In Praise Of The Boring

A few years ago, I happened to talk to a national sports star. We were backstage and we got a few minutes together before he stepped on stage to receive an award.  He got me to sing a new tune in praise of the boring. The man had a stellar track record, medals and endorsement deals as well. He was candid about his life and career. As we meandered to his daily routines, he became thoughtful. With half a smile I remember him say, “If the world gets to know how repetitive and boring my daily life is, my success will lose it shine”. 

We let go of muffled laughs knowing fully well, that there wasn’t statement more true!

What got me on this trail was a quote from Jim Collins.

“No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.”

Its not one thing. Its many. All working in tandem!  Well, what would happen to dreams of becoming overnight successes?

The Success Domino

The success domino is a result of doing small things with consistency and feedback. The first step seems deceptively simple! But when you take care to increase the challenge quotient on the step, stay consistent with it and get regular feedback, you have a success domino.

Here’s a formula that I wrote, studying the work of Anders Ericsson, whose works is an important foundation to my thinking.

Expertise or success domino =

( Focused Effort +  Reflection & feedback + Higher Challenge) X Consistency. 

 That is definitely not ‘one thing’ to go after.  The hard truth is that success is a product of many lanes coming together well.  It is to get at a few essentials and staying consistent with it and to keep building on the essentials.

In Praise Of The Boring

I have studied the lives of some of the men and women who are overnight successes. I have some stuff to report.

Consistent Habits and routines multiplied by periodic reflection and recalibration produces overnight successes!

Every ‘overnight success’ has years of focused effort behind it. Many of us, like fireflies get attracted to the limelight without realising that it is a hot and hard place too! The unvarnished truths that go into the making of the success will make you sing songs in praise of the boring. Just like me.

So, what can you do?

I remember the conversation with the national sportsman. He said, falling in love with four things is critical. 

1. Fall in love with setting routines. It is not about the routines themselves. But the process of setting them, reviewing them and following them through is what really counts.

2. Get hard feedback from your support system. Enlist other people on to your journey.

3. Increase your challenge level and stay consistent with increasing your challenge levels.

4. Check in on what you are letting go. The more you slice away, that is stuff that does not fall in line with your goals, the better your chances of hitting your goals.

I remember looking at him as he said these instinctively. He caught my stare and asked me, “Boring, no?”

In a short while from then, the sportsman stepped on to the limelight to accept the award. The bright lights he stood under threw a lengthy shadow that extended quite close to where I was standing backstage.

That was the boring shadow of work, I thought.

Start small

If there is one thing that I want to add, it is only this: start small, but start. And stay consistent with it! The pathways to big dreams are established traversing a frail trail, with great consistency.  Perhaps it seems boring. But this post is in praise of boring. Because embracing the boring leads to success!

OWL Despatch
OWL Despatch

The OWL Despatch

This is edition 81 of The OWL Despatch! It’s a labour of love with a short essay and five links for readers. It goes out every other Tuesday. As always, here are five pieces that I read over the last two weeks that could kick start some thinking in you.

1. Tips for Conquering Self-Doubt at Work.

2. Do you keep score? Well, stop it! Check this out.

3. 21 Places of the Future. It triggers thoughts about what the future looks like

4. The psychological ingredients of high-performing teams

5. Reading aloud to children has benefits for behaviour and attention

I have some important conversations coming up online (on Clubhouse and Webinars). This edition’s reading list reflects these I think.  Boring, you said? Well!

Thanks much for staying connected. Stay safe in these troubled times.

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