“With great achievements comes equally great effort” — Likely said a parallel universe Spiderman’s uncle.
Great effort meaning, a lot of effort… Right?
In theory that would make sense. The more you work the more you achieve.
“Work while others sleep.”
“I’ve got a dream worth more than my sleep.”
“Hustle until your haters ask f you’re hiring.”
Those are but a few of the posts you can find if you go looking for motivation online. They are exciting, thrilling, and give a sense that the world is yours to conquer if you do nothing but work.
With most of the content gaining traction being like those above, what comes next may not make too much sense at first.
That said, allow me to stand in the middle of the Rostra, clear my throat, and challenge the previous as loud as I can:
Short-term “sprints” of effort have close to zero impact when put in the long-term context of achieving our goals.
They may feel good, giving a sense of getting closer to our destination, but more often than not they do more harm than good.
Why is that?
This extreme effort is not sustainable for 99% of us, and while there are some David Goggins walking among us, that is not the norm.
For most people, pushing the engine to the red zone, day in and day out, does nothing but bring them closer to the breaking point.
We are just hurting ourselves.
Trust me, I more than anyone would love to be able to work 16 hours per day, every day, and be in a good physical and emotional state, but in reality, it’s just not doable.
I’m not in that 1% and, statistically speaking, you aren’t as well.
Before You Start Losing Hope…
It isn’t all bad, as a matter of my opinion, when looking at longer-term goals it is much more about consistency and quality of effort rather than quantity.
For how cliché this is, it is much more a marathon than a sprint.
The only problem is that while this “hustle mentality” is loud, bold, and easy to pay attention to, it isn’t so true as consistency and quality go.
If the first excitedly screams at us, then the latter requires us to be quiet and come in closer for what it whispers.
Small Steps, Big Results
In 1979, the San Francisco 49ers hired Bill Walsh as their head coach and general manager.
After a season so bad that it would leave any fan wanting to move out of the city, Bill was essentially thrown a steaming hot pile of garbage that he would have to turn into a Superbowl winning team.
Excited and motivated, coach Walsh would implement his now-famous “Standard of Excellence”, strict guidelines for everyone apart of the organization, from the A players all the way to the cleaning staff.
As the name suggests, he required excellence not only from himself but from all of those around him.
They would dress, talk, act, and train to this standard.
After a season dedicated to this, having made major improvements to not only how the team played but to the way the club operated, coming from a 2–14 season, what do you think the results were?
At least playoffs, right?
After this incredible effort, Bill and the 49ers achieved a whopping season with 2 wins and 14 losses.
Exactly the same as the previous year.
If that hurts reading, I can’t even imagine how the eventually 3 time Superbowl champion felt in these trying times.
On the one hand, he was putting in the consistent quality effort he believed required to win, on the other, he was confronted with a big ole slap of disappointment and lackluster results.
A moment that, as he wrote in his book, was the lowest of his career:
I sat in my seat in the first row of the plane and broke down sobbing in the darkness. I felt like a casualty of war being airlifted away from the battlefield.
Luckily, the president believed in him enough not to fire him, and similar to a rollercoaster, this fast descent to the ground would propel them to the top soon after.
Following this god-awful season, improvement started to show and they finished with 6 wins and 10 losses.
And then, the results really showed.
If the first season was wildly disappointing then 1981 was everything Bill was aiming at.
Not only did the 49ers make the playoffs, but they went to win the whole goddamn thing.
They won the Superbowl, and they did so, not through any fantastic one season effort, killing themselves to get there.
Obviously, they had to work hard, however, it was the optimization of not only the big things but also the small ones, over these years, that led them to such fantastic results.
The Same Applies To Us
While not aiming for a Superbowl win, we tend to take the opposite approach that Bill took.
We try to take huge leaps forward, and not small steps every day.
We want the goal fast, and as such, we believe we need to hop through the stairs, 3 steps at a time.
If you’ve ever tried to do the latter then I’m sure you are aware of the 2 main problems:
1. You gass out FAST, meaning, it’s unsustainable;
2. If you trip while doing this, then you are going to be laying on the stairs for a few long minutes.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to keep being like this.
You can, similar to the 49ers, decided to excel in the next step in front of you, no matter how small.
Maybe it’s doing a bench press with perfect form, even if you can’t put any weight on it.
Maybe, it’s writing the best 50 words you can every day towards your book.
Taking it to an extreme, maybe it is simply making your bed every morning.
For how ridiculous these may sound, for how slow the progress may appear, they are allowing you to build consistency and excellence, with every step you take, building a rock-solid foundation to start building upon.
Once this consistency becomes easy, you start to increase the intensity and pace of your steps. Slowly.
Always do it in a way that is a challenge, but doable nonetheless.
Remember, the 49ers saw 0 progress results wise in the first season, and barely any on the second one.
Similar to them, allow enough time to pass to win your Superbowl, because if you keep at it, it is pretty much inevitable you’ll be raising that trophy.