November 13th, 2010
Total Distance for today: 18 miles
Total Distance for Tour: approx. 333 miles
LOCATION: Fredericksburg, VA
STATUS: in route to Richmond, VA
Both Friday and Saturday were shorter skates, but they were also high energy skates. I’m not sure if it was because I took two days off to speak in DC or something, but I simply felt extra strong during these two skates. I’m discovering an interesting phenomenon in that when it comes to my energy, individual skate days are less important than the overall whole. What I mean: My energy levels seem to fluctuate across larger divisions than one day skates. This tells me that the type of conditioning I’m doing now is focused on longevity over weeks, and eventually months, rather than simple one-off performances. What’s interesting about this is that I’m starting to be able to sense how my energy will be three or four skates from now. This isn’t marathon training; it’s training for the ability to do marathon-like performances about five times a week. It’s interesting. It’s also intense.
Slowly Moving toward Goals
Many of you know that one of my major passions is in language-learning. For me, it’s the ultimate bridging act, as learning a new language doesn’t just allow you have more meaningful conversations with anyone who speaks that language: It also gives you a whole new set of lenses through which to see the world. There’s something else that fascinates me about language learning: It’s primary concepts can be applied to a myriad of other areas in our lives. Today, I want to focus on the power of incremental improvement.
Incremental improvement in language learning basically boils down to one main idea: You don’t wait until you’ve learned everything you need to know to start using the language. Instead, you seek as much immersion and interaction as possible and learn what you need in bits in pieces, as you go. Before you know it, you can become a pretty accomplished communicator in your target language. It’s a bit chaotic and messy, but it’s the best way to progress quickly and consistently.
I want to show this concept of incremental improvement at work in another area. You probably remember a post I made a few weeks ago about taking back a little bit of power in my random life by regimenting it. Basically, I was talking about my plan to use flexible scheduling to better focus my time on high-impact tasks related to my various goals. Well, it’s been a little over three weeks since then, and I’m happy to report that I’m starting to see some benefits to the whole thing. First things first: By no means have I perfectly followed my schedule (not even one day). Hell, I’ve changed it about 10 times since I originally made it. However, I have been getting closer and closer to following a workable schedule. I’ve been improving, incrementally, to the point that I’m actually quite consistent with some of the most important tasks.
This slow and incremental progress toward my original goal of following a schedule that helps me to stay focused on the things most important to this tour and me personally is finally starting to show measurable results. For one, I’m beginning to consistently land speaking opportunities at schools. I now have a pretty sophisticated and rigid system in place for planning each visit to a big city, calling schools in advance, following up with them during the booking process, and keeping them in the loop after I leave. It’s not perfect, but I’m making considerable progress, and that’s awesome, because my random approach before was not really yielding results.
Another area of focus in my schedule was to get back to my passion for German. I’ve actually started to make small but measurable steps to getting back into that. This is something I’ve been “trying to get around to” since about the beginning of February, so the fact that I’m finally managing to make it a priority says a lot for both the power of flexible scheduling and focusing on incremental improvement.
Take Home Lesson: Don’t Get Discouraged – Just Start!
In light of all of this, my general advice to you is to remember that old saying: “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard!” It’s so simple, but it’s also incredibly important. Whatever goals you may have set for yourself (losing weight, taking up a new sport, learning something cool, growing in socially, improving your public speaking skills, or what have you), the most important thing is not to take giant leaps and bounds toward success. The point is to take steps. You don’t go to bed irresponsible and disorganized one day and wake up fully focused and regimented the next day. Another unimportant thing is perfection in the method you use to grow and achieve your goals. Perfection is for cowards! If you’re waiting for the perfect opportunity or method for doing something, you’ll never do it. Just put it out there, try, fail, learn, improve, and before you know it, you’ll be wondering why you aimed so low in the first place. The most important thing is simply to start working toward your goals. The second most important thing is to adhere to your goals: continue to do the things that will give you success, even when you don’t feel like it. It’s not hard to improve your life; it’s hard to wait until the perfect moment to do so.