How do you eat an elephant?

In bite sized chunks!

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Many things that we do in life can appear daunting. The scale or magnitude of what lies ahead. A student moving to University may feel that obtaining a degree is a big ask and a long way off. But, day by day the learning increases until they are ready for the final stage.

I was speaking with a newly qualified Football League referee some years ago…The day that he passed his final exams. With me was a Premiership Linesman and who asked him what his goal was. His answer was to referee a World Cup Final…The difference: That is not a goal but an ambition! Goals need to be broken down into bite sized chunks and where boxes can be ticked on the journey and landmarks celebrated.

Let me introduce you to John Naber, an American former competition swimmer, five-time Olympic medallist, and former world record-holder in multiple events.  It did not start out quite that easy. Back in 1972, Naber was incredibly motivated watching the great Mark Spitz perform in the 1972 Olympics in Moscow. At that time, Naber was a talented collegiate swimmer but no more. Certainly some distance away from any qualifying times that he would need to have a chance of qualifying for the American Team in 1976 and the Montreal Olympics.

Four years…How could he improve in four years? Knowing the “Step change”, the improvement that he had to make, he broke this down to the most miniscule of bite sized chunks…He worked out that he simply needed to improve at the rate of 1/5th of the blink of an eye for every hour of training that he could commit to…Said like that it became very doable!

The end outcome? He was selected for the 1976 Olympic Team and made Captain! He was America’s most highly decorated Olympian at the games (the second highest ever, at the time) earning four gold medals in swimming, each in world record time! All he had done, was make the seemingly impossible become possible…Bite sized chunks.

Yesterday, I cycled 66 miles in the rain. Ten laps of a six mile loop, with an out and back of a couple of miles.  No fun in the rain…To me it was not 66 miles. It was more ticking off each loop. Counting down and creating bite sized chunks.

By breaking any targets or project into small baby steps will collectively make the big things appear possible!

We have to ask, ‘How can we break a huge challenge like sending humans to Mars into a series of doable, affordable steps? How can we break that problem down into chunks in order to keep making progress?’
Ellen Stofan