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big picture thinking

How Big Picture Thinking Makes You Good but Small Habits Make You Great

As creatives, we’re taught to start with the end in mind. We’re taught to look at the big picture. If we keep that in front of us, we’ll eventually get to where we’re wanting to get to, no matter where we start.

This thinking process applies to creating just about everything.

In fact, Think Big, Start Small, Keep It Going was the topic of Amplify’s event last week. We had several speakers who have done just that. Here was the lineup:

Special VIP Guest Host: Mr. Richard Samuels

Featured Musician: Icie Marie Hinton

Artist Spotlight: Rebecca Robinson – Artist, Author, Fashion Entrepreneur

Featured Nonprofit: Community Action of Greater Indianapolis (C.A.G.I.) with Val M. Tate

• Keynote Speaker: Colin Martin – Founder of ViceRays

These individuals had incredible talent. Rebecca had some pretty interesting pieces (one of which I’m pretty sure was of Jack Sparrow – she just didn’t know it!). Icie had an impressive singing voice. And Val – wow, the organization she’s a part of (C.A.G.I.), I didn’t even know existed. They’re all about empowering individuals within the community to figure out how they can enrich themselves and their lives.

But then there was Colin. 

Wow. Dude has had the life that many of us in the online entrepreneurs crave. But, interestingly enough (and I’m hearing this more and more), he got burnt out by it. A lot of the building he did was to simply keep an image of success. Always wanting and doing more. 

Once he figured that these actions were what was tearing him up, he reallocated how he works. Today he has much less stress in his life than he did not too long ago.

Between all four speakers, you could see the talent oozing from them. You can see that they’re all headed towards great things.

But here’s the catch, talent or the potential for great things isn’t everything. It’s just that – potential.

We need to figure out what actions we can take now, to eventually get us to where we want.

Until then, we’re not going to get too far.

Football and Business

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to go to an LTD conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. There were lots of great speakers but one that stood out to me was David Cutcliffe, head coach of the Duke football team.

As you guys probably have realized, I love comparing the inner workings of football to business development. So this was a treat for me.

As he was going through his presentation, I thought, this is great stuff! In the past I’ve written about this topic in a little detail, but not as detailed as he was presenting it.

So here’s a little bit of what David knows about thinking big, starting small, and building the right habits to succeed.

Raising Enthusiasm Leads to Successful Results

In the presentation, David started with a quote from Winston Churchill. He said “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm”.

If he was to stop there, I’d be like “Yes, that is correct”. Interestingly, David changed it up a little bit. He said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another while gaining enthusiasm and passion”.

While the difference between those two statements might seem small at first, if you think about it, his perspective is powerful.

Let’s say you have two players training for a particular sport. They’re going through drill after drill, honing their skills.

One of the players goes from drill to drill, task to task, with little change of emotion.

The other player gets more emotional after each drill, determined to be better whether he fails or succeeds.

If you took these two individuals and placed them in a competition with each other? Who do you think would win? The first or the second?

For me, I believe the second would have a better chance to win. And that’s what I believe David’s quote is referring to.

Results Speak For Themselves 

With that being an underlying value of David’s beliefs, how does it translate to the field and the team he’s in charge of? How does he put it into action?

Well, before we get there, let’s look at the results of his work with his team. This will give us a bit of perspective when we get to his methods.

From 1997 to 2007, Duke football was horrible. They had:

  • Only 19 wins
  • No bowl appearances
  • Four or fewer wins each season
  • Three no-win seasons
  • A 25-game ACC losing streak
  • And in December of 2007, the cumulative GPA of the team was 2.46

Since David came in 2008, they’ve had:

  • 67 wins (which is more than a 360% of winning)
  • Six bowl appearances
  • Three consecutive bowl victories
  • 31 ACC wins since the beginning of 2008 season
  • ACC Coastal Division Champions in 2013
  • And in May of last year (2018), the cumulative GPA was 3.126

It’s pretty apparent that the program got better.

Focus on the Little Things to Build a Foundation of Success

So what are the things that David changed to help his team find success? In fact, there’s three things he told the audience that he focuses on:

  1. Climate 
  2. Practice Habits
  3. The 55

Here’s what he had to say about each one:

Climate

The atmosphere that a coach and staff create within a program to enable players to develop to their greatest potential. Great attitudes and a positive approach are critical to the proper atmosphere. It’s the nucleus of the program and will dictate the ability to be successful with the rest of the tangible values. It also gives a sense of hope and accomplishment to everyone involved.

In a recent post, we talked about how the new climate and expectation to win is a big reason why the Colts had a successful season last year. 

Practice Habits

These are instrumental in allowing us to compete at the highest level. We must achieve excellent practice habits in order to achieve our goals.

Furthermore, he adds, that Power is equal to Work/Time (P = W/T). Work, then is equal to Our Habits (W=OH). So, in the end that means that the power that we produce is equal to the habits that we have over time.

Practice Makes Permanent!

The 55

Not entirely sure why David called this group of practices The 55. I think he said something about giving it a unique name that stuck. But what it consists of are practices he said were basic fundamental parts that if done right, they can hang with any other football team.

  1. Alignment
  2. Assignment
  3. Effort
  4. Execution
  5. Finish

He mentioned that if he watches film on the next opponent and they don’t do one of these parts perfectly, such as alignment, he knows right away that his team should be able to beat them.

In business and work, we need to realize what it is that we fundamentally have to do right each day, each week, etc. What are our core values? Our core habits? Are they getting us to where we want to be? If not, then we need to figure out what needs to be changed to get there.

Action Steps

So, that’s pretty much it for this post, guys. As I said, it was a good conference. A lot was learned and discussed with those that I went with. Very motivational.

If you’re counting on motivation and talent to get you through, then you’re not going to get far. We have to work our craft regularly whether or not we want to. 

It’s when you can do that, when you know you’re onto something great.

Or as Coach Cutcliffe said, If you focus and follow through with the small stuff, the larger stuff will take care of itself. 

Developing Life Changing Habits Through 5 Types of Triggers

A Little Background in Habit Formation Theory

There are two books that are pretty interesting reads about habit formation. The first one, the Power of Habit (via Audible), Charles Duhigg talks about The Habit Loop. In this loop, there are three parts to forming and reinforcing habits.

1. The Cue / The Trigger – the event that actually starts the habit

2. The Routine – the actual habit that is performed

3. The Reward – what doing the habit gets the participant

In the the second book, Hooked (via Audible), Nir Eyal takes this loop and adds another piece called:

4.  The Investment – The longer we spend doing a habit that yields favorable rewards, the less likely we are to stop doing that habit.

Each phase of the loop is important in developing new habits. If it wasn’t for a cue, we wouldn’t start the routine. If it wasn’t for the routine, we wouldn’t get the reward. If it wasn’t for the reward, the cue wouldn’t mean as much to us in the future. Therefore, we wouldn’t spend as much time on it. So on, and so forth.

Simple enough, right?

Note: In the video above Brendon talks about the importance of Triggers. The term Trigger is another name for the term Cue. Personally when I think of the word cue I think of a cue ball. When hit by the pool stick, the cue ball starts a series of events that hopefully lands a ball in a pocket during a pool game. Likewise, when I think of the word trigger, I think of a trigger on a firearm that starts the whole chain of events that pushes a bullet out of that firearm. Personally, I use them interchangeably, but we’ll stick with Trigger for the rest of the post.

In this post, we’ll be specifically talking about Trigger use and formation. I believe it’s the most important part of the Habit Loop and probably the one we have the most control on.

Trigger 1: Time

In Brendon’s video, he talks about setting alarms to be triggers. Time is probably the easiest way to start habits. Most of us start our days with alarms that starts a chain of events where we’re getting ready for the day. (Others are luckier where they don’t need an alarm to start their day. They’re triggered by kids, pets, or even the sun. Wouldn’t it be nice?)

How and when to use it: In the video, he talks about setting three alarms on your phone to keep yourself calm throughout the day. This helps someone be more present. For me, I use alarms to remind myself when to keep hydrated. Using time as a trigger is typically used to do something that you need to do a reoccurring daily basis.

Trigger 2: People

When I’m around other people, I have an internal switch that goes off. Most of the time, I’m an introvert. But when I’m around others (especially networking), I go into extrovert mode and start talking to everyone I can. Why? Because both of my strengths involve interacting and adding value to other people: teaching and connecting.

Other people will use others as a trigger as well. If you’ve ever heard of social drinkers, these people use others to tell themselves when to drink. While it might not be the best habit to have, the end result is the same as mine: connecting with people.

The difference of the two habits is that I learned mine from hanging around other successful people. While the social drinkers might have learned their habit from their party days at college.

How and when to Use it: Depending on who you want to connect with, you’ll need to practice a method of connecting. Whether you’re the life of the party, the host, OR the bartender, you can’t afford to be socially awkward. Learn how to be normal (which we’ll discuss at another time) and enjoy others’ company.

 

Trigger 3: Places

Sometimes it can be really hard to get through a kitchen, especially if there’s pie sitting out. Or walk by a pool at the YMCA without wanting to jump right in. Places can be triggers too.

However, among all the triggers, places can be the start of the most mindless habits. This can be good and bad. If you’re an addict and you’re exposed to whatever you’ve been addicted to, it’s much easier to indulge. Likewise, if you’re that same addict and you’re putting yourself in all new situations, it’s much easier to find something else to put your mind on.

Studies by David Neal and Wendy Wood from Duke University suggest that new habits are actually easier to perform in new locations. They say that old locations mean old habits and old routines. If you’re trying to perform a new habit, you’ll have to break the old cycle which can be very difficult. Likewise, new places are like blank slates. There aren’t any pre-existing triggers, therefore it should be easier to start a new habit.

I know for me that I do all my work in an office. Why? Because anywhere else I go I can’t seem to get that same work done. I’ve set the office setting to work and the rest of the house for other things.

How and when to Use it: As mentioned before, locations can equally trigger good and bad habits. First, if you’re trying to do something new, see if you can’t find a new place to do that new thing. Are you working out after several months or years of not regularly? You should probably go to the gym (unless of course you suddenly find all of your furniture replaced by exercise machines). Are you trying to start a business at home? You better not start typing in your comfy chair in the living room. Instead, if you have a spare room/space, go there. If you don’t, go to a nearby coffee shop or restaurant with Wi-Fi.

Trigger 4: Emotions

Many people eat when they’re bored, sad, or even anxious. For most of my life, that was me. Or if you don’t eat, maybe you play video games instead. Either way, these habits are caused by emotions. And as we all know, those who let their emotions dictate to them, don’t live a very happy life.

Emotional habits tend to happen when we’re not present. If you think about the video and Brendon talking about the alarm trigger for a minute, it’s almost a double trigger. First, the alarm triggers you to breathe in a way to make you calmer. As you get calmer, you become more present. If you’re present, you can make better choices. You’re not running on emotions at this point, you’re running on logic. And this new logic can help you build better habits.

How and when to Use it: One thing you can start doing is trying to sense any weird habits you have. Do you bite or pick at your nails? Do you fidget? Then, when you identify them, figure out what caused them. Do they start from you being anxious or bored? Are you still feeling that way? If you are, sense that feeling and then make yourself do something else. Perhaps you can start a few exercises? Or you can take Brendon’s advice and do a breathing technique to calm yourself.

Trigger 5: Notifications and other Events

The last kind of trigger that I know gets the best of me are beeps from my phone and tabs flashing or showing numbers in Chrome because of new messages. If it has a sound notification, I typically got to deal with it. If it’s visual, it gets harder as time goes on. This is the bad side of events being a trigger. However on the other side of the coin, you can build new habits by what’s called Habit Stacking. Habit Stacking is a new term I learned from my mastermind in which you start with one habit. As time goes on, you add another. One such habit stack might be our waking up or going to bed ritual. When it’s time to get up, you typically have a routine that you do. It can be as simple as using the toilet, taking a shower, and then brushing your teeth. Or perhaps you’re one of those who like to start coffee first and then do a few exercises?

How and when to Use it: You should not that the smaller the habit is, the easier it is to put into your life. It’ll probably much easier to eat healthier in the morning than suddenly becoming an early morning runner. However, that said, it really depends on your goals. If you want to feel like you’ve accomplished something by running a mini-marathon, then perhaps the running routine might be better followed by a shake later on in the day.

Picking Your Next Habit Trigger

Regardless of which habit you want to do, you’ll need to make sure that the trigger you choose for that habit is specifically defined and actionable. For me, I like to do certain exercises a day. I typically do them right after I’m done getting my shoes on for the day. I’ll do 35 pushups and then walk the dogs for 20 minutes. After that, I’ll be fresh and alert and ready to get my day started.

Experiences with Triggers?

In the comments below, I’d love to hear how you’ve used triggers in the past for good or bad habits. If you do have some bad habits you’d like to get rid of, what are some ideas that you have to weed them out of your routine?