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Find Your 1% Marginal Gains

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” ~ Bruce Lee.

The process of continuous improvement is how we have evolved, so why stop now? However, when we think about improvements to ourselves, our lives and our work, we often think big, i.e.: new job, more money, better car, idealistic fitness, supreme health, idyllic family etc. Now I'm all for thinking big, bigger and even bigger than that; I'm positively evangelical about the benefits of thinking big, but how do you actually achieve the big goals? It's all very well talking the talk, but now we need to walk the talk!

You can't think big and hope for the best, you have to actively do something towards the improvements you seek; it takes work and a supreme dedication to your cause (be it higher turnover, lower blood pressure or anything else in between). So, the nutshell advice here is this: think big by focusing on the small and seemingly insignificant details, go holistic and start – mindfully – collecting the marginal gains.

I'm sure you remember the 2012 Olympics, and how triumphant Team GB were in general? You may also be aware that Dave Brailsford was the Performance Director for Team GB's cycling team; for the Tour de France as well as the Olympics? Dave Brailsford followed the aggregation of marginal gains tenet: the 1% margin for improvement in everything you do – and just look at the success he and the team have accomplished as a result! Brailsford took a completely new holistic approach to training, preparation and performance, with no detail too small to scrutinise. Everything was evaluated, specifically looking for where the 1% marginal gain could be snatched from the opposition. They scrutinised every detail from nutrition, bike seat ergonomics, to even how the team washed their hands (to avoid infection), and it paid dividends by the continuing medal haul.

So how does this apply to you as i.e.: a floral designer, tattooist, car dealer or seamstress? Well, Brailsford's philosophies are transferable, whatever your speciality may be. First you must take a forensically holistic look at what you do, and think about how you can optimise every aspect of yourself, your life; i.e.: what you eat, how you sleep, what you wear, how you work, when you rest, who you choose to spend time with. Only you can scrutinise your life in enough minute detail to find where the 1% marginal gains may be awaiting discovery, but a mentor, life coach and thinking partner can help you look in all of the right places.

By applying the art of mindfulness to everything you do, ask yourself “how could this be optimised; where is the marginal gain to be had from this choice/activity?” You understand now why I said this tenet needs a supreme level of dedication to garner the results you seek? Not everyone will be willing to commit to such an intense process of improvement, and that's okay because we are all wondrously different. For those capable and willing to go “lock on” to achieving significantly better results, then this is one strong and sure fire way of activating what's possible. The effectiveness of the marginal gains mindset is proven by Team GB's cycling haul of gold medals in 2012 alone: 70% of all cycling gold medals available!


Don't underestimate the power and value of every detail within yourself, your life, your work. Everything can always be improved upon because perfection is a myth. You just need to continue being 1% better than you were yesterday, to work harder and go farther than everyone else, because excellence is in the details. If you give your attention to the details, excellence will follow.

Remember, neither success nor failure happen overnight, they are both the sum of many small choices made over a period of time, so apply mindfulness to your decision making processes and continuously find your 1% marginal gains.


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