“Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.”
Here’s an inspiring story: When Dave Brailsford became the General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky, Britain’s professional cycling team) he was asked to win the most grueling sporting event in the world: The Tour de France.
He came up with a simple approach, “the aggregation of marginal benefits,” which he described as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” He believed that if he could help his riders improve every area of their performance by just 1 percent, then those small changes would add up to major improvement and a winning edge.
Brailsford started by fine-tuning some predictable aspects of his riders’ training: optimizing their nutrition, tweaking their weekly training regimen, improving bike fit. Then he looked for 1 percent improvements in overlooked areas: finding the pillows that offered the best sleep and the best massage gel. He searched for tiny improvements everywhere. Three years later, in 2012, British cyclist Bradley Wiggins won the Tour and the British Olympic cycling team won 70 percent of the gold medals in its field.
Mmmm. How does this apply to our writing? So often we set overly ambitious goals for ourselves and put ourselves under pressure to achieve them. If we don’t get there, we feel defeated. Why not opt for the 1 percent approach? Instead of earth-shaking improvement, let’s go for small changes for the better. At first, they might not even be noticeable, but in the long run, they can really add up. Over time, these small better decisions can bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
What are some 1 percent improvements we can put into action? A few ideas:
We can extend our writing sessions by just 15 minutes a day for 30 days. This would add up to 7-1/2 hours in a month — a full extra day of writing.
We can consistently put just a little more time into strengthening an area we’re weak in: dialogue, for example, by writing little snippets and scenarios.
We can improve our inner ear and rhythm by reading a poem aloud every day.
Any ideas for making small improvements over time? I’d love to hear them! Write on!