Tag Archives: discipline

How Marginal Gains Provide the Steps to Success

Currently reading Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life by James Kerr.

This has been a fantastic read so far that shares the life and leadership lessons from one of the world’s premier rugby teams.

One of the chapters that I just finished talks about marginal gains which the author defines as “100 things done 1% better to deliver cumulative competitive advantage.” It is natural for leaders to focus on the big picture, to share the 30,000 foot perspective, and to constantly remind teams about the vision and mission. The struggle happens when that is the only focus and the daily grind is overlooked.

Great leadership carries the tension between the vision and the implementation. Between the dream and the details. Between success and sustainability.

How does a leader accomplish this? Through becoming an intentional role model in the area of marginal gains.

* Look at your dream or vision and begin to work backwards outlining the steps necessary to achieve success.

* Start with today, be the best you can be today, and measure what a marginal gain would look like.

* Review your day, resetting goals for tomorrow that include your desired marginal gain.

* Begin again with a new standard of achievement and keep the process moving forward one step at a time.

Whether you need to improve in vision casting, one-on-one relationships, writing skills, or project management, you will gain success as you improve slightly each day. A reality of growth is that if you are not moving forward, then you are in danger of being passed up, or even moving backwards. Don’t be overwhelmed by the dream, but take the small steps necessary to achieve your dream!

What are you doing today that if you improved by 1% each day the next week would make the greatest difference?

What about your team?

The cumulative effect of the marginal gains of your team will build momentum and carry you towards the success you are aiming for. There is definitely a place in leadership to sweat the small stuff and to celebrate small victories. The accumulation of many small victories leads to the ultimate success that we are all dreaming of!


Capture Your Next Great Idea

I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to remember what I believe I should remember. I find myself walking back into rooms in hopes that my thought is still floating in the air waiting for me to engage with it again. I couldn’t tell you how often I have had the next great idea and then within moments it was gone!

Thankfully, I have done a much better job with remembering the times that God touched my heart in a powerful way and challenged me to a new way of living. The difference is that I tend to write down the things God tells me, but by default forget to write down what I tell myself.

Admittedly, I am a big picture dreamer and visionary. I love potential and future and hope and the anticipation of what might be waiting around the corner. I love new ideas, innovative tasks and strategic planning. However, this all comes to naught if at the end of the day I don’t actually change anything or accomplish anything. Dreams without action simply remain dreams. But when I add action then the sky’s the limit to what might happen!

Over the years, I have applied how I interact with God to how I interact with everything else and I simply write it down. I have a standing note on my phone to capture new ideas, as well as a paper notebook at home. It doesn’t really matter how you might capture your next great idea…what matters is that you capture it. The sooner and more thoroughly that you capture the dream, the more likely that you will follow through with an idea to completion.

So, what are the main benefits of capturing your next big idea?

** Seeing my dreams and ideas written out makes them more real and concrete. They become possible and tangible and are no longer floating in the space for ideas, but are now entering the land of
accomplishment. I have a vision that I can now begin to strategically plan out and work on.

** It is much easier to discover gaps on paper than in my head. Whether I am writing a book, preparing a sermon, or even jotting together a blog post, I find that I write and rewrite multiple times before content might be ready to share. As a visual learner, it is vital that I see what I am creating while still in process. I am a HUGE fan of whiteboards for this very reason.

** We were not designed to function within a bubble. When I have my next great idea written down, I can easily invite others to join me. In Habakkuk 2:2 (ESV) we are told to “write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” I get fired up whenever I am able to come alongside somebody and see them fulfill their potential. If my dream might be a tool to accomplish this in somebody else’s life, then I need to capture it in a way to makes sense to others.

** I can complete the task at hand while not forgetting my next great idea. I often have dreams and ideas surface while I am already busy with a different task. When this happens, I have several choices. First, I can get distracted from my task and focus on the new idea. Or I can focus on the task and forget the details of my idea. The best practice I have learned is to quickly capture my idea so that I can revisit it later. This allows current tasks to be completed and future tasks to be remembered. 

The discipline of capturing new ideas over the past years has become an invaluable tool for me personally. I am sure that many activities and strategies would never have come to fruition if I trusted myself to remember it all. Some ideas have been discarded, some acted upon, and some are still in the holding tank. The key is they are out of my mind, onto the paper, and ready to be acted upon if the opportunity presents itself.

How about you? How do you capture your next great ideas? Do you write them down, record a voice memo, or use some other medium?

4 Steps to Faking it Well

Okay, it’s confession time. I’m not really good at this, but if I was completely honest, I would tell you that I have been “faking it” for awhile. In case you aren’t sure what this means, I have been going through the motions more lately than living with passion. I must admit that I think I put on a pretty good front, except to those who know me well. I can smile and attend church and serve and work hard with the best of them…but lately, something has been missing. I have been empty – a car with no gas, a flashlight without batteries, a coffee cup without, gasp, coffee!

I hope that I don’t get left hanging on this one, as if I was the only person who goes through the motions. The problem isn’t necessarily the going through the emotions, but more what we do when we realize that this is what we are doing. When the realization comes that we are missing our zest and passion for life, what’s next? I was confronted by this just last week in church by something our teaching pastor shared. I basically realized that there was not much about pursuing God that was firing me up. Devotions, prayer, worship, church itself…nothing. No energy – no excitement – no passion! And if pursuing God has lost passion, it’s just a matter of time before other arenas in my life become affected. 

So, how in the world can I turn this around so that I can fake it well? It’s in the steps that come after the realization that I have been faking it. Let me share my four steps with you now (in case you are wondering…I’m currently on step #2).

Awareness – every great movement must start with an awareness that I am not where I want to be. Until I become aware of my lack of passion, nothing will change. This might come by reading a book that grabs your heart, or by having coffee with a good friend, or by a loving spouse sitting you down to have “the talk”. It could happen in church (as it did for me this time around), or at the beach, or any number of places. Basically, awareness confronts me with a choice…am I content with where I am or do I need to make some changes?

Desire – the only way to fake well is to move to this step. Without a desire for change, we are just people aware that we are living without meaning but unwilling to change anything. Wow, that’s a depressing thought! I must decide that the pain of remaining where I am is less than the pain of moving forward. This is not desire that simply sounds nice…rather, it is desire that compels me to action. Currently, I am wrestling with the frustration of my lack of passion and assessing my daily routine to see where change must happen. Where am I spending more time on Facebook than in prayer? Do I play more rounds of solitaire than reading books on family, marriage and parenting? Am I content to disappear into watching a football on TV, rather than going outside to play catch with my son who is gearing up for a season of flag football? Desire is what will pull me from the doldrums and back into a purposeful and passionate life. 

Discipline – this is where it gets messy. I can talk a good game. I have a lot of plans and dreams and hopes for the future. I am always talking about moving forward and improving. I confess that I do not act upon every one of my ideas.  I have many friends with dreams in the sky who never put a plan in place to accomplish anything. You know who I’m talking about…the guy at every party or gathering who has a million excuses why his ideas never came to fruition, but a lack of discipline is never on his list. Discipline turns off the television. Discipline wakes up early to spend time with God. Discipline eats healthy and exercises with regularity. Discipline prefers others before self. Discipline makes a plan, works the plan and never stops until the plan is finished. 

Habits – welcome to your reward for faking it well! Awareness which leads to desire which leads to discipline ends with a change of habits for the better. Habits are activities that we are able to do without much thinking. Brushing our teeth, putting gas in the car, getting dressed in the morning and clicking a remote control are fairly engrained in the majority of our lives. Habits also lead to passion. Doing what I need to do in order to remain connected with God not only ignites passion in my life, but spreads to the other arenas of my life. Family, work and hobbies all become much more enjoyable when engaged with passion and purpose. Habits keep me on track so that when my emotions are not cooperating I am still living in a way that is intentional. 

One danger of habits is that they can become, well, habitual. We can begin doing things without even remembering why we started in the first place. When this happens, we just might find ourselves going through the motions. Of course, when we find ourselves in this position, we can embrace the gift of awareness and…well, you probably get the idea!

Faking it together, 


I am my Biggest Problem

Leadership must begin with me. Unfortunately, on my own, I want to stay up late, play video games, eat snacks and then sleep in. I get impatient, want to rush the process and can easily see people as being in the way of my agenda. Leadership would be so much easier if it wasn’t for my own selfish humanity. While it might seem that I just need to get more organized, set alarms and choose to like people, this only lasts for so long. I have learned that I need the wisdom of the Bible to have a chance at leading well. The principles of God are the only way I can grow and develop as a healthy and effective leader.

So, what does the Bible say about leading myself? While there are a great many things, here are four that I typically struggle with the most.

Self-control – Galatians 5:22-23 says that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. I find the name of this characteristic ironic since I clearly need the strength of God to have self-control. I can last for a while staying faithful to plans and dreams and needs that will set me up for healthy leadership. But it is only temporary because my humanity will kick in soon or later. Reliance on God allows me to last a bit longer before I indulge in too much ice cream or stay up far too late for anybody’s good.

Servanthood – Jesus takes the typical paradigm of leadership that involves working hard to look out for self and step on others to get to the top of the pyramid and flips it completely upside down. True leadership happens when I choose to serve others, look out for others first, and use my influence and experience to set those around me up for success. Easy? Not a chance, but I have seen this truth play out well time and time again.

Humility – is leadership really supposed to be about myself? At the end of the day do I care so much about my ego and image that I am willing to fight to be seen and heard? Unfortunately, this battle happens inside of me more often than I would care to admit. Thankfully, with age I have learned to at least mostly keep it inside. So often I have to fake it even when I never make it, but the Bible teaches that humility is truly the best way to lead.

Patience – admittedly, I saved the best for last. And by best, I mean the area of my biggest struggle. Whether it is in traffic, waiting for an email reply or just need Amazon Prime to fulfill my over-energetic, type-A needs, patience is definitely not a characteristic of leadership that I embrace well at all. I want everything done yesterday and I have spent the majority of my life waiting for God to catch up. Now, truth be told, He is always perfectly on time and hindsight confirms this fact, but I will probably struggle with this leadership trait every day of my life.

So, while this list is far too short, it is what I am working on to become a better biblically grounded leader. I want any influence I have to be used to advance God’s kingdom and to set others up for success in whatever they are called to do. The Bible is the ultimate book on leadership and hopefully this list helps jumpstart the same conversations in your life that it does in mine.

~ Mike

Getting Back in the Saddle Hurts

I’m a rhythm guy. I like to wake up at the same time, eat the same foods, go to the same places and in general stick with what works. I take risks and try new things, but I have my standards that get me through life pretty well.


Unfortunately, holidays can disrupt my rhythm fairly easily. I have not posted in over a month, my alarm is my enemy, my eating discipline was replaced by homemade fudge and egg nog, and in general a sense of laziness began to creep in.

So, how can I get out of the rut and back into the saddle again? I know that it’s gonna hurt…but the alternative is far worse than taking the steps to get back to where I need to be.

First, there is great wisdom in reflection and evaluation. Was the rhythm I was in previously the ideal? I have taken the time in the past week to determine the best wake up time, the best bedtime, book reading, devotions, exercise, etc. While most has stayed the same, there are a few areas to tweak for 2016.

Second, write it down. Write down the goals, the ideal, the plan and the rhythm hoped for. Make it visible and memorable. It is far too easy to avoid discipline when it remains a theoretical idea in one’s mind. Writing it down brings a greater level of accountability and reality to the process.

Third, aim high! I don’t know about you, but at times I will lower the standard in order to feel more accomplished. Sad?? Yes…but true nonetheless. The problem is that this does not actually work because deep down I know that I could have done more. Truth is that I do better aiming very high and then coming up a bit short.

Fourth, provide grace for yourself. You might fail, forget or just need a day off from discipline. The perfection expectation is a guarantee for failure which then often leads to quitting. Don’t go there! Understand that you are human and might not always reach the lofty goals.

Lazy feels good for a time, for a moment or maybe even for an entire weekend. However, it does not last so no matter how much it might hurt, be encouraged to get back in the saddle.

~ Mike