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To Achieve Big Things, Think Small


I kicked off 2022 with a massive pit in my stomach.

The next three months are going to be tough. I’m juggling two books with clients, working on my own book, and I have to design 30 hours worth of leadership and communication course material to deliver in February and March for MBA students while running my first online storytelling course with a buddy.

I’m on schedule. My clients are happy. Everything is set to turn out well. Despite this, laying in bed this morning, I was paralyzed with overwhelm and my inner monster couldn’t decide if I was a fraud or simply a failure.

Moments like this suck.

And this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way.

But instead of sinking into a hole as I did in the past, while my wife and kids are sleeping off their New Year’s board games and movies hangover, I got out of bed, grabbed one small thing I knew I could do well — which led to two hours of solid work — before making our traditional creps and going for a hike.

All progress is made in the present

“They say think big, have a compelling vision. I say think small and do something super cool by the end of the day. Most people see excellence as some grand aspiration.Wrong. Dead wrong. Excellence is the next five minutes or nothing at all. It’s the quality of your next five-minute conversation. It’s the quality of your next email. Forget the long-term. Make the next five minutes rock!”

I love this thought courtesy of management legend and author of “In Search of Excellence,” Tom Peters. It’s one of the few quotes and words I have hanging on my office wall.

Just as they did this morning, whenever I’m worried about the big things floating around me his words help me zero in on the small but doable things in front of me.

Not only that, but they also remind me that even though much of life falls outside our control, one thing we can control is the level of care and commitment we bring to our work and the people in our direct lives.

Instead of worrying about writing a book, write the next sentence as well as you can in the next five minutes.

Instead of thinking about what you’re going to say, listen as well as you can in the next five minutes.

Instead of pushing your own agenda, care about the person in front of you as well as you can in the next five minutes.

Our journeys to our desired destinations rarely look like how we imagined them when we started. We can plan and strategize all we want. But things change. And the only way to adapt in order to make forward progress is to fight to be grounded in the present moment.

If you too want to accomplish big things this year, follow Tom’s lead and start smart by starting small and embracing the five-minute mindset.

Stop time-traveling.

Stop building castles in the sky.

Block the noise and choose to be someone who makes a commitment to focus on what or who’s directly in front of you to ensure you make something cool each and every day.

One sentence at a time.

One moment at a time.

One person at a time.

That’s not only the best way to advance, but when done consistently, it’s also how you ultimately create stuff you proudly stand behind.

You take the small right step.

You care.

You make a commitment to creating daily pockets of excellence.

As Tom Peters said — “There is no tomorrow. All you’ve got is the next five minutes.”

Think small to make sure your next five minutes matter.