Category Archives: change

Start With a Cappuccino

I believe that big changes starts with small behaviours. Actual work, however seemingly insignificant, makes a huge difference over time. I also recognize (mostly from my behaviour) that getting started and keeping started is often the hardest part.

Terry Crews, a former NFL linebacker and now television personality. He talks about  how he used to “just go to the gym, even if it’s just to hang out and have a cappuccino.” He knew you can’t work out if you’re not there, and you won’t go there if you don’t enjoy yourself. So he went, every day, even if it was just to open his locker.

I think the lesson here is to deliberate choose a goal (play guitar, go to the gym, better dental hygiene, be a better leader, increase sales, grow a business), figure out the one minimal thing you need to do to get better at it, and do that one thing every day.

Pick One String

Flossing just one tooth (getting started, doing it regularly) isn’t the only thing we need to do to change a habit, but it comes first. Make no mistake, leadership and coaching is a skill and a habit that can be learned. 

To learn a new skill or habit, we need deliberately practice. For example, I like the song “Jamaica Farewell” (the Belafonte version, my mother used to have the LP and a lazy smile every time she played it.) When I wanted to learn to play guitar that’s the song I chose.

If “Jamaica Farewell” was the only song I every practised on my guitar I would only every learn three chords, and it would get boring really fast. I would be able to play a kick-ass version of that song, but it has its limits. To get better, have fun, and master the guitar I should and do challenge myself with progressively more difficult material over time.

Consistency and intentional practice – that’s how you get better. Even as a leader.

What are you going to practise today?

Floss One Tooth

I was listening to Tim Ferris one day talking about productivity and setting small goals. He was talking about how writing a book is a grind for him, and he set the small goal of writing “two crappy pages” a day. Some days he would only write the two pages, but very often, after getting started, he would blow past that least acceptable very low bar and write many (presumably good) pages.

He mentioned in passing it was like just flossing one tooth a day.

Huh?

This caught my attention because despise flossing. I know I should. And I know of some weirdos who actually enjoy brushing and flossing their teeth. For me, there are other things I’d rather be doing for two minutes twice a day.

But as an adult I am more than mature and capable of managing my own dental hygiene. I am, honest! But it’s a struggle. It got to the point where my dental hygienist had left a note in my file about how I was sensitive to the issue. I learned this when a new hygienist asked me about the note.

“Good morning, Mr. May. I`ll be cleaning your teeth today. I see here you don’t like flossing your teeth and you don’t want to talk about it.”

[Internal Dialog: “I’m fine, thanks for asking. Or at least I was until you shared that with me. Please don’t show my how to floss my teeth for the 1000th time. I’m a god-dammed grow-up. I know how to floss my teeth. No, I don’t need one of those little plastic helpers. I’m a grown-up, really!”]

I thought I’d test Mr. Ferris’ “floss one tooth” rule, and that’s what I started doing.  Every morning, after I brushed my teeth and before I got in the shower. I would floss at least one tooth. If nothing else, it was enough time to let the shower warm up. And honestly, most mornings, I did only floss one tooth. The bottom front one, specifically.

Lo and behold, the next time I visited my hygienist, she complemented me on how well I was flossing my teeth. This surprised me. I had passive-aggressively done as bad a job as I could get away with, rarely flossing my whole mouth and mostly just sticking to that one tooth at the bottom front. Apparently attempting a minimal effort every day is better than not making any effort at all. This pleased me, and have now expanded my tooth flossing program to two teeth a day. I’m hoping for even better results on my next visit!

If we’re trying to get better at something, like being a better leader, it seems that getting started and doing even the smallest thing consistently, is better better than not.