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The Rob Skinner Podcast


Apr 5, 2021

Today on episode 91,  I talk about How Small Improvements can Lead to Big Growth.  You’ll learn:

  1. How great leaders share a philosophy of making small improvements
  2. How to improve your devotional life
  3. How to improve your daily schedule
  4. How to be the best you can be

Transcript

  • Please save the date for the Climb, Small Church Leadership Conference December 2-5 in Dallas Texas. I hope to have registration set up before the end of the month. There will be an Asian Small Church Leadership Conference the following week. That will be held virtually and we will get more information to you about that.

 

How Small Improvements can Lead to Big Growth

 

Since 1908, British riders had won just a single gold medal at the Olympic Games, and they had fared even worse in cycling’s biggest race, the Tour de France. In 110 years, no British cyclist had ever won the event.

In fact, the performance of British riders had been so underwhelming that one of the top bike manufacturers in Europe refused to sell bikes to the team because they were afraid that it would hurt sales if other professionals saw the Brits using their gear.

Dave Brailsford had been hired to put British Cycling on a new trajectory. What made him different from previous coaches was his relentless commitment to a strategy that he referred to as “the aggregation of marginal gains,” which was the philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do. Brailsford said, “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

During the ten-year span from 2007 to 2017, British cyclists won 178 world championships and 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals and captured 5 Tour de France victories in what is widely regarded as the most successful run in cycling history.[1]

This story reminds me that little improvements lead to big change over time.  I’d like to ask you:

  • What if you got 1% better every day?
  • What if your marriage got 1% better every day?
  • What if your church or ministry got 1% better every day?

James Clear, who wrote “Atomic Habits,” explains that initially your improvement will hardly be noticeable, but if you were to make a small 1% improvement every day, you would be thirty-seven times better than when you started.

Start Small to Go Big

When you study leaders who are making a difference, business leaders, coaches, ministers or even good parents, you’ll find a pattern of attention to small improvements.  Read what the ten-time NCAA basketball championship winning coach, John Wooden, counsels:

“You have to apply yourself each day to become a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better. Only then will you be able to approach being the best you can be.” 

Paul shares the same principle in Ephesians 5:15-16:

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Paul tells us to be very careful about the small details of our lives.  We need to examine the easy to overlook behaviors and routines that guide 90% of our lives.  We need to pay attention to the small opportunities that pop up and that we often leave unexploited.  We cannot be careless about the boring and seemingly insignificant details of our lives.  What areas in our lives do we need to start being “very careful” with?

Be Very Careful With Your Devotional Life

How can you energize your walk with God?  What can you do to find power and inspiration every morning that you spend with God?  Do you miss days without connecting with God?  Do you find yourself anxious to get started with your “real work” during your devotional time?  Does your spiritual routine leave you at peace and motivated to do the work of God?  If not, it’s time to make a small daily improvement in the quality of your time with God.

Recently, I made a few decisions to improve my time with God in the following ways:

  • I give myself permission to take as long as I need to be close and feel close to God.
  • I give myself permission to enjoy my relationship with God every day. I don’t have to do something or accomplish something first to “earn” a satisfying relationship with God.  I have decided to allow myself to be happy every day in my connection to Christ.  I refuse to wait until at some undetermined time in the future my accomplishments will somehow allow me the freedom to enjoy peace in my relationship with God.

These are small “tweaks” in my spiritual life, but they are powerful enough to put me into an entirely different mindset as my work day gets going.

Be Very Careful With Your Daily Schedule

We need to be very careful about how we spend our time.  In our hyper-connected world, we can spend our days responding to the needs of other people by text, email, or social media.  You cannot make your own unique contribution to this world if you only serve the requests of others.  Carve out dedicated time to do the most important work that you want to do.  That will mean making small improvements in limiting access to you at certain times of the day.  Here are a few things that have worked for me:

  • Use the “Freedom” app that prevents you from checking email or distracting websites for a period of time that you designate. Don’t check your phone or email before your “workday” starts at 8:00 or 9:00 am.
  • I have decided that the first thing I will do once I finish my devotional time is to write 1,000 words. I recommit to this frequently and give myself permission to put my agenda ahead of ministry problems, crises and requests for information.  If I do not do this, I end up at the end of the week late on my sermon preparation, mad at myself for not doing what I considered most important and wondering where my time went and what I had to show for it.

What are some other areas to examine that might be ripe for improvement?

  • Do you have any evenings that are reserved for reaching out those who don’t know God?
  • How consistent are you in meeting with people you are mentoring?
  • Are you making the most of daily opportunities to share your faith?
  • Do you have new invitation cards that you can start using?
  • Is your week scheduled in such a way to reach the lost, fellowship with disciples, build your marriage and family and have a little fun?

Be the best you can be

We have an opportunity as we come out into the new world of life after COVID-19.  We can bemoan the condition our lives, ministries and relationships may be in or we can go to work making small improvements every day.  By doing that we will in time find ourselves stronger than we ever were before the pandemic and more fruitful, happy and creative than we have ever been before.

Don’t compare yourself to other people, ministries or churches.  You can learn from the good ideas of others, but if you obsess about how you don’t have this, lacks that or can’t do this, you will be a miserable, discouraged leader.  Instead, focus on being the best you can be.  How can you compare yourself to how you led yesterday?  How can you be better than your old self?  Each day, with each new improvement you will be able to enjoy the satisfaction of making a small but significant change for the better.

Over time, your small changes will compound and not only will your ministry grow, but you will change as a person and as a leader.  You will become a Christian who is able to bounce back from setbacks and crises because you know that small changes lead to big progress.

 

 

 

Application

  • Write down three small things that you could change this week that would improve your life?

[1] James Clear, “This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened,” https://jamesclear.com/marginal-gains.