Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How To Be A Loser

I'll start by talking about a couple of winners.

Example 1: Colin wasn't taller than 5' 5", a half-Chinese, half-Filipino, Hawaii-born freshman at the University of Oregon. Pound for pound, he was the quickest, most consistent shooter on the court. Before every pick-up game, he would take about 20 or 30 shots inside the first block of the key (a foot away from under the hoop).  When I asked him why he warmed up that way, he said he wanted to see the ball go in as many times as possible.

Example 2: TK has been one of the Top 100 Realtors in his state for the last three years in a row. He tells me the more a client says "Yes," the more likely he is to make a sale. Here's a hypothetical dialogue:

TK: "So, it seems that you like the house."
Client: "Yeah, but I don't really like (random aspect of house)."
TK: "Great. So, except for _____ you really like it."
Client: "Yeah."
TK: "Great. You said your budget was _____ ."
Client: "Yes."
TK: "Great. So you probably don't want to pay (some higher number)."
Client: "Yeahhh, that's too high."
TK: "Great. So if you were to make an offer, what would it be?"

And thus begins the momentum toward the sale.

So it seems the amount of successful small shots contributes to the confidence and capacity to make bigger shots. And the number of small yeses can stack up to bigger yeses, then perhaps, one big yes.

Professor Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School calls this the "progress principle." In her study she reports that realizing and appreciating our "small wins" can increase our sense of competence. We then are able to "leverage that confidence" to achieve bigger wins.

Now, I like to win, so the prospect of winning daily really appeals to me. Flossed last night? Win. Made my bed this morning? Win. Posted a blog last week? Win. Followed through on a commitment to a friend? Worked out? Avoided McDonald's? Win, win, win. Give me a shot at something bigger, because I'm on a roll ...

But, as with all principles, the inverse also applies. If small wins boost my self-concept, small losses deflate it.

An understanding of both sides of this principle may motivate us in life's mundane moments. Sometimes life is boring, and in those times, it's difficult to maintain focus and a sense of purpose. We're convinced we have a handle on the consequences of our irresponsibilities and may think things like:

"If I don't turn this in on time, I could probably still pass the class."
"If I don't make this call today, the business won't fall apart."
"If I choose to sin, I'm still going to heaven."

Whereas all these suppositions may prove to be true, these thoughts are destructive to my inner man because they turn me into a loser. 

Just as my diligence in small things today will become food for future success, so my current lack of discipline will feed my failures tomorrow.

But if I realize small wins make big winners, I realize that everything I do counts. Wait, what? Everything I do counts? Flossing, replying to emails, arriving on time, being honest, praying, believing? Yes. Everything I do will contribute to the next big win or devastating failure. The little things matter.

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." - Luke 16:10