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Small Improvements Lead to Big Change

Yesterday I preached a sermon at Main Street Moravian Church based on Luke 21:1-4, the story of the poor widow who gave an offering of all she had, which was only two copper coins. 

My goal was to encourage the small church to be faithful in the role God has called them to, even if it only seems like all they have to give is two copper coins.

In my sermon I shared the story of David Brailsford. I first came across the story of Brailsford’s work in a great book I’m reading called Faster, Higher, Stronger. Brailsford was brought on in 2010 as the General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team). It was a difficult positon to be in. No British cyclist has ever won the Tour de France and Brailsford’s job was to change that.

Here’s the cool part. Instead of going with all the training programs and mindsets of the past (which had not produced satisfactory results) Brailsford brought in a new strategy which he referred to as “the aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” The concept is really simple. 

Get 1% better at every aspect of what you are doing, and all those little gains will add up to one remarkable improvement.

James Clear describes the approach in this blog post. Brailsford and his team, Clear writes, 
“began by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires. But Brailsford and his team didn't stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere. Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time. He was wrong. They won it in three years.”
I love this story because it represents the truth that you don't need to solve all your problems overnight.

By just striving to get 1% better each day you can make enormous strides in any area of your life.

When I was going through some really difficult times in my life I found myself really down because I couldn't make the strides I wanted to make. I wanted to flip a switch somehow that would make all the problems go away. I was tired of doing the hard work big life changes requires and I was looking for a magic bullet. 

It was at this time that my good friend Jon gave me a piece of advice I will hold on to forever. He told me to quit focusing on trying to fix everything all at once, and instead to strive for success one day at a time. BOOM, that hit me hard.

He reminded me of this: little success everyday will lead to real life change over the long haul.

Now that I look back on it, what Jon was telling me was really the same thing Brailsford was telling his British cyclists. The "aggregation of marginal gains" really works. Little improvements, small 1% gains, across all areas of life (mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, marriage, parenting, athletics, business, etc) will add up over time to bring great change if you just engage and trust the process. 
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