President's Pen 8-21-17 (1%)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya!  How blessed we are to help people come unto Christ as we invite them to repent and receive a remission of sins through baptism.  This is the plan of salvation for all men and women and you and your companion(s) are truly the only people in your area who are called and set apart to do this work!  How great is your call and how great is your responsibility…

“…by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…” (Alma 37:6) Just over year ago I shared a principle related to ongoing personal improvement known as marginal gains or improving by 1%.  As many of you know, I’m big into cycling and I love the greatest race of the sport, the Tour de France.  The Tour de France is just over 3500 miles of racing and it is completed in only 21 days of riding.  The best teams and cyclists from around the world come to race this epic event and it truly a test of endurance, strategy, and sheer will power to cross the finish line.

The first Tour de France was held in 1903 and over the 100 year history, a British team, nor rider, had ever won the event.  Discontent with never having stood on the podium, a professional cycling team, known as Team Sky, was created in 2010 with one objective, win the Tour de France in five years.  The team pulled in the best British riders they could find and recruited a few other promising riders to build towards their vision. 

All cyclists at this level are world class athletes and simply making a goal to win the Tour in five years, especially when they had never won before, was more than ambitious.  The newly appointed director and coach of the team, David Brailsford, had the tall order of defining the strategy, organizing the team, and setting in motion the vision, goal, and plan for success.

Team Sky looks like every other high level professional cycling team out there…  They all have great athletes, incredible gear (top of the line bikes, wheels, etc.), technicians, dieticians, training regimens, and they all come with the same goal; WIN! Coach Brailsford knew that in order to win, he had to think differently and look for small and simple things that could make the difference.  He was well known as a coach as one who looked at the traditional elements of success such as physical fitness and racing tactics, but he decided early on that he also needed to focus on a more holistic strategy that included technological developments and athlete psychology.  He also decided on a strategy that would emphasize constant measuring and monitoring of key statistics, such as cyclists' power output, as well as individual training improvements that would target any weaknesses a cyclist might have.  This was all good, but not enough to win…

What Coach Brailsford ultimately decided on was a strategy of applying what is known as marginal gains or small improvements to the sport of cycling.  He proposed that if the team broke down everything they could think of that goes into competing on a bike, and then improved each element by 1%, they would achieve a significant aggregated (all elements combined) increase in performance.  The idea was relatively simply… if riders could improve by 1% over several disciplines such as training, gear, diet, sleeping, recovery etc., etc., the small gains collectively would add up to better results.

Coach Brailsford did exactly what he proposed and they evaluated everything they could think of to improve their performance.  They looked at seemingly small things such as the weekly training plan, what the riders ate, where they slept, how they recovered, and even what pillow they slept on!  No idea was too small and all areas of improvement were considered. 

What were the results?  The small and simple things added up to huge success! In 2013, two years earlier than planned, Team Sky won the Tour de France.  Their success was not simply a one hit wonder…  Since then, they have won the Tour De France four times, including this past July.  The team also applied the same principles to the Olympic Games and for the first time ever, the British won the gold in team cycling.  It wasn’t huge daily improvements over time that made the difference, it was the small, seemingly meaningless improvements that changed the outcome.

What can we learn from this in our missionary work and in our lives in general?

  •  It is truly the small and simple things that we do day, after day, after day, that lead to great things being brought to pass…
  • It is easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment (the event, i.e, win the Tour, baptize etc.) and underestimate the value of making better decisions and acting accordingly on a daily basis.
  • Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.
  • At times, we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it.
  • Improving by just 1% isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.
  • “Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.” — Jim Rohn

A great illustration of these principles can be seen in the chart below…

Marginal Gains.jpg

What does this tell you?  In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won't impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don't. This is why small choices don't make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.  Can you see how daily prayer, scripture study, and daily gospel living, though small and simple, can define who you are overtime?

Elders & Sisters, imagine what would happen if you improved slowly but surely in all aspects of your missionary efforts each day…  1% better at planning, personal study, companionship and language study.  1% better in your faith in the Savior and His work, your repentance, and your love for the doctrine of Christ.  1% better in your desire, your work with members, overcoming your fears and opening your mouth.  Each of these 1% improvements could yield incredible outcomes and results for you personally and the work!  Just like the Savior, we will each continue to grow in wisdom and stature with God and man as we learn line by line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.  If you have a desire to continuously improve, it doesn’t generally come from big events, but by small and steady efforts day after day.  It requires discipline, self-mastery, and a willingness to give up something good for something better and the power is within you to do it. 

I invite you to evaluate the small things that you can do to improve each day; the 1%.  Consider how you will measure your progress and then create a vision, goal, and plan for how you will get there.  The status quo and settling for mediocrity will never get you where you long to be and your small and simple efforts now will bless you over a lifetime.  I know the Savior’s grace is sufficient for each of us as we humble ourselves and come unto Him; one small step at a time.  Join the 1% improvement team that will lead you to exaltation and eternal life and then invite others to do the same.  Love ya!

President Hall