I recently went back through Malcolm Gladwell’s Masterclass. To put it simply, I am a Gladwell aficionado. I’ve read every single one of his books, many of them multiple times. I’ve written and referenced about them on a number of occasions. His 2019 book Talking to Strangers is a book I recommend to pretty much everyone I meet. I love the way he thinks, processes information, and uses storytelling to break down complex subjects using a unique blend of variety that is sophisticated – yet digestible. I know, I’m a geek.
In the Masterclass, Gladwell detailed his writing process. All of his writing is done in the morning. He’ll sit down with a cup of tea, croissant, and put thoughts on paper while his mind is fresh. In the afternoon, he’ll research, collect interviews, exercise, and handle other administrative tasks.
As he was going through his routines, Gladwell made a point to address a writing misconception. Most writers will press themselves to write 4-5 pages of a book per day. Gladwell does not. Every single day, he gives himself a simple goal: Write one page. Not one chapter. Not five pages.
Just one page – that’s it.
For perspective, Gladwell published his first book The Tipping Point back in 1999. Since then, he’s published eight books – each spanning upwards of 70,000 words. These books weren’t written chapters at a time. They were written one page at a time. This, to me, was so important. Tall tasks don’t require heroic actions. They require small, consistent actions that compound over a period of time. Your skill set and investment portfolio grow in accordance to the same set of laws.
It’s the law of compound interest.
“Being great is being boring.”
I first heard this quote from Andy McKay – Director of Player Development Seattle Mariners. It’s a quote I always reference when I talk to kids. While euphoric unlocks and big skill changes are a really cool part of the development process, they’re only a small part of it. You don’t find new unlocks every day. The only thing you’re guaranteed every day is an opportunity to work.
Consistent training habits and routines aren’t sexy. They’re really boring. They don’t get likes on Instagram. Hitting batting practice and playing catch every day is not that exciting. However, its doesn’t mean it’s not important. The best things for us often don’t have a ton of flavor. Finding big unlocks is really fun, but we can’t rely on this every time we train. To be consistent in our performance, we need consistency in our preparation. This is where the law of compound interest comes into play.
When it comes to building a new swing or growing our investment portfolio, we need to turn time into our ally. Life insurance policies don’t generate significant cash value in one year. You don’t even see value after one year. It takes 10+ years to see significant returns on your consistent investments (key word: consistent). Building a new swing or delivery works the same way. You don’t reinvent something you’ve done your whole life in 30 minutes. It takes months and years of dedicated practice to finally see the fruits of your labor. This starts by taking it one day at a time.
Malcolm Gladwell’s goal of one page a day is a beautiful example of this. He doesn’t aim to do a lot in one day. He’s able to accomplish a lot over time because he does a little every day. His efforts compound. Duration has a short shelf life. You can’t rely on it to solve problems. Instead, you need to lean on frequency. It’s not about how long we can work at something. It’s about how often we can work at it. Frequency compounds. Duration diminishes our returns.
As coaches and players, we need to make consistent and daily deposits into our careers. The more frequent these deposits are, the more accumulated cash value they’re going to generate over time. Every day is an opportunity to make progress towards our ultimate goal. Some days will be big. Others might end in a dud. Either way, there’s no excuse not to show up. Our portfolio can’t compound if we’re not putting money into it. If we’re not making investments, we’re making withdrawals. Nothing stays the same in this world. If you continue this pattern, it’s only a matter of time before the account zeroes out.
Show up. Do the work. Invest into your career. Your efforts will compound just the way your money does when you learn to make time your friend. Just remember – you don’t have much of it to waste.
So a question for you: Are you making a daily deposit into your career today? If you’re making a withdrawal, do you have enough money in the bank to complete this transaction?
If not, why?