Don’t Lose Your Opportunity to Become Better



“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” — Mary Anne Radmacher

When you show up each day, at whatever you do, are you fully engaged?

Do you really apply yourself and test what you’re capable of?

Do you use it as a chance to get a little better, or learn a little more?

A Little Better, Adds Up to a Lot

When you focus on getting a little better, you get a lot better over time.  And you can build your experience and expertise, on a daily basis, a moment at a time, a chance at a time, and a choice at a time.  That is, if you’re present, prepared, and engaged.  That’s why “the present” is a gift to you, if you use it.

It’s your chance to both realize and unleash your potential.

In the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Sweck shares wisdom on how you can express and grow your greatness by changing your mindset and applying yourself each day.

Realizing Your Potential the Wooden Way

John Wooden produced one of the greatest championship records in sports.  He led the UCLA basketball team to the NCAA Championship in 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1975.  His team once had an eighty-eight game winning streak, and there were seasons where they were undefeated.

His team didn’t start this way.  In fact, when he first became coach, his team was picked last to finish for the division.  That’s right … Last.   That does not sound like a winning team.

Yet his team proved them wrong, and they went on to win the division with 22 wins and 7 losses that season.  Talk about a turnaround.

How did he do it?

He focused on continuous improvement, conditioning, and mindset.

Become a Little Better Each Day

The key to getting a lot better, is to get a little better each day.

Via Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

“Wooden is not complicated.  He’s wise and interesting, but not complicated.  He’s just a straight-ahead growth mindset guy who lives by this rule: ‘You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better.  By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.’”

Full Preparation and Full Effort

It’s not about perfection.  It’s about preparation.  And you get out what you put in.

Via Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

“He didn’t ask for mistake-free games.  He didn’t demand that his players never lose.  He asked for full preparation and full effort from them.  ‘Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions.  The correct question is: Did I make my best effort?’  If so, he says, ‘You may be outsourced, but you will never lose.’”

They Lost the Opportunity to Become Better

If you just go through the motions, you’re throwing away your chances.  It’s lost opportunity.

Via Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

“He was not a softy.  He did not tolerate coasting.  If the players were coasting during practice, he turned out the lights and left: ‘ Gentlemen, practice is over.’  They had lost their opportunity to become better that day.”

Find your chances, take more chances, and use your chances.

Otherwise, the opportunities you lose, will be your own.

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Growth Mindset Over Fixed Mindset

Lessons Learned from John Wooden

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Image by Andreas Ivarsson.


  1. I’ve noted a distinct & marked difference between my geekly references that are ten years old versus newer texts. The former are dog-eared, high-lighted, & marked up; whereas contemporary books tend to be pristine. This is because early in my career I’d invest hours at a time poring over the material gaining expertise; today I’m seldom able to make the time to do so. Shortly after I became aware of this, I realized I could change my learning strategy to match my lifestyle by doing targeted study. Specifically, I now make an appointment with myself to study relevant material, including reading as well as implementing coding exercises.

    I’ve discovered that 30 minutes, often as little as 15 minutes, a few times each week can be enormously productive & satisfying–& I get a little better each week. Thanks for the validation!

    • I like your point about doing targeted study.

      It’s easier to learn when we have a goal to help us focus, and a way to use it, to make it relevant.

      Chunking things down also helps us fit things in, where they otherwise couldn’t.

      With that in mind, there are also so many golden opportunities each day to turn routine tasks into “learning opportunities.”

      One of the key ideas in Agile Results is to “leverage existing workflow.” The idea that I had in mind was to find ways to get more leverage out of the things you already do. So rather than “complete a task.” Turn it into a chance to learn something or get better at something.

      I always have to check myself to see if whatever it is I’m doing is improving me, the business, or whatever in some way. Otherwise, I’m missing my chances.

  2. BTW, the headstand pictured above is particularly poignant for me. Over a year ago I began a journey to learn handstands. It’s much, much more challenging than I expected, & I’ve done many headstands along the way. This is definitely an area where consistent practice helps me get a little better each week & is key to success!

    • I bet you’ll be walking around on your hands in no time. Too bad you can’t code with your feet, otherwise, you’d get more chances to practice each day.

      I remember the day I learned how to do headstands. My Uncle stayed with me until I could do it. Once I learned “what it felt like”, then I just had to build muscle memory from there.

  3. It is so true–a little goes a long way with regards to growth! I used to try to get immediately from A to Z and, as Baron Baptiste says “the prize is in the process.” In finding the opportunity for greater excellence in EVERY moment instead of “going through the motions.” An excellent reminder and something that I am trying to practice in every moment of every day. Mindfulness and constant growth is so much easier said than done!

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