The Only New Year’s Resolution You’ll Need in 2020
Most of the world recognizes this picture from the 2008 Summer Olympics. On August 16, 2008, the ten best sprinters in the world are nearing the finish line of the men’s 100 meter final in China’s National Stadium in the Beijing Olympics. Only eight of the competitors are shown in this picture, two others are trailing behind the pack. In the picture Usain Bolt is leading by a comfortable margin and as he approaches the finish line, begins to look backward to see just how far ahead of the fastest people in the world he is.
Bolt set an Olympic record that day with a time of 9.69 seconds, several meters and 2-tenths of a second ahead of the next closest finisher. In fact, so forceful was his performance that he actually started slowing down at the 70 meter mark, savoring his victory in this now-famous photo. What most people don’t realize is that his utterly dominant victory was slowed down with a poor start out of the blocks and an untied shoelace! Over the next decade Bolt came to own so many Olympic and World records that his record of excellence may never be rivaled.
Is Bolt some kind of a super-human athlete, a freak of nature as a result of perfect genetics for sprinting? Or did he employ certain strategies and tactics that have caused him to win? Or a little of bot
The Bolt Principle: Incremental Excellence = Winning Performances
In Olympic and world championship events, all of the finalists in an event are world-class athletes. While there are favorites, on any given day any one of the competitors could win the race or event. This is true for both individuals and teams.
A few key observations Usain Bolt’s performances teach us:
- The winners are not twice as fast, or twice as strong as the pack.
- In reality, the Number One finisher is usually tenths or hundredths of a second faster than finishers 2-10.
- Yet some individuals seem to dominate the winning.
So what’s their secret? Why are they consistent winners?
Usain Bolt, like all consistent individual and team winners, thoroughly understands the events in which he participates. He breaks down the each event in to the smallest possible increments, and then determines to win each small increment. For Bolt, this means becoming just marginally better that his competitors in dozens of aspects, such as:
- How he visualizes the race hundreds of time before race day.
- His pre-race diet and rest cycles.
- His understanding of the track and its conditions
- How he sets up in the blocks.
- How he has trained is fast-twitch muscles.
- How he breathes while waiting in the blocks.
- How he has trained his hearing for the pre-sounds of the starting gun.
- How he takes his first step out of the blocks.
And on and on and on in each of the incremental elements of the event.
By being just marginally better than the rest of the field in all of the essential increments, he delivers world-class performance after world-class performance. I call the compound effect of mastering the incremental, the Bolt Principle. Observe his day-to-day practice and preparation for the races he wins in order to see these things for yourself.
Why the Bolt Principle is the Only New Year’s Resolution You Need
Instead of torturing yourself with some massive change for this year’s soon-to-be-abandoned New Year’s resolutions, commit to applying the Bolt Principle to your professional and/or personal life.
In winning the world record that day in 2008, Bolt didn’t obsess over a poor start or untied shoe. Instead, he focused on doing just incrementally better in all of the aspects of the preparing for and running in the race. Look at the picture again – does he look like he’s obsessing over the few things he didn’t do well, or is he enjoying the moment of having done many things incrementally better?
Regardless of what you do, every activity you do can be broken down into its incremental elements, whether selling, managing, writing, planning, or any other activity. If selling, your incremental elements include how well you execute the core selling competencies such as needs assessments and follow-up. If managing people, your incremental elements are how well you execute core management competencies such as providing feedback and coaching.
The Bolt Principle says that in order to win, become marginally better in executing each incremental element instead of obsessing over one single aspect. Whenever we obsess over a single aspect of our performance, we do so by excluding our focus on other aspects of what we are doing. The return on your focus for marginal improvement in many elements is far, far greater than the return on your focus to make a single element perfect. How freeing it is to not have to be perfect in one thing!
Rather than select a New Year’s resolution in which you’ll lose interest and tire of in a few weeks, consider how and where you can apply the Bolt Principal to add incremental improvement across many elements of what you do. Pretty soon you’ll begin to see world-class improvement that will satisfy and encourage even greater improvement. So go ahead and seize this new decade with the Bolt Principle!
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