In his book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, blogger and writer, James Clear, starts with a compelling episode that is a priceless gem of wisdom.

In 2008 Beijing Olympics, the British cycling team bagged 10 gold medals; a feat never achieved before. The secret is found in the genius of their coach, Dave Brailsford.

Brailsford used a simple but very potent concept called aggregation of marginal gains. This concept underscores the importance of small or marginal improvements in pursuit of any goal regardless of how big it is.

The aggregation of marginal gains contrasts with our society where most people are looking for ‘big’ and ‘fast’ gains in almost everything. We want big margins in business, quick money, big deals, big results from our employees, high renumeration from our employers and so on.

Brailsford led his team to unprecedented victory by focusing on a one per cent marginal improvement in everything they did. This seemed rather a small or insignificant sacrifice that anyone would not mind but the results over time became miraculous.

This is a concept that you and I can apply immediately and get awesome results.

Generally, it is very hard to radically change people’s habits and ways of doing things. Even changing our own is a herculean task.

However, by making a deliberate effort to introduce change gradually, you form habits that are the single greatest determiner of success.

Whether your goal is to improve your health, increase sales, save for future projects or retirement, you cannot get it wrong by focusing on daily marginal improvement instead of taking a giant leap.

Any parent would tell you that they don’t see their children grow. The reason is simply that growth is a very slow process, but in a few years, you find that the child you ‘recently’ breastfed is an adult.

You can easily turn around your business and your life generally by first taking a break from chasing big things and overnight success, and focusing on areas that you can improve marginally.

For instance, improving your daily prospecting and sales call by a small percentage will translate into extraordinary results within a year.

Look at weak areas in your team that need to be addressed and find solutions that are small but gradual. Investing something small in training your employees on areas such as sales, customer care, personal finance management as well as planning can yield results you never imagined possible, but after some time.

On the other hand, it is several small blunders, omissions and habits that does not qualify one as bad or incompetent that are likely to bring down your enterprise over time.

American personal success trainer Jim Rohn rightly sums it up, ‘Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.’


This article was first published in The Business Daily on May 14, 2019

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