The Unsexy Way to Make Massive Progress Toward Your Goals

The Unsexy Way to Make Massive Progress Toward Your Goals

What a Kids Baseball Game Teaches Us About Winning Big by Aiming Small

They finally got three outs.

After 45 minutes of disappointing hit after hit, the opponents’ pitcher finally ended the inning by picking off our third base runner.

The runner wasn’t upset.

Our team of 10 and 11-year-old boys had scored an impressive 15 runs in the bottom of the third inning completely dominating the opponent and going on to win by eight points.

Two things about this score were surprising:

One, we lost against the same team in a walk-off hit just an hour earlier.

And two, out of seventeen plays that inning, only one was a home run.

Celebrating Big Achievements

Our kids celebrated the hell out of that homer.

The entire team ran out to home plate and bounced, in unison, chanting the player’s name as he rounded third. When he finally touched home, their collective cheer must have scared away the local wildlife. 

It was awesome. It was exciting. Even us parents cheered for the team.

Big achievements, like a home run, deserve celebration.

When you’re a kid, it takes a lot of effort to put a ball over a 10-foot tall fence over 200 feet away. When you’re an adult, it takes a lot of effort to get a promotion, write a book, or run a marathon.

Whatever your big goal, should you achieve it, you’re justified in throwing a party and patting yourself on the back. 

You earned it. You deserve it.

But it’s important to remember, while big achievements are fun and exciting, if you want to win games consistently, you need to aim small.

Strive for Small Achievements

Late Sunday, after our double-header, our coach sent the following email:

The offense really came alive in the 3rd inning of game two, scoring 15 runs! How did we score 15 runs in the inning?

Noah walked
A.J. singled
Luke singled
Tyler walked
Tal singled
Will singled
Anderson walked
Jack M. walked
Jack B. walked
Landon homered
Noah singled
A.J. singled again
Luke singled again
Chris singled
Tyler doubled
Tal walked
Will reached on error

One base on error, six walks, eight singles, one double, and a home run. Put another way, 82 percent of our plays came from walks or singles.

Nothing fancy.

Nothing big.

Just player after player achieving one measly base—the bare minimum necessary to eventually score.

The lesson here is probably clear, elementary even: While big achievements don’t come often enough to add up to a big win, multiple small achievements do. The trouble is, while it’s easy to visualize a single in baseball, it’s exceedingly difficult to do so in life.

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.
— Christopher Reeve

We set big goals for ourself, then wonder why we haven’t achieved it a year later. We have a grandiose vision for our life, but hit middle-age and wonder why that vision hasn’t become a reality. 

The concept of small wins leading to big achievements is easy enough to understand, but it’s a paradigm shift in how we need to act.

To truly apply this lesson and start consistently winning, we’ll have to do the opposite of what we do now: focus on getting more singles (and cheer wildly when they happen).

Small Wins Aren’t Sexy, They’re Essential

Too often we get hung up on making big progress while forgetting that, without achieving small steps along the way, we’re missing the vast majority of opportunities to eventually score.

Small wins simply aren’t sexy.

So you’ve led an important customer meeting. Big deal.

So you’ve written for a week and finished a draft of chapter one. Who cares?

So you’ve run the first mile in a marathon. So what?

Here’s what: 

Small wins are the steps along the way and necessary to making big progress — Without a successful first customer meeting, you’ll have no chance of closing a deal and getting a promotion in the future.

Small wins help you build momentum and make progress faster — Once you’ve written a draft of chapter one, you’ll feel excited about your progress and carry that momentum into writing chapter two and beyond.

Small wins provide you motivation and energy to keep working toward a larger goal — Once you’ve scaled the first half of the mountain, it will be too hard to give up on progress. Your forward motion will propel you another 10th, then another, and another until you reach the summit. 

More so, the people who seem to continually make progress toward their goals are always extending themselves by either learning more, doing more, or being more. Not a lot. Just enough to complete their next milestone; small, manageable enhancements to their abilities, which help them grow.

Small wins are essential. 

Not just because small achievements add up to big goals, but because the steps you take, the momentum you build, the motivation you nurture, and the value you create within yourself all enhance your intrinsic inner-value. Then, like interest on your savings account, this inner-value compounds over time, allowing for even greater achievements in the future.

In other words, once you learn how to hit a single, you can do it again and again, loading the bases, scoring 15 runs in a single inning, and ultimately winning the game.

One base at a time starts to add up… faster than you can realistically hit home runs.

One base at a time starts to add up… faster than you can realistically hit home runs.

Think Big, Aim Small, Win Big

Don’t get me wrong. Creating big goals is a good thing. After all, whatever game you’re playing, you’ve set out to win, not come in second.

If you’re writing a book, maybe you want to hit the New York Times Best Seller list.

If you’re going for a promotion, maybe you want your bosses job, pay, and responsibilities.

If you’re running a marathon, maybe you want to rank nationally and receive sponsorship. 

Whatever the game, it’s great that your goals are big, hairy, and audacious. The ideal goal is inspiring. Sizeable goals represent some future, better version of yourself that doesn’t currently exist, giving you a lighthouse toward which to sail. As Tim Ferriss once said, “Think big and don’t listen to people who tell you it can’t be done. Life’s too short to think small.”

But to achieve big, aim small.

Just as you can’t get the promotion in one day, you can’t write the book in one sitting or run a marathon in one step. Making massive progress doesn’t mean hitting a home run every time. Big wins are often made from a series of smaller ones, incremental steps that get you closer to your goal. 

So focus on them.

Focus on the small immediate wins that will make everything else easier or unnecessary. Steal small victories to continually improve and step toward your goals. Take your big, hairy, audacious goals and break them down into small, manageable chunks. Set measurable milestones as stepping stones along the way. And every day, make sure the tasks you’re working on lead to the next milestone successfully so that you never stray from the path to winning big. 

Operating in this way will be the difference between hitting the occasional home run and running up the score, dominating your game, and achieving far more than you might have originally thought possible.

“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” —Christopher Reeve

Focus on getting singles, and the game will take care of itself.

What next small step can you take?

About the Author


Mike Mehlberg


I help high-achieving entrepreneurs organize their brain and schedule so they can organize their life and business.

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