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How Are You Going to Do It With Average Days?

You and I have both done extraordinary things. But the extraordinary is not predictable and not repeatable. By definition, most days everyone’s performance is just, well, average. In a statistical terms, all you can do is raise your average and lower your standard deviation. What’s amazing about great athletes is that all they are trying to do is do what they do in practice. A pro says, “If I can just go out there and play my game, I’m gonna win.” An amateur says, “If I could just play like somebody else.”

So maybe this questions really is, “How do I raise my average performance to a very high level?” or maybe it is, “How do I chunk my tasks so on any one day, I don’t ever need to pull off something miraculous.”

Or another way to look at it. Every day, I drop my kid off at daycare. And every day, who ever is sitting behind the desk says, “Have a great day!” I don’t know if this is a cultural thing there, or it’s part of the franchise playbook or what. But every time I walk out, somebody says, “Have a great day!”

So one day, I turned around and said, “Really? You think I need that kind of pressure. Can’t I just have a day? An ordinary, phone it in kind of day?” It got a good laugh. But let’s think about the franchise admonition — Have a Great Day!.

There are plenty of inducements for us to give it our all. And I think that’s pretty stupid in a professional context. To give it your all means that you are working at the very limits of your comprehension, ability and stamina. It can certainly mean that you have never really done it before (at this level) and you’re not sure how it will turn out.

This is great for art. But would you hire a guy who has only framed houses to build your custom cabinets? Do you want a transplant surgeon who’s not too sure about this whole kidney-juggling thing? Of course not. I think a pro is someone who is constantly committed to learning, but they are already so good, that they only really use 50% of their ability on a regular basis. Sure, they push themselves, but not when the meter is running. When the meter is running, that’s when the practice pays off.

How do you do it with average days? It depends on the particular “it”, sure. But, I guess I’m coming to realize that what I have to figure it out. Because there’s simply no other way to build a life or a business or anything else. The days of exceptional performance and incredible luck are just too few and far between.

  • Sandy Schoen

    The average day is a lot busier than we remember. “I’ll do it once life returns to normal.” Except…instead of returning to normal, there’s another big project, or resting and then recovering from the last big project, or vacation (and the rest and recovery needed after that), or illness.

    Looking at our diary, rather than looking ahead at our schedule, is very informative. The normal that we remember, when there’s time to do all those things we put off until normal, is very rare.

    Waiting until life returns to normal before doing the next big thing actually means doing it now.

    • PatrickEMcLean

      Oh yeah. Especially with kids. If I get a moment and I don’t use it, it’s gone forever.

      • Sandy Schoen

        We’re trying to teach this to our teenager. There’s always some reason to delay everything, including triaging (or even making) the todo list. Apparently her overwhelm is all our fault since we won’t let her forget about it for long enough for her to actually relax. Yep, age appropriate. Remember
        when you’re doing things with the kids to ask yourself whether you are with the kid doing the thing, or doing the thing with the kid. Mine are both teenagers, and we don’t regret taking twice as long to do some things.