Over the holiday break I had the chance to do lots of sleeping, eating, and reading. Definitely feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle our next set of adventures together. Reminding myself of the balance of intensity/passion and patience/long-term thinking is always a frustrating self-conversation. I’m so impatient - I want it all. And yesterday. Recognizing this is an improvement area for me, reading what more patient people think has always helped me provide another perspective - not to lose my edge or temperament that ‘we need to be the change we want to see in the world,’ but to keep in mind that things take time. There are always going to be exceptions to the rule, but that is what makes the rule in the first place, after all. I don’t think that I’m special or able to bend the laws of knowledge creation or value creation - saving money, eating healthy, and the repetition of studying foreign languages have always been some of my least favorite activities - but they are tried are true methods to reach some of my own long-term goals: financial freedom, longevity and health, and fluency in multiple languages. So you want to be a millionaire? In your 20s, you just need to set aside 10% of your monthly paychecks if you are making $40,000 (assuming compounding rate of 6%, which is more-or-less at historical market rates). If you start saving in your 30s it’s definitely more you need to set aside, but you’re also likely earning more at the time. And if you don’t touch that money, by the time you’re in your sixties, you have a million dollars! But how many people are able to control their impulses and not spend that money? So few! Putting $4,000 away per year sounds like a lot, but it’s only $330 per month. That’s a bunch of Starbucks coffees. Or three big nights out with friends. Or one dress or one watch or one video game console. Why is it, then, that so few people are able to save? There’s some great literature on this, though the largest takeaway that I had after reading a number of papers on the subject is that it’s super hard for people to measure their success. Initial signs of progress take time to develop. But once a person “feels they’re on the right track,” everything changes. Measuring your progress towards long-term success is hard. That’s why most people never get there. So everything starts off just fine and the savings begins. Or the diet starts off great in weeks one and two. Or the Chinese language studying starts off great for the first 100 characters. And then we begin comparing ourselves to our end goal. (not using presumptive goal-setting, mind you!) “Oh man - I’m only 100 characters in and I want to hit 3000 - I’ll never get there. I’m going to cancel my lesson - let’s go to the park and hang out.” “What?! This guy has got to be kidding me. I’ve been saving for a year and I’m nowhere close to being a millionaire. Let’s just use this money to go on an awesome vacation.”
“I’ve lost one pound in two weeks? And I’m not letting myself eat pizza?! Forget about it - this diet thing is nonsense.”
Measuring your progress towards long-term success is hard. That’s why most people never get there.
As groups, I would argue we’re just as susceptible to this sort of thinking.
“How am I really contributing? 40 Parent Coach Conferences? That’s just a drop in the bucket?” No way - It’s a big deal and we wouldn’t be able to provide exceptional experiences if everyone didn’t contribute together on these meetings. Thank you for hosting these and supporting with them, everyone.
“Do I really need to add in my attendance data? What difference does it make if one class isn’t there?” Getting a full semester’s worth of attendance and win/loss data is may be a pain in the rear sometimes, but the compilation of all of this information at the conclusion of the semester will allow us to iterate our course offerings and continue to improve them as best we are able. It does make a huge difference, so thank you for recording this info.
“There are hundreds of students - what difference does it make if I’m able to match this single one with a partner? There are many fish in the sea.” The difference you make in that student’s experience is huge. Thank you for challenging them to find partners first and simultaneously supporting them in that quest.
Deciding not to get that morning coffee. Waking up early and taking a brisk walk. Selecting water over soda. These are seemingly small actions that when repeated have massive effects.
Leading by example to students. Arriving on time. Presenting ourselves professionally. Providing thoughtful comments to parents and students. Sharing suggestions for speeches. These ‘one-time’ actions add up to create a culture of excellence.
Are they sometimes tough to measure? Yes.
Do they matter? Yes.
Are they a matter of life and death for our company? They just might be.
Measuring our progress towards long-term success is hard. That’s why most companies never get there.
Just when it feels like we’re pushing a boulder up a hill, I ask you to brace yourself and look back from where we’ve come.
The view is pretty spectacular, ain’t it?
Baby steps to big dreams.