“The way you do anything is the way you do everything” ~ Harv T. Eker
One blistering hot day, two crusty old farmers were sitting on the porch of an old Southern country store, and playing checkers atop a pickle barrel. Between sips of lemonade, they fanned themselves with tattered straw hats, all while keeping a watchful eye on the board, contemplating each other’s next move. Suddenly, their concentration was broken by loud, long, drawn out noise – a cross between a high pitched whine and a groan – that lasted about eight seconds. Shocked and startled, one farmer sat bold up right on his stool and blurted out:
“What the Hell was all that racket!?”
“Calm down, and pay no mind” says the other farmer; “That’s just my ol’ hound dog Rooster.”
“Why in tar-nation is he makin’ that terrible sound? Is he dyin’ or somethin’?” asks the first.
“No, he’s not dyin’ – he’s lying on a piece of wood with a nail stickin’ out of it, and it’s stuck into his hind leg. It’s gotta hurt some, and so he’s moaning away like he is dyin’.”
“That’s just plain crazy” replies his friend; “Why don’t he just get on up and get off of that ol’ piece of wood so it don’t hurt him no more? ”
“I guess it don’t hurt him enough to move”…
I love this story because it clearly illustrates one of the biggest barriers people have to achieving greatness in their lives, and it’s this: Rather than pushing themselves to label their efforts as “excellent” or “a job well done”, many folks will settle for suffer through small (and not necessarily physical) pains or inconveniences, accepting them as “okay” or “not too bad” all to avoid putting in a little extra effort.
But I’ve also noticed that when this choice is allowed to become habitual, it has huge ramifications not just in the moment, but on the overall quality of peoples lives. And since those of you reading this probably don’t have hound dogs lying around, or probably aren’t checker playing farmers living in the deep South, I’ll try and explain my point with examples you can relate to.
Try to imagine the following scenarios playing out over (a) a day, (b) a month and (c) a year by choosing the the mediocre “Not too bad route” and see where you’d wind up after a year. Next, imagine the exact same scenarios, only this time choose the “Do the extra 10% to be excellent” route and see where you’d wind up after a year. If you are anything like me, you’ll realize that the difference between a mediocre life and an excellent one usually comes from “getting off the nail” and applying the extra 10% effort; and as these examples prove, the rewards that come from doing will be tiny in a day, more substantial over a month, and huge over a year.
But wait a minute; can you imagine what would happen if someone spent a whole life time being too lazy to get off the nail? As these examples prove, the results would be catastrophic! Let’s take a look, shall we?
SIX EXAMPLES THAT PROVE OVER TIME, LITTLE CHANGES EQUAL BIG RESULTS
Problem: Poor Eating Habits. We are all busy people right? We don’t have time to grocery shop and buy fruits and vegetables to pack a healthy lunch, right? And besides, it’s easy to just grab some fast food to fill our gut and tie us over at lunchtime anyway, especially because it’s so CHEAP – Damn you AND your value menu, McDonalds! But what if we are to do this over and over and over again? How would our health be affected over time from this habit? You already know the answer – We’d be terrifically unhealthy, overweight, and feel tired and shitty ALL the time. Oh, and let’s not forget, we could possibly be on the track to diabetes.
OR: We could “get up off the nail” by making the time to shop for nutritious foods, and then pack our own lunches to ensure we put good things into our bodies, so we can feel and look our best. Taking this route we’d also save a lot of money, and would have a ton more energy – all because we put in a little extra effort by being organized enough to shop, and then getting up a few minutes early to make our lunch. Little effort = big results.
Problem: Not Saving Money For Retirement. Let’s be honest – it’s hard enough to make ends meet, let alone find a couple hundred dollars (or more!) each month to put away, am I right? But wait a minute; what’s going to happen after 3o or 40 years of this approach? How will our finances look then? Simple – we’d be BROKE! But wait, it gets worse; because at 50 or 60 years old, our options to get on track financially would be slim to none… Not exactly the image of “Golden Years” most of us have in mind.
OR: We could “get up off the nail” and find that extra cash to invest in an RRSP. By sacrificing a few creature comforts each month – you know, like restaurant meals, bar tabs and that “cute shirt” or new pair of jeans you just had to have – then putting that money away instead, retirement would look very different!
Check it out: If someone began putting away $200 per month at age 25 (never increasing the amount) and averaged a 6% return (which over time is more than doable) after 40 years they’d wind up with about $400K for their retirement… a far cry and better option than living in a rent controlled building eating Whiskers out of a can. (For more on this topic, please check this post out) Little effort = big results.
Problem: Not Keeping Up With The Digital World. I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but I’m absolutely stunned whenever I meet someone in this day and age who uses a computer for work, but can’t type beyond the “hunt and peck” method… AYFKM!? Or for that matter, anyone who believes they can stay relevant in our digital world, but who insists on using antiquated technologies like fax machines, beepers and paper copies of everything stuffed into brimming filling cabinets… What’s the deal with these guys?
Here’s what – despite the world changing, many people (mostly my age) don’t feel the need to change along with it, since iPads and digital copies and emails and online tutorials and e-commerce etc. too intimidating to learn. Instead, it’s just easier just to sum it all up by saying “I’m not a computer guy” and then lag behind the modern world, dragging their asses and holding the rest of us up from getting our jobs done.
OR: These dinosaurs could “get up off the nail” by actually learning how to (a) type, and (b) use these technologies effectively and efficiently so they understand how they can make things easier. Accepting technology and understanding how it works would not only make these people more relevant in their professions, but would also open up their personal worlds tremendously It would also provide them with confidence to do new and exciting things they never thought possible; but only if they try. Little effort = big results.
Problem: People Who Are Late All The Time. We all know someone (hopefully it’s not us) who is chronically late; and to be clear, I’m not talking about one-off’s here, but rather those folks who habitually show up to work at five past the hour (then get coffee, say hello to everyone and finally settle in at twenty past) or who say “I’ll meet you at the restaurant at noon” which you know means them showing up between 12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. and making the same excuse they’ve given the past hundred times, blaming everyone and everything but themselves. What these self-centered individuals don’t seem to realize is just how disrespectful this ongoing behaviour is to everyone else around them; that by them being chronically late they both waste other peoples time, and put the burden of responsibility on everyone else.
OR: These people could “get up off the nail” by planning their schedules to arrive on time to their appointments, and allow some extra time for anomalies in routine like heavy traffic, construction zones, etc. Bette yet, they could simply plan to arrive to appointments ten minutes before they are supposed to be there, and then plan accordingly. This simple shift would both earn them respect, and make their life far less stressful since they wouldn’t need to put so much energy into making excuses why they are always late. Little effort = big results.
Problem: Not Remembering or Acknowledging Special Days: Whereas “problem” may be too strong of a word for this, I have to say one area where I need to do better myself is recognizing family and friends special days with cards, small gifts or a little extra treatment. Unfortunately, these days we live in a world where Facebook automatically tells us when peoples birthday are, so we send out a quick messages like “Hey! Happy Birthday – have fun!” then try to convince ourselves we’ve made an honest effort to make these people feel truly special; something which you and I both know, is not the case. To create such a feeling, a true effort must be put in to create a small memory of some kind.
OR: We can “get up off the nail” by putting some honest time, thought and effort in to create – even if it’s small – an effective memory. Maybe pick out (or create) the right card or small gift and mail it to surprise someone on their birthday. Maybe plan a surprise party or secret dinner with friends, or just the two of you. Maybe drop by their work with a single rose at lunch, with a card that lets them know there’s something special waiting for them after work. Either way, all I’m saying is simply and conveniently posting wishes on Facebook may acknowledge someone; but if you truly want to make their special day, er, truly special, it takes more effort than “liking” a post or typing a few words on their Facebook wall. Little effort = big results.
Problem: Not Giving 100% Effort In Everything We Do: After a while, everyone gets tired and loses motivation with certain chores and tasks; trust me, I get it. But when we give into this, we run a real risk of not putting forth our best effort, or worse – just neglecting certain things all together because we just don’t think they make much of a difference for us. You know what I mean: Perhaps we choose to stay in bed an extra 15 minutes rather than getting up and pressing a shirt or shining our shoes to look smart for our jobs. Or maybe we let our empty bottles and garbage pile up on our back porch rather than taking them to the dump and the recycling centre. We might even drive around in a car that’s filthy, grimy and dirty inside and out, rather than take the hour to give it a really good cleaning… you know what I mean, right? We’ve all been there. But now, consider this:
What if you showed up at work in your wrinkled shirt and scuffed shoes, and were introduced to a customer/client who could really impact your day; would you feel embarrassed as they looked over your sloppy appearance? Or what if you invited friends over for a bbq, and they brought some other friends you hadn’t met before; how would you feel when they spotted months of garbage and empty bottles on your deck, just piling up and rotting away? Or imagine someone you like, or want to impress asks for an impromptu ride home – what do you say to them as they sit in a dirty, grimy car full of dust and garbage? Would you feel like you’ve made points with them, or just be embarrassed at the mess you’ve allowed your car to become?
Everyone of these scenarios – and many more – can be totally avoided by simply “getting up off the nail” and putting in a little extra time in everything we do. I’m talk every thing from our diet, to money management, to technology, to honouring time commitments, to truly acknowledging special days, looking our best, to keeping our affairs in order, etc – I mean to EVERY SINGLE THING we do.
And here’s the best part: When we DO put forth our very best 100% effort, something incredible happens. Not only does it make people view us in a more positive light, but more importantly it makes us view ourselves in a more positive life – and isn’t that the most important thing? To see ourselves as the very best we can be? I think it is; and it all comes down to one simple idea… taking the time and effort to “get off the nail” and put in the extra 10% to do our very best; and then over time, watch what a difference this makes in all areas of our lives.
Not a bad trade off, eh? Just remember: Little effort = big results, and you’ll do great.