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Stanley, Big Dumb Bird, and the Pursuit of Mindless Repetition



Meet Stanley, Big Dumb Bird. He’s a bird that lives in the green space behind my house. This picture of him is blurry because he’s moving fast, and I’m just a gal with an iPhone sitting at my desk, trying to capture an image when he unexpectedly arrives.Stanley

Stanley prefers to visit in the early morning. And when he “visits,” he flies at the window and throws his whole little body, and I suspect beak, against my windows. He makes a loud crash each time. And he will do this repeatedly for extended periods of time.

I tried to shoo and even scare him away to keep him from hurting himself and annoying me. And then I left for a week where he had unfettered access to my windows. I returned to find my deck – couch, rug, table - all covered in bird poop. The windows were a mess with what I can only describe as bird snot.

At this point, my team and clients know about Stanley. He is persistent. Regardless of the fact that he does not get inside the house or intimidate the “other bird” into staying out of his territory (I’m not sure his motivation 🤷‍♀️), he continues to come back and make attempt after attempt.

Habits make perfect

I read Atomic Habits by James Clear and took away a few insights that Stanley, Big Dumb Bird represents quite well and the rest of us could learn from.

James explains that the most successful people aren’t necessarily the most naturally skilled, talented, or gifted. They are the best at committing to repetitive work and being willing to work through the boredom of training for that skill every day.

The average person can feel demotivated or even depressed seeing successful people excel and often ask, “Why not me?”

But what we’re missing from the success story is understanding the amount of boring repetition that goes into their success. James says high achievement is about being willing to put in the yards when you’re not interested.

Taylor Swift has made headlines for many things, but her extreme preparation for the Eras Tour has always caught my attention as someone willing to put in that kind of time. She told Time magazine, “Every day, I would run on the treadmill, singing the entire set list out loud." She started prepping six months before the tour and said her goal was to be “so over-rehearsed that I could be silly with the fans and not lose my train of thought.”

We often hear the advice, “It comes down to passion,” or “You have to really want it.” Yes, you do have to really want it, but that’s not what gets you there. Successful people also feel bored; they are just willing to continue showing up. As James explains, the greatest obstacle to success is boredom – not being willing to do the same thing over and over and over.

Imagine how boring it is to run and walk on a treadmill every day for three hours, singing the same collection of songs, and then go out on stage and do it for 150 live shows. That’s commitment. Commitment that pushes you into the Billionaire Club.

Most mortals get bored and jump from one idea to the next and the next and the next in a desire to entertain themselves and stay interested. At that point, instead of “being creative,” we’re actually taking ourselves off course. We start derailing our progress, looking for novelty.

Those doing well wish for a change as much as those doing badly. The former are more willing to stick with the routine and boredom because they know exciting results lie on the other side of the repetitive activities. They want those results more than the extra stimulation that can be achieved by mixing things up today.

I don’t know if Stanley is bored with his actions, but his commitment is impressive, and I applaud him for that and think about how I could be more committed to boredom. The kind that moves me forward, not has me slumped on the couch in a semi-catatonic state.

Set yourself up to find the path to boredom, uh, success

Another idea that James discusses in his book is how to set yourself up to create a life of boredom (that leads to success). He suggests asking, “Who do you want to become?” Then, ask yourself what kind of person can get this outcome. For example, what kind of person can be a great salesperson? Or what kind of person can be a great company leader who creates an environment where people want to work?

Think about that “type of person” and make a list of who they are and what they do. What do they do that allows them to claim this status?

Take stock of your own behaviors and compare them to the person you’ve described.

  1. Make note on your list of what you already do that you need to continue doing to become that person.
  2. Make note of what behaviors you need to develop to become that person.

Becoming that person will now hinge on the behaviors and habits you establish and commit to doing repeatedly, regardless of how much you do or don’t want to do them.

I’ve often marveled at Kevin’s commitment to a routine. Being perfectly honest, I get bored just thinking about the repetition he is willing to endure and the schedule he maintains to do it. And herein lies a very clear distinction between us and how we differ in our approach. Bottom line, I don’t need to look far for a mentor other than Stanley to shore up my habits. 😏

Goals, what are they good for?

While goals may seem like the answer to our desire for achievement, they’re simply an endpoint to look at in the distance. A goal does not get you there or even move you toward that achievement.

The work you do between today and your goal builds the habit and leads to the result.

While setting goals is a nice idea to have something specific to work toward, that should be 10% of your planning time. The rest of your planning should be focused on the behaviors and habits that will lead you to those results.

For example, let’s say you have a goal to sell $100K. To achieve $100K in sales, start by writing up a plan of behaviors that will become habits to fill your pipeline with the right opportunities. Perhaps you will:

  • Commit time to prospect every day from 9:00 – 10:00 and 4:00 – 5:00.
  • Create a list of clients you will research at the beginning of each month. Go through their connections to find potentially good-fit clients and ask them for referrals by the end of the month.
  • Meet with a center of influence each month and exchange names for introductions for good-fit opportunities. Make your introductions by the end of the month.

Goals are good for setting direction. The behaviors that become habits are for making progress. If you want better results, focus on your behaviors.

What habits are you doing on repeat?

We all have habits; some lead us to improvement, and some to spirals, downfalls, or failures. Stanley’s habits, I can only imagine, lead to some level of pain or at least discomfort. Perhaps bruised ego.

What about yours?

+ Social media habits could lead to an expanded audience, education, and increased brand recognition.

- Social media habits could also lead to excess distraction from other duties, lack of actual prospecting activity, or building an audience that is not your client base and is out of alignment.

+ Prospecting habits could lead to filling your pipeline with legitimate opportunities you’ve met through centers of influence, client referrals, or old-fashioned cold prospecting.

- Prospecting habits could also lead to avoiding meeting new people, telling yourself that marketing activities are prospecting, or accepting referrals not aligned with your target audience.

+ Leadership habits could lead to defining your company at a strategic and tactical level, guiding your team based on those definitions, and being seen as an attractive employer.

- Leadership habits could also lead you to shirking your responsibilities in favor of working “in” your business, allowing toxic behaviors to grow and fester, or having a revolving door of employees.

It’s your choice

You get to choose every day – every minute – how you want to spend your time, which habits you want to say “yes” to, and which you want to tell to go take a hike. You are the sum of your behaviors, and habits are behaviors on repeat. Take stock of which are helping you and which are not helping and may even be hurting you.

Think about the choices you want to make. Hopefully, they don’t lead to someone giving you a nickname like Stanley, Big Dumb Bird.


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