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Baby steps on the road to success


At the 1972 Munich Olympics the 16 year old John Naber was a training partner to US swimmer Mark Spitz. Naber was also in the relay team but was dropped from the relay finals in favour of more well-known names.

Undeterred, Naber was determined to win a gold in the 100 metre backstroke 4 years later at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

He estimated that winning time at Montreal in four years’ time would be 55.5 seconds. At the time his own 100 metres backstroke best was 59.5 seconds. He’d have to shave 4 seconds to achieve thisl but in Olympic standard swimming to improve by 4 seconds over 100 metres was a daunting prospect. Nader calculated that to improve his time by 4 seconds in 4 years

he had to improve by 1 second each year. He was training 10 months each year so he needed to up his speed by 1/300th second each training day. He built his training programme accordingly.

In 1976 at Montreal he won gold in both 100 m and 200 m backstroke.

Interestingly, Naber's winning time in 100 m was 55.49 seconds - 0.01 seconds faster than he had aimed for.

You may not be interested in competing in the Olympics but there is a lesson to be learned here for business - great results are built on tiny tasks.

If you want to reach a long term dream goal it is pointless to aim directly at it. NASA did not launch Apollo 11 on a wing and a prayer. There were Mercury and Gemini missions, and then Apollo 1-10 before so even if you aim to reach the moon start small.

1. Make a 1 year plan - where will you be in 12 months? Anywhere is good so long as it is on the path to your final destination.

2. Decide on the core activities that are essential to get there in 12 months' time. Limit yourself to a challenging but achievable list of activities.

3. Break it down to 4 quarterly sub-plans: what are you going to achieve in each quarter in each of the activities so that the sum of achievements will get you to your desired place in 12 months?

4. Every week, just before you break for the weekend, set your tasks for the next week. The tasks list should include day-to-day duties but also elements that will combine to eventually achieve the quarterly goals.

You must already see the plot - weekly tasks that add up to quarterly goals, that together end up in a yearly plan on the way to your dream-goal.

As hidden message in the Mars Perseverance rover parachute says - "Dare mighty things".

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