Consistency on the fundamentals is the key to greatness.
We already know the necessary to develop ourselves and grow professionally or spiritually.
But most of us keep looking for more information.
We hope to find some secret formula for making growth and performance easier.
As Darren Hardy wrote:
“You already know all that you need to succeed. You don’t need to learn anything more. If all we needed was more information, everyone with an Internet connection would live in a mansion, have abs of steel, and be blissfully happy.”The Compound Effect
The ones who understand this reap crazy rewards.
So why don’t we pay attention to our fundamentals if they guarantee success?
The main reason is the fundamentals seem too basic to pay attention to.
And you’ll see in the coming examples how simple they can be.
The other reason is the fundamentals benefit us only when we do them consistently.
As they say: Repetition is the mother of skill.
Repeating the same thing over and over again is hard for most of us.
It’s unexciting and can be boring in the long run.
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to overcome this barrier.
The fundamentals of success are simple, easy, and old.
Sticking to them is the difficult part.
There are two kinds of fundamentals: universal and specific.
Universal fundamentals are the ones we all share: Sleep, Eat, Move.
Specific fundamentals are unique to us.
The fundamentals of a great writer are different from the fundamentals of a successful entrepreneur.
So let’s jump in and see if I can ignite your desire to take care of your fundamentals.
Examples of People Taking Care of the Fundamentals
Small is Beautiful
In The Progress Principle, the authors point out Atul Gawande’s experience with the checklist:
“Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. In his 2009 book, The Checklist Manifesto, Harvard surgeon and author Atul Gawande showed that even experienced surgeons can improve the performance of their teams dramatically by using a simple checklist to guide every single operation. The items on the safe surgery checklist seem terribly mundane. They include procedures like self-introductions by everyone on the surgical team, confirming that everyone knows which side of the body is being operated on, and counting the surgical sponges to see that all are removed from the patient before closing the incision.
The results are astonishing. In a three-month experiment in eight different hospitals around the world, the rate of serious complications for surgical patients fell by 36 percent after introduction of the checklist, and deaths fell by 47 percent. Even Gawande himself, a highly trained surgeon with years of operating experience, found that his own performance improved notably after he started using the checklist. His point is that surgery, like any complex task, requires a regular check of all the fundamentals—to liberate the team to focus on the work and any unexpected circumstances that may arise.”
These mundane tasks seem unworthy of experienced surgeons. They put in years of work to master their craft.
Yet, the numbers are there. By keeping their fundamentals in check, their overall performance improved in no time.
Perfecting the Fundamentals
John Wooden has an impressive track record of success.
He was an American basketball coach and player.
With UCLA, he won 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years, including 88 straight games and four perfect seasons.
ESPN named him the coach of the century.
The interest in his methods went beyond the realm of sports.
In his book On Leadership—one of my all-time favorite books on the subject, he wrote:
“Our standards were very high when it comes to the execution of fundamentals. And fundamentals, done well, are the foundation upon which effective leaders build highly productive teams and very competitive organizations.”
With his impressive results, we might think coach Wooden did some crazy stuff to reach the top.
Here’s what Doug McIntosh (two national championships with coach Wooden) said about him:
“I don’t know that there was a “secret” to his success. It was just those three things he stressed: fundamentals, condition, and team spirit.
The drills he ran at UCLA were mostly the same drills I had run back in high school–the very same drills. Coach Wooden just did them more repetitively and with more speed and precision. He just demanded a higher level of execution when it came to the fundamentals. There was no secret formula.”
Did you catch that? The same drills run back in high school!!!
Why then he outperformed everybody else?
John Wooden obsessed with the fundamentals.
He practiced them more frequently and continuously strived to perfect them.
What 1% Daily Improvement Can Do
In Atomic Habits, James Clear opens his book with the power of tiny gains.
He gives the example of coach Dave Brailsford.
By focusing on small improvements, he took the British Cycling team out of nearly one hundred years of mediocrity.
Brailsford’s philosophy was simple:
“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.”
In just five years, impressive results started showing up:
“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.”
When you read about the improvements Brailsford put in place, you can’t stop asking yourself: Is this a joke?
Here are some examples of the improvements:
- Showing riders the best way to wash their hands so they don’t catch a cold.
- Finding the pillows and mattresses that lead to better sleep.
- Painting the inside of the team truck in white so they can spot bits of dust and remove them.
We can overlook 1% daily improvement.
But by the end of the first year, you’ll get 37 times better. 1400 in two years. 53,405 in three years. 2,017,828 in four years. 76,240,507 in five years.
These numbers are hard to imagine, but the idea is clear.
Tapping into our unlimited potential starts by doing the little things. Consistently.
Obsessing with the Fundamentals
It’s easy to be distracted by the details and forget the fundamentals.
Yet, what gets us most of the results are the fundamentals (universal or specific).
Arianna Huffington–co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post, collapsed from exhaustion.
So she decided to take care of her core fundamental by sleeping her way to the top.
We worry about the dessert we have once a week but forget about the other 20 meals where we ate badly.
We don’t want to waste time exercising but we have no vitality to get the work done.
Most of us spend much time on the less rewarding details.
The same is true for the specific fundamentals.
Before starting a business, we want beautiful business cards and a shiny website. Meanwhile, we keep delaying finding our first paying customer.
Look at Warren Buffet’s company. Berkshire Hathaway has one of the most expensive share prices in history.
Each one costs around $400,000. Yet, their website is ugly!
For my blog, the fundamental is to write good articles.
If a piece is well-written and beneficial, people will spontaneously share it. They might revisit the blog or even end up subscribing.
I have plenty of ideas to improve the details of this blog. I keep them all in a special folder when I have time.
A sexy blog and presence on all social media platforms can never replace a well-written article.
So improving my writing is where 80% of my energy should go.
What about you? What’s your plan for improving your fundamentals?
The Fundamentals of a Muslim
When you focus on the fundamentals, you can start exploiting unrecognized simplicities.
I had proof of this recently when I participated in the course Transform My Prayer by Iqbal Nassim.
By breaking the salat into small parts and improving each part individually, the overall experience is totally different.
I feel more present in my prayers and I’m confident I can get better and better inshallah.
There’s another fundamental for a Muslim I consider way more important than the daily prayers.
As when you are true to God and want His closeness, He makes it easier to do so.
He guides you towards the resources or the people that might help you in your endeavor.
How many were drowned in bad habits and changed overnight because of a moment of truthfulness?
And how many prayed a lot, especially during Ramadan, just to go back to their bad habits right after?
Faith is not a number game.
It’s about a sincere heart that wants to connect with His Lord.
The Quran mentioned truthfulness many times:
“Say, ‘My Lord, make me go in truthfully, and come out truthfully, and grant me supporting authority from you.” [Quran 17:80]
Truthfulness is what unlocks every goodness you can think of.
The hadith of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) holds this meaning:
“Adhere to truthfulness, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Without truthfulness, our good deeds stand on a lie.
It takes so little to keep our intentions in check. That’s why it’s easy to dismiss.
And when we dismiss it, we end up fooling ourselves.
Bruce Lee said:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
There’s a reason to fear such a man.
By consistently practicing the fundamentals, he became a master.
But not only that. He also developed mental toughness.
It’s not easy to practice the same thing over and over again. It can be boring in the long run.
While it seems hard to fall in love with boredom, it’s possible to fall in love with the outcomes.
Muhammad Ali said:
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger said something similar about keeping the outcomes in mind:
“People always asked me why I was smiling. Other guys had a sour face or they were pissed off that they had to do another rep or another set. But I looked forward to the work. Why? Because I knew that with every rep that I did, every set that I did, with every weight that I lifted, I got one step closer to turning my vision into reality.“
The fundamentals are few. The details are many.
If we obsess with the fundamentals, there’s no reason for us to not succeed.
Article posted the 27 December 2021
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