There is a well-known story in which Warren Buffet was asked by Charlie Rose if the US economy could achieve a 4% growth rate. His answer, in typical Buffet style was "that's pretty high.” What Buffet then proposed was that 2% incremental growth over 25 years (a generation) would lead to much greater success. Charlie went on to push the point by offering 3% growth, to which Warren replied: "2% will produce miracles".
New Year's Resolutions are great! Strategic planning for the future is necessary, so that we all have a clear vision of what is ahead. As a coach who is working with behaviors, mindsets and development - a goal is critical if we want to see significant results.
There is a ‘but’ here however… I often find people, especially if they are clever and talented, have a distorted mindset and unrealistic expectations of how they will achieve that. It could be the massive success stories or the selling of dreams proliferated by the media, particularly in places like Silicon Valley (amazingly, many successful entrepreneurs who started in their garage came from solid middle class families and had the financial means to even own a garage). It could be because of today’s technology that many business people, even people older than millennials, expect success to happen overnight. There are a million reasons for unchecked expectations.
Reality Check: The practical success of goals is often built in the 2% daily application. The grinding, regular application of productive behaviors. The hard process of thinking and recovering positively from setbacks over an extended period. It's done by reflecting, assessing and then measuring your successes and failures. Especially those small 2% wins that accumulate to a Tipping Point which creates the 'Big Win'. It’s approaching every single day with the intention that we are going to push ourselves out of our comfort zones by 2%.
The 2% is also designed to keep you going when you have those setbacks. From this perspective it’s strongly linked to the ‘Growth Mindset’ that Carol Dweck and her colleagues became interested in when assessing students' attitudes about failure. They noticed that some students rebounded while other students seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks.
One of the key things to having a Growth Mindset is to be able to say to yourself ‘not yet’ when it comes to your end goal - I did well/fine/alright, but I’m not yet there. I believe I can improve, get better, be smarter about this. I just need to pick myself up and take another run at it!
The most successful people on the globe all seem to share the same secret to their success. They just kept showing up. Every. Single. Day. They kept grinding through what the world threw at them. Self-made billionaire Sarah Blakely tells a story of how Amazon founder Jeff Bezos asked Warren Buffet why more people didn't adopt his simple strategy for investment. Buffet's response was "no one wants to get rich slowly". The answer is as simple as it is difficult, and the reality is that it’s not that most people don’t have the talent, ability, or connections to get where they want to go. They just don’t give the process it’s due time. They give up. They stop showing up. They don’t get the immediate results they want so they move on to the next project, job or career. One day maybe we’ll invent an algorithm which will let us know how close people were to their goal before they quit. I wonder how many almost billionaires would be on that list.
Like compound interest, imagine if we grew by just 2% every day. All that effort would compound by the end of the year. Not 1%, not 3%, not a large number like 5% which is not sustainable. We just need to push ourselves to stretch beyond our comfort zone 2%. Every day. Little by little. Inch by inch.