“The average person puts only 25 percent of his energy and ability into his work The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50 percent of their capacity and stands on its head for those few-and-far-between souls who devote 100 percent.” Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie knew a thing or two about hard work. He’s known, in part, as a robber baron, but he’s also known as a far-seeing philanthropist. During his lifetime he donated millions of dollars to education to help disadvantaged young men rise up in the world. He worked hard and reaped the fruits of his labor.
Only 25 percent of energy and ability—that’s how much most people put into their work if we can believe Carnegie. I’m inclined to take him at his word because I believe there’s a mismatch for most people between the work they do and their calling—the secret passion they hold. Someone can work in a supermarket by day and be an amazing artist by night. I know someone who does.
Some of us are lucky enough to be pursuing our passion as writers. What a gift! But how much energy and ability are we putting into our work? Is it 50 percent? Or 60 percent? How many of us can honestly say that we are souls who devote 100 percent to our writing? Not me, if the truth be told. Sometimes I’m totally immersed, and sometimes I’m not.
What to do? What to do?
Going from 50 or 60 percent to 100 percent is like going from zero to 60 mph in a car—it’s tough on your motor. But making a 1 percent improvement on a steady basis—now that’s doable, isn’t it?
That’s exactly what the British cycling team did when it won the Tour de France for the first time. The team brought on a new coach who challenged everyone to make 1 percent improvements in every aspect of their training. So they improved their sleep regimen by 1 percent. The team improved its nutrition by 1 percent. It found a strategy to improve its post-training recovery time by 1 percent. Over months of steady work, those improvements added up. Eventually they created the winning edge that allowed a British cyclist to win the Tour.
What an inspiring story! It shows us that small, steady changes in our habits can have big payoffs. So let’s take a look at the way we work and see if we can’t make small improvements: adding 15 minutes to our writing sessions. Spending a little extra time researching. Finding exercises to pep up our dialogue and working on them each day.
There’s always something small but powerful we can do to improve our craft. Word by word, 1 percent by 1 percent, these improvements can all add up as we all write on!
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