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One Small Action Separates Success From Mediocrity.

One Small Action Separates Success From Mediocrity.

To put this into perspective, first I’m going to tell you a story:

An aging farmer realized he was becoming too old to care for his farm, and was now ready to pass his farm down to one of his two sons. When he brought his sons together to discuss his decision, he told them: The farm will go to the younger son.

The older son was furious! “How could you not give the farm to me?! I have worked here longer!” he fumed.

The father sat patiently, thinking.

“Okay,” the father said to the older son, “I need you to do something for me. We need more stocks. Will you go to Cibi’s farm and see if he has any cows for sale?”

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The older son shortly returned and reported, “Father, Cibi has 6 cows for sale.”

The father graciously thanked the older son for his work. He then turned to the younger son and said, “I need you to do something for me. We need more stocks. Will you go to Cibi’s farm and see if he has any cows for sale?”

The younger son did as he was asked. A short while later, he returned and reported, “Father, Cibi has 6 cows for sale. Each cow will cost 2,000 rupees. If we are thinking about buying more than 6 cows, Cibi said he would be willing to reduce the price 100 rupees. Cibi also said they are getting special jersey cows next week if we aren’t in a hurry, it may be good to wait. However, if we need the cows urgently, Cibi said he could deliver the cows tomorrow.”

The father graciously thanked the younger son for his work. He then turned to the older son and said, “That’s why your younger brother is getting the farm.”

The reason why the younger son got the farm is because he was willing to do more than just the bare minimum. This virtue can be translated to any aspect of effort, whether it be school, your career, a passion, or a hobby. Those who are willing to go above and beyond will reap the benefits of their hard work.

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What Separates the Ordinary from the Extraordinary?

• To be a good worker, you must know how to follow instructions. To be a great worker, you need to know how to anticipate the next step. Many people passively wait for direction instead of taking the initiative to do more without having to be asked.

• Think back to when you were at school: when you were assigned an essay, more than likely you made sure to meet the requirements, the word count, and the information that had to be covered. But did you really put your heart into it? Did you think of how you were really going to rock this concept, leaving your teacher with a new perception of the topic? Did you consider how to structure the essay for maximum impact? It’s okay if you didn’t. You probably still got a good grade. But that essay will never be remembered.

• At work when you are given an assignment, you’re sure to meet all of the necessary requirements to fulfill the task. But do you think ahead to what the next step could be? Do you consider which aspects of the assignment could be revised for better accuracy? If you just do the bare minimum and wonder why you aren’t recognized or promoted, perhaps it’s time for some reflection.

• Successful people don’t just complete the task at hand, they think of ways to improve the work. This is how you get noticed. This is how you get ahead.

• Successful people ensure that they can get ahead by strategically planning the steps that must be taken to get to their ultimate goal.

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• Anticipate challenges and changes. Things don’t always go as planned, and you can’t freeze up when things don’t go your way. Instead, embrace the challenges and think of ways to overcome the obstacles. You will be noticed for your quick and strategic thinking.

• The thing that most separates the successful from the mediocre is identifying your weaknesses and finding ways to improve them and turn them into strengths. Successful people are always actively trying to improve, knowing that they could always do better. Complacency is the enemy.

• There’s nothing wrong with being average. If you’re comfortable and don’t feel the need to strive for more, that’s okay. But just realize that you will always stay at your current level, passively following directions, without ever contributing personal thoughts or insights. Your opinion will never be asked, your expertise will never be called upon. In the work force we call these people “bodies.” People who fulfill their job, but never go the extra mile, and never move up in their career.

Being successful is a choice. Most people don’t achieve the extra-ordinary by luck. They proactively take an extra step in order to get ahead. Many of us don’t have mentors to point out our weaknesses and show us how to improve. We must take it upon ourselves to identify those factors, and learn how to strengthen those loose ends.

How About Doing More Than You Think You Can?

The most successful leaders constantly ask themselves these questions to improve upon themselves, their product, and their brand.

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Business masterminds such as Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Inc.) and Elon Musk (CEO and product Architect of Tesla, SpaceX and a number of powerful, influential companies) never settled after achieving the success of one product or project. Instead, they continued to strive for more. Each milestone is really just a stepping stone for what’s next. That is how these men managed to become so successful and influential. Strategic planning, and hard work.

You Have to Stand Out in Order to be Noticed.

It’s not enough to just want something. Everyone wants to get ahead, but few do because they don’t take the initiative to excel.

When trying to climb the corporate ladder, there’s an overwhelming amount of competition. You really have to make an impression in order to be noticed. Following directions and doing a “good job” won’t do that for you. Corporations need worker bees in order to make the business work, so you will be left right where you are. You need to prove that you’re a valuable asset, a force to be reckoned with. That is how to transition from being the one who follows orders, to the one who gives them. You need to have ideas, and not be afraid to set them into motion.

I worked in food service for most of my life as a cook. My ultimate goal was always to achieve Michelin status, and work in one of those super strict glimmering kitchens that most cooks only dream about. Finally, I got my chance. I went in for my interview with my sharpened knives and ironed uniform. The incredibly intimidating Chef took me into the walk-in fridge and told me to make anything I wanted. I panicked and came up with a very ordinary dish that included caramelized orange segments. I sprinkled the segments with sugar, and placed them in the broiler to caramelize the sugar, but it wouldn’t turn on. One of the line cooks handed me a blow torch, saying that they lit the broiler with it because the pilot was out. I took the segments out, and instead used the blowtorch to candy the oranges. To be honest, my plate alone probably wouldn’t have gotten me the job. But the quick thinking and problem solving is what got me recognized.

To be successful, you can’t be stagnant. You need to embrace challenges and think of ways to overcome them. Most importantly, you need to have the courage to excel. Success can be scary, because you need to commit to it; people look up to you. But you can’t wish your way to success. You need to work for it.

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Featured photo credit: Solar Tribune via google.com

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

How Traveling Can Drastically Improve Your Interpersonal Skills How We Are Confusing Self-Love with Narcissism In This Generation One Small Action Separates Success From Mediocrity. How Not To Turn Meaningful Discussions Into Arguments By Keeping This 1 Thing In Mind. How We Are Attracting Fake News and False Information to Our Lives

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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