A few months ago, I partnered with a long-time friend from high school (Dr. Todd Wysocki) and the superintendent of our school district (Ken Facin) to launch a new mentoring program. We think it will be a game-changer for students from our old district, which has an alarmingly low college completion rate of less than 40%. Now, 25 students are about to begin their college careers with one more lifeline than they would have had.
As the students prepare for one of life’s biggest transitions, here is some parting advice built on 25 years in business, 10 years mentoring high school students, and one great book called The Slight Edge (by Jeff Olson). The high school students I’ve been fortunate enough to mentor probably aren’t much different than most students. They recognize that attending college is one of life’s few events with the potential to change the course of their lives. They’re just not sure what it takes to ensure it will change for the better. Olson’s advice, which I have definitely benefitted from for many years, is that what it takes to be successful is nothing major at all. In fact, it’s kind of boring.
The difference between success and failure is so hard to see that most people miss it. Successful people understand that the little choices they make each day may not make any difference at all over the course of a week or even a month. But, when you add them up over a year or a decade or a lifetime, they make the difference between being a superstar and being average at best.
It’s the power of the compound effect. Little gains each day become massive over time. The easiest place to see this is in finance. But, I don’t love finance so let’s look at a sports example. Do you know what the difference is between a highly compensated, star player batting .300 and a .260 hitter making an average salary? It’s less than one hit a week over the course of a season!
The time is now to start getting one more hit a week. You have a clean slate heading into college. It’s all about starting – and continuing – little habits each day that will pay off over time. Spend 30 minutes every Sunday planning ahead for how you’ll complete your work that week. Ask someone you trust to review your work before you turn it in. Find an inspirational book and read 10 pages every night. Whatever works for you, find your slight edge and do it like you’re getting paid for it.
If you think this seems too easy to be the key to success, think about how easy it would be not to do these things. To push them off until tomorrow – so many times that tomorrow becomes the rest of your life. We’ve all heard the phrase “go the extra mile.” It’s not even a mile that you need. It’s just a few inches. You just need to do it consistently and when no one is looking. It might be boring now, but when it makes you a .300 hitter, life will be anything but boring.