I recently had a conversation with a brilliant salesman—one of those odd people who can both sell and grow other salespeople—who is approaching retirement. He told me he has always felt like a failure. No matter how hard he tries, it is always the 80% of sales that don’t close that are front and center on his mind.
In Michael Phelps’s autobiography, he talks about the routines he established. Routines that went down to the level of which leg he would stretch first (the left), which earbud he would take out first (the right), and which side he would approach the block from (the left). What stood out to me was not so much the detail of the routine but the comment from his coach, Bob Bowman.
“If you were to ask Michael what’s going on in his head before competition, he would say he’s not really thinking about anything. He’s just following the program. But that’s not right. It’s more like his habits have taken over. When the race arrives, he’s more than halfway through his plan and he’s been victorious at every step. All the stretches went like he planned. The warm-up laps were just like he visualized. His headphones are playing exactly what he expected. The actual race is just another step in a pattern that started earlier that day and has been nothing but victories. Winning is a natural extension.”
Habits and routines are the best way to get the small wins that build the momentum for the big wins. The routines can be as simple as always knowing your desired outcome heading into a meeting, starting your workday out the same way each day, or taking a few minutes at the end of a day to decide the next day’s priorities. Never underestimate the value of small wins.