Like most people I know, I’m excited to watch the 2012 Summer Games in London this year. On my way into work this morning, they were announcing that the Opening Ceremonies would be taking place later this morning (this evening London time). I’m looking forward to watching the re-broadcast tonight after I get home from work.
In high school, I swam on the swim team and played water polo. I appreciate how much hard work goes into preparing for something like the Olympic games and look forward to watching athletes compete at the top of their games.
From 1967 to 1976 East Germany’s Roland Matthes dominated the 100 and 200 meter backstroke setting nine world records. In 1976 when John Nabor won four Gold Medals, a Silver Medal, and set four new World Records (including a new record for the 100 and 200 meter backstroke) at the Montreal Olympic Games, I was swimming the 100 and 200 freestyle and John Nabor became a personal hero.
Nabor is the perfect example of what author Robert Collier was describing when he wrote, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” As a teenager, I had the opportunity to hear Nabor speak about his Olympic success. You might be surprised at how he toppled the Roland Matthes swimming dynasty.
Mathhes held the record for the 100 meter backstroke of 56:30 seconds and the 200 meter backstroke of 2:01:87, which he set at Munich, Germany in 1972 and Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1973 respectively. As Nabor described it, he was several seconds slower than Matthes, which might as well have been minutes among Olympic athletes.
Nabor wanted to win the Gold and set a new record at the 76′ Games. Doing this required setting goals that would push him to stretch, but were also realistic and attainable. This is what he did:
- He determined how many seconds he needed to cut off of his time in order to set a new World Record and divided it by four (the years he had to prepare for the Olympics).
- He calculated how much faster he would need to be each month and each week to meet the yearly goals.
- He then considered the number of days and workouts each day to determine how much faster he would need to be every day and every workout.
- Finally, he calculated how much faster he would need to be within every set of every workout, and thought “I can do this.”
By subdividing the goal into small, incremental improvements he was not only able to beat Matthes for the Gold, but was also able to set a new World Record for the 100 meter backstroke of 55.49. What’s more, his 200 meter World Record of 1.59.19 was the first under two minutes and along with his 100 meter record, stood for seven years.
Naber’s story is meaningful because it demonstrates that sometimes, in my opinion most of the time, gradual and steady progress contributes to monumental outcomes. There is nothing easy about owning a small business. Like Nabor, most of the time success depends upon what we consistently do every day to improve. In today’s business climate, there is no time to sit back and enjoy yesterday’s successes. Business owners need to start every day with a determination to do just a little better today than they did yesterday, like my Olympic hero John Nabor.
What are you doing to make incremental improvements that will ultimately help you enjoy the “Thrill of Victory”?