal slap and get me focused back on finding the small wins. As one of the weaker skiers in the group and being considerably older than most of my fellow trainees, it was easy for me to start doing the comparing thing, which was a sure fire way to depression.
Emma reminded us of a quote from a friend of hers who said:
“When I focus on improving myself I get better. When I focus on comparing myself to others I get bitter.”
Progress over perfection
The same message can be applied directly to your life, your business or your career.
- Do you ever do the comparison thing to other businesses or business owners and start to feel less-than?
- If you’re an adviser or paraplanner, do you sometimes feel less-than some of the other smarty pants professionals that you know?
In the modern world it’s easy to feel less-than, despite us being the richest generation in the history of the world. Just ask your parents or grandparents what life was like for them 50 years ago. Chances are it was materially harder than we have it today.
However, with the added exposure to 500 pay TV channels, many of which show rich 16 year olds getting a car for their Sweet 16th Birthday, or other supposed reality themes, we can easily feel deprived.
Social media, for all its benefits (and personally, I think it’s mostly positive), also allows each of us to show our own personal highlights reel online. If you start comparing your own ordinary life to what your friends and acquaintances post on Facebook, it’s easy to think you might be missing out and to start feeling less-than.
Whenever that feeling strikes it’s vital to focus back on the wins you’ve been having, no matter how small. Remember, it is progress not perfection that you’re chasing and your life, business, or career is still a work in progress.
“Everything looks like failure in the middle. You can’t bake a cake without getting the kitchen messy. Halfway through surgery it looks like there’s been a murder in the operating room.” Price Pritchett, author of The Quantum Leap Strategy
My second reminder came from reading a book called Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto. As I read through each chapter I was struck by how Tom’s mental approach to getting fitter and stronger could be applied to any endeavour, including your business.
He made the point that if all we did was one more lift, jump, metre (insert your training exercise here) each day, in two years’ time we’d be amazing. Yet most of us quit when it gets tough and miss out on the spectacular progress we can make from small incremental improvements. Now, as I go and lift a few weights in the gym, if I can do just one more repetition than my last workout I record it as a personal best. It’s amazing how that mindset of incremental improvement helps me to stay positive.
The comparison issue also applies here. I don’t have to be as strong as the other guys in the gym, I just have to be working on improving myself. This change of mindset has proved very powerful in many areas of my life, not just on the slopes or in the gym.
Here are a couple of pearls of wisdom from Tom:
“Don’t try to become better than someone else; become better than you used to be. Instead of focusing on comparisons, focus on progress and self-improvement. Do the absolute best you can with what you’ve got and you’ll be able to look in the mirror every day with the pride and self-esteem of a true winner.”
“There is no such thing as failure. Only feedback, only results.”
All of this clearly has application to your business and career.
Business success in baby steps
When you’re already competent at a skill, you know intuitively that you’re not going to have the massive early jumps in improvement you get as a beginner. However, viewing slow progress or small wins as a lack of progress (especially when comparing to others), can be very frustrating.
It is this frustration which can mean we do silly things, like looking for the massive breakthrough, when in fact all we need to do is get comfortable with incremental improvement. It still gets the job done.
- Are you quitting on your business or professional services career by getting frustrated and not seeing the power of the small win?
- Are you needlessly comparing yourself to others, rather than looking for the equivalent of one more repetition than the day before?
If you are, then I hope this article changes your point of view. Acknowledging the small victories and successes can be what turns your good business or career path into a great one.
About Brett Davidson
Brett is the Founder of FP Advance, the boutique consulting firm that helps financial planning professionals to advise better and live better.
He is recognised as one of the leading consultants to financial advisers in the UK. You can follow Brett online and via social media: