How to Succeed by Aiming Ridiculously Low
Aiming high is overrated.
Aim ridiculously low if you want swift response and immediate action.
Big goals are marshmallow clouds on chocolate rain Mondays, unless they distill into small daily behaviors.
Ask a team member, “What’s your energy level right now on a scale of 1 to 10?” Don’t challenge or judge their response. Accept it. Suppose they say, “6.”
Follow up with a ridiculously low question. “What could you do to raise your energy level to 6.1?”
Easily answered questions generate quick options. Possibilities fall like rain.
- Take a quick walk.
- Spend three minutes focused on your breathing. Aim even lower. Set a timer for 30 seconds.
- Drink water.
- Eat a banana.
- Say something encouraging to a colleague.
- Call a friend.
- Do something you’ve been putting off.
Move the needle by .1:
- You give yourself a 7 on providing timely feedback. How might you move that to 7.1?
- You rate yourself an 8 on providing clarity. How might you become an 8.1?
- How might you strengthen a strained relationship by .1%?
- How might we increase the momentum of our team meetings by .1%?
- How might you lower stress by .01%?
Swift response requires short timelines.
- This morning.
What might you do to raise your energy from 6 to 6.1 today?
Today’s incremental change is better than tomorrow’s grand dream.
Shift from ‘you’ to ‘I’ if you want to give support. What could I do to help elevate your energy from 6 to 6.1?
Discouraged people need support, but don’t validate their helplessness.
How might leaders use the power of aiming low?
In leadership workshops that Nick Saban (Alabama football coach) does, he says he preaches a similar concept to his players: As you play the game, do not focus on the what the score will be at the end of the game; constantly focus on exactly what you’re doing, and what effort you’re giving on the very next (incremental) play of the game. Because one small incremental mistake, or one small extra incremental effort that breaks a big play on that very next play, could be the incremental change that determines the final score and outcome of the game. Bottom line: focus on giving best effort each small, manageable step, one incremental step/play at a time — and by doing that, you’ll have biggest impact on building toward the desired final outcome.
Thanks Gerry. Love the illustration. You remind me of focus on the next play not the score.
Fabulous concept Dan, I’m raising my levels as I read the article and Kudos to Gerry on the “Nick Saban” concept! But I’m still not an Alabama football fan, unless its “Sweet Home Alabama”, the song, because the skies are so Blue ( Penn State blue) just, me ! “Just saying” Seriously coach Saban is a remarkable coach and his records show it, I believe his message hits home for his players reflect the end results!
Thanks Tim. It’s amazing how lowering our aim opens the mind to opportunities!
I’m with you on the Blue!
This concept of +.1% is encouraging, liberating and sparks optimism to move in a positive direction. Change on an incremental level is nonthreatening. Aim low and move the target close. Thanks for the shift in perspective that opens up possibilities.
Thanks Mick. You sure captured this post in sentence. I wish I’d thought of +.1%. It looks great on the screen!
“The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
If you ask someone to go a thousand miles for you they will say it’s impossible.
But they are usually willing and able to go one step.
“How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time!
Thanks Margaret. I hadn’t thought of aiming low in the context of eating the elephant. Nice connection!
Dan, I love this.
“What could you do to raise your energy level to 6.1?”, and “shift from ‘you’ to ‘I’ if you want to give support.”
Many times I have heard the reply “Go away (or similar words!) and stop bugging me with something new to do every two minutes. I don’t have time to go to the toilet, never mind taking a walk!”
Sometimes energy levels are low simply because you’ve run the battery flat.
Thanks Mitch. Your comment reminds me that if we expect to pour a lot out, we must pour a lot in. If we don’t we run dry. (Or go flat as you say)
Pouring into ourselves, even in tiny incrments, reflects a commitment to achieving remarkable success. I wish leaders would capture the idea of self-development and self-care. It takes them further.
As a pastor of a small church and part-time teacher of high school seniors, this is gold: “Discouraged people need support, but don’t validate their helplessness.” I deal with discouraged people all the time, and sometimes find myself among them. Thanks for these little tips to raise one’s game just .1.
Thanks Pete. Your comment reminded me of whose got the monkey. I think we encourage helplessness when we take their monkey and make it ours. It usually better to help people manage their own monkeys.
I would feel ‘redundant’ by reiterating so much of above. BUT my life is a testimony to “eating one bite at a time in order to consume the Elephant. Out our 10 year running Talk Show this has been discussed many times.
One mindset most needed it to throw off a societal influence and learn to become YOU.
When I came the internet I chuckled and chided the ‘Guru class’ promoting think BIG……..
Doing small becomes HUGE and is monumental in growing a Positive attitude and enjoying YOUR successes.
Alway enjoy reading your posts.
Thanks Chuck. I’m getting so much out of today’s comments. “Doing small becomes HUGE…” is a powerful statement. It’s sad that many people wait for the big stuff and never end up doing much. If they would have done the small stuff they would have eventually arrived at the ‘big’ stuff.
Great information and concept. I would like to hear more to help distinguish the difference between this concept for a leader vs. a “follower”, or someone that does not have responsibility for the “BIG” picture. We all do, but the leader carries the proverbial “gun to the head” for the score at the end of the game too. By getting .1% more out of a person sounds good to me, but when your company is driving improvements of 10 – 15%, it may take too long to achieve expectations for the “powers that be”. Your insight on this would be welcome, Dan.
Lastly, I see excellent results from using your principle for improvement/care of my own life. Who would have finished a degree, saved for a BIG vacation, received a YES on their engagement proposal if they had not done the baby steps. Dave Ramsey has capitalized on this in his Financial Peace program for many years.
Thank you for your words!
If you could get 0.1% a day for 6 months, you would get 13%.
But, if you allow me to change my ‘sunny hat’ to my ‘black hat’, why does management think 10% – 15% is achievable? Is that what the competition are getting? Have they done benchmarking? Identified some new technique or technology?
And perhaps more important, what happens next, if you do hit the target?
Thanks Ben. You final question intrigues me. When I read it, I thought about how people feel when it’s never good enough.
Hi Dan, I’m always impressed by how much effort you put into responding to comments.
You’ve captured my concern, I think.
If I’m right in thinking that that part of your argument in this article is that setting small, achievable goals sends the message “I want you to succeed”, then what is Doug’s company doing?
Great question. My experience indicates that if people just get started they end up accomplishing more than .1%. It’s not so much that we should settle for +.1%, it’s that this is a beginning.
Heck, if you can find a way to quickly grab +10%, do it. But when you feel stuck, aim low.
I have been doing coaching on engagement with some of my colleagues and we have been discussing what it would take to get from 6 to 7 out of 10. I will add this tiny goal to today, to our conversation and let you know how I go!
Thanks Zac. I wonder what changes in your groups thinking when you aim ridiculously low? Hope you stop back in and lest us know about the pros and cons.
Dan, your post is particularly timely for me. A few weeks ago a gentleman by the name of Perry Holley spoke at a business leaders luncheon that our church hosts. As he talked about intentional living he introduced the concept of doing very small things EVERY day (365 days per year). Do one push up, read two pages, drink one glass of water… EVERY day. The goals are so low they aren’t threatening. This has been life changing for me. I find that the daily discipline of small things leads to more progress than setting high goals that there never seems to be time to tackle or even start on. I chose 8 things to do EVERY day. I find that once I get in position to do a single pushup, for example, doing 3 or 10 or 30 isn’t so hard. The first one is by far the hardest but the goal of that one is not threatening. Thanks for your post that reinforces this concept of the power of setting the bar really low in order to ultimately achieve really high results!
Thanks Paul. Love the expression “the daily discipline of small things.” I’m so glad you shared your story. I find it encouraging. Plus, you illustrate the point I’m trying make. 🙂
Enjoyed your article greatly as it contained a line of argument that is practical and excellent. Thank you for sharing it. Best wishes –