How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals

Mar 2, 2018 -

What stands between us and achieving even our most ambitious dreams has less to do with possessing some magical skill or talent than how we approach our problems and make decisions to solve issues.
Stephen Duneier was a consistent C or C- student up till his second year in college. His teacher all said the same thing. Stephen was a smart kid, but he needed to apply himself or focus. Stephen wanted to focus, but he couldn’t sit still for more than 5 minutes at a time. Finally in his junior year of college, he had enough and decided to make a change (a marginal adjustment).
This change would result in him graduating on the Dean’s honor list and on the President’s honor roll. He took that same approach and received his MBA from NYU. Stephen started as a foreign exchange options trader at Credit Suisse and later hired by Bank of America where he was eventually promoted to Global Head of Currency Option Trading. He then took it a step further and incorporated that marginal adjustment to his personal life. Eventually this led him to learn German, ballroom dancing, flying a helicopter, climbing iced waterfalls, and even holding the Guinness World record for largest crocheted granny square.
What margin change did Stephen make that led him to achieve his most lofty goals? 
Stephen took the largest tasks he had and broke them down into small incremental steps.Then along the way, he would also find better ways of doing things to increase his odds of success. For example, if he wanted to read 50 books in a year, to him it wasn’t about the number of books he had to read or the chapters, paragraphs, or sentences. It was about putting one foot in front of the other and reading one word at a time. By breaking the task into more manageable chunk, it kept him focus on the small tasks that he could achieve.
When I was at the bottom of the four mile Yosemite trail, I felt overwhelmed at the thought of walking uphill to get to the top. But there were “checkpoints”, one fourth of the way up you could start to see the top of the trees, halfway you could see the rivers below you, a third of the way up you would see half-dome and finally at the top you get to enjoy the gorgeous view. I put one foot in front of the other and took one step at a time. After two and a half hours of grueling and physical exhaustion, I reached the top!
Stephen noticed that his work commute took 45 minutes each way, 1.5 hours a day, 7.5 hours a week, 30 hours a month, and 360 hours a year. He decided to make a marginal improvement. One day on his way back home, he bought all 33 Pimsleur German CDs and ripped them to his iPod to listen in the car. But he knew that he would be tempted to switch his audio to music. So he took all his music out and that way he could only listen to the German language lessons.
Ten months later, he listened to the German CDs 99 times or three times each. He then took a 16 day intensive German course in Berlin. By the end of all this, he invited his family to meet him. He spoke German to the Germans and they spoke German back. His kids’ jaws just dropped in astonishment.
Novak Djokovic, a previously number one ranked tennis player, wasn’t always number one in the world. In 2005, he was ranked 100+, but rose to 3rd in the world in 2006 and in 2011 reached number one in the world. At these three stages, he won 49%, 79% and 90% of his matches, respectively. However, Novak doesn’t control these statistics. What he has control over is the decision he makes to give him the probability of such success. When he was ranked 100+ in the world he won 49% of his points, to reach 3rd in the world he only had to win 52% of his points. To become one of the greatest in tennis, he had to win 55% of his points. That is only a 3% improvement. While being tennis #1 is not an easy thing to do, these are the types of marginal improvements we need to make to achieve our own goals.
Break big goals to small goals and make marginal improvements along the way.
Copyright © 2007- StockKevin. Disclaimer. All Rights Reserved.