Grains of Rice and Jelly Beans

white-riceOften when I’m speaking to groups about goal achieving I talk about preparation. I like to think that the process of preparation is like filling a cup with grains of rice. For time you spend focusing on work/training/school/relationships you get to put a grain of rice in the cup. The cup represents your goal, and the grains of rice are all the steps that you need to take to achieve it. Every time you are open to new ideas, change, challenge and co-operation you get to put another grain of rice in the cup.

There is a reason that starting is the hardest part of almost any task/goal. In the beginning  we have an obviously empty cup and the first grains of rice that we intend to put in look hopeless small. Goals don’t have to be huge; they can be small cups – or large buckets, even the size of your rice grains will differ – some seem minute and others massive. But there is tremendous value to each grain; added together- all your work adds up to something of value. As the grains of rice fill the cup you feel more and more ready; this is, I believe, the best way to deal with stress.

Attendance alone doesn’t earn a grain of rice – you have to be present; giving 100% of what you’ve got to give and genuinely listening – not waiting to talk – which is something I’ll admit that I can struggle with. When you are stubborn, resistant to new ideas or in attendance-only-mode grains of rice are removed from the cup. Everyone will have a few of those, but it’s certainly a pile we need to keep to a minimum!

Today I saw this video that uses 28,835 jelly beans to demonstrate how all of our ‘single days’ add up. When the video isolates one single bean to illustrate “your first day”  my mind jumped to the cup-filling-with-rice/preparation concept. Beside all the other beans that one yellow jelly bean looked so… small – as if it could never matter; the idea of it ever becoming the pile – with all its impact – seems unfathomable. But like the grains of rice… they add up too. As you work to achieve your goals, your efforts big and small have value.

Every step you take matters, first ones just as much as last ones.

This amazing life

Without intending to – as a mentor – I find myself often trying to warn the athletes that I’m working with about something. I use the precious moments that I have with them to give a ‘heads up’ – so that they can avoid any number of delays or pitfalls. I hope for their journey to the Olympics to be as smooth and for them to perform to their potential.  Perhaps for that reason many of my messages could be considered defensive tools.

But when you are trying to become good – or even great!-  at something, while you might be aware of defence – you are probably just loving the offence! The forward motion that it brings is so much FUN! We should hope to never disconnect from that. When I remember how much fun it was to be really good at rowing – the memory doesn’t just make me smile; it makes me beam! To be improving, becoming the cutting edge of your industry or class – setting the pace… that was amazing. I try to connect to that same joy when ever I can – regardless of what I’m doing or how good (or not!) I am at it.

Messages about joy, fun and unbridled curiosity are just as important as any warning. But I will say – I was quite amused by the number of athletes who sent me a note after last month’s “Bubble Wrap” message. They let me know that their sport was all about adrenaline – and that they need to train that part of them too. Almost without fail – their admonishment to me was then followed up with an anecdote of their cliff jumping, mountain biking or some other non-winter Olympic sport adventure where my message made them “think for a few seconds before I do something that may be a bit crazy!”      That’s all I could have hoped for!  😉

Your work doesn’t have to be Olympic in scale for it to be challenging and rewarding. Some part of it – if not all – should be fun. Don’t get caught focusing only weaknesses, problems and the things you don’t like – look also to your strengths, the positive interactions and the (intrinsic and extrinsic!) rewards….

September’s message is a reminder that life is fun.

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