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As entrepreneurs, we have millions of decisions to make every single day. Some are more significant decisions like “Which project should we prioritize?” or “When should I hire support, and who should I hire?” Other decisions seem small: “Shall I have a glass of wine with lunch?” or “Can I sleep in for 15 extra minutes this morning?”
I’ve discovered that even tiny decisions and seemingly insignificant actions can make a huge difference in your business! They compound. These small decisions can take you to massive success or keep you spinning your wheels. Now, I know we have no time to scrutinize every decision, making pros and cons lists for everything we do, like, “What are the pros and cons of hitting the snooze button this morning?” Instead, I’ve discovered one powerful, simple question that gold medal-winning Olympic athletes have used.
From 88 years of losing to Olympic gold
I heard about it in a short YouTube video with Ben Hunt-Davis. Mr. Hunt-Davis had been on the British national 8-man rowing team for nine years and was on the team when they won the gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The best thing about that story is not that they won but how they won. It was based on one question that determined all of their decisions for the two years leading up to the race.
First, you need to know that the British rowing team had not won in the Olympics for 88 years! Can you imagine what 88 years of losing would do to a team’s morale? I’m sure most teams would have felt like it was hopeless or that they were cursed! But this team knew that if they wanted a different result, they had to do something different daily. As he explained, they knew they needed to make a “jump” to the next level.
The Olympic gold power question
Mr. Hunt-Davis points out in the video that most people think winning at the Olympics is about what you do in the minutes of the race. But it isn’t. Just like it isn’t the specific moment that you land that $1 million contract. It’s what you do in all the hours, days and years leading up to it. And that’s what the team focused on changing.
How? By asking one question before every big and small decision: “Will this make the boat go faster?”
As Mr. Hunt-Davis explains: “Before we’d all get on the rowing machine to practice for 70 minutes, we’d ask, ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ Unfortunately, yes. So that’s what we’d do. Before going to the pub, we’d ask, ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ Unfortunately, no. So, we didn’t.”
The team asked each other this question for every decision during all the months leading up to their race. This one question kept them focused and gave the men on the team a strong bond, knowing they were all using the same criteria to determine any actions they took.
The British team didn’t win their first heat at the Olympics, so they had an uphill battle to win the gold. Nobody except the team themselves thought they could win. Even during the finals, when they were ahead, the broadcasters announced that they doubted that the team could pull it off, just like you might have some naysayers who doubt that you’ll ever succeed. But, like your naysayers, these announcers were judging on the past, not the big and small decisions that had guided all the team’s actions in the prior two years.
Success through your own power question
Of course, this isn’t just a story about a rowing team. This story is about how to focus so you can stay on track and achieve what you want. And it’s something we can all train ourselves to do. So, what power question can you use before any decision? Maybe it’s, “Will this grow my business to $2 million this year?” or “Will this make my body healthier?” or “Will this help me attract and retain more customers?” If you have some very specific or new goals you’re working on, you might want to create your own specific question.
I use “Will this make the boat go faster?” I’m crystal clear on both my business and personal goals. So, when I say, “Will this make the boat go faster?” I’m saying, “Will this get me where I want to go?” Plus, it reminds me of the image of that British team pulling across the finish line with the crowds cheering!
Once you have your question, the power is to apply it to every decision you make. For example, when I’m teaching my intensive 3-day training, I might want to have a cocktail or two the night before. But will it make the boat go faster? Nope, so I don’t. When I’m tempted to work on a new project all weekend, will it make the boat go faster in my marriage? Nope, so I spend some hours enjoying the weekend with my husband.
Every decision you make and action you take, large and small, will impact the trajectory of your business and your life. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your little decisions aren’t important. Try using your power question and see the difference it makes in your choices and actions.
Mr. Hunt-Davis had a final word that hit home for me: “What drove us forward was knowing how bitter it would taste if we weren’t willing to make that jump.” Avoid that bitter taste! Use your power question to make a jump!