Most of life and work is mundane. We get up each morning, participate in our morning routine and go about our day. Routine is important to our life, our families, and our work. There are moments however that shape each role we play as individuals, I call these moments defining moments. Some people refer to defining moments where a goal was scored in the last few seconds of a game to win a game. I call a defining moment something that happened much earlier that gave that team the motivation and drive to make it that far. Defining moments happen in the routine and can change the course of life. How do we cultivate an environment at work and at home where these defining moments can be realized, embraced, and leveraged?
There are a few defining moments that have shaped how I operate in areas of my life. I am an investor. One of the things I do is make investing decisions. This has been a journey for me and I am finally finding success in small victories repeated over time. One of the things that happened to get me here was a King dying. I have no idea who the king was, someone in the middle east somewhere but I remember the impact on an oil position I was in. I entered the position based upon criteria I thought was reasonable. I was confident and decided not to put a stop loss in place. A stop loss protects you from a negative move in the market. If oil in this case were to move up suddenly, that movement would hit my stop loss and I would experience a small loss, no big deal. Well, I didn’t put that in place and the King died at 9:10PM and oil shot through the roof. I look at my small account at 10PM before bed and my position was closed, by the broker, not good. This turned out to be a defining moment for me. I literally shifted the trajectory of my investing career and while it hasn’t been perfect, it is certainly improving. This defining moment was a negative one, meaning something bad happened to cause me to change in a significant way. Lets look at a positive example.
I love to play golf. I have been playing now for 20 years and can usually manage to shoot in the mid 80’s. My lowest score came when I was in college and working as a golf cart attendant at a local course, it was a 72, I shot it twice! When I first started playing a very patient friend worked with me round after round. We went to the driving range and he tried to help me but I just couldn’t score lower than 100. Finally I did, it was a great moment, but it was not a defining moment because it was not sustainable. About a year later we were at the driving range and I was still doing the things that kept me scoring around 100. This day he brought a video recorder and we recorded my swing. After that we went to his house to watch and my eyes were opened. Within six months my score broke lower than 90, another six months it went lower than 80. That video taping exercise was a defining moment that changed the way I played golf. I have done it two times since but neither of them were as impactful as that first time.
Both of those defining moments came while I was just doing what I always did. A King and a video recorder, things that have been around for a long time now happened to be the tools that offered these defining moments. I was not looking to set them up but for some reason I recognized them when they happened. There are several keys to building an environment where defining moments can happen and be easily recognized. The first is to build routine, avoid chaos. In chaos, meaning moving forward without a plan, anomalies are common place. A person, a team, can be all over the place in direction and behavior. A small part of this can be healthy in some way, but chaos cannot be the rule. If you have ever looked at an EKG strip you will see the same thing over and over, a routine. Doctors depend on anomalies in that routine to determine what may be wrong with the patient. If our hearts beat in chaotic fashion doctors could not use an EKG to help them. Similarly we can use a rhythm strip of routine in our lives and work to determine what may or may not be working. This is the importance of measuring as we go. We work our routine and measure progress. We make slight course corrections along the way as results dictate. We understand this concept. In this place, an anomaly would be obvious. When they happen, we can use them to create defining moments that can rapidly change the trajectory of our plans, family, work, investing, golf game etc. These moments cannot happen if there is not a routine first.
What routines exist in your workplace, in your home, in your life? If there is more chaos then routine, it is time to lead! As a leader, and we are all leaders, if not at work or at home then certainly we lead ourselves, we have a responsibility to put ourselves and others in a place for success. One of the ways to do this is to create healthy routines, measure progress and pay attention to anomalies whatever they may be. If the routine is as a long standing one, then even small bumps in the road will stick out. These bumps may be defining moments that shift your routine just enough to take your life to the next level!