The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

Today at church one of the speakers talked about Elder Michael A. Dunn’s talk from October 2021. In this talk he taught about how we can continually become better. To do so he told the story of the British cycling team.

“For more than a century, the national bicycle racing teams of Great Britain had been the laughingstock of the cycling world. Mired in mediocrity, British riders had managed only a handful of gold medals in 100 years of Olympic competitions and had been even more underwhelming in cycling’s marquee event, the three-week long Tour de France—where no British rider had prevailed in 110 years. So sorry was the plight of British riders that some bike manufacturers refused to even sell bikes to the Brits, fearing it would forever sully their hard-won reputations. And despite devoting enormous resources into cutting-edge technology and every newfangled training regimen, nothing worked. Nothing, that is, until 2003, when a small, largely unnoticed change occurred that would forever alter the trajectory of British cycling. That new approach would also reveal an eternal principle—with a promise—regarding our ofttimes perplexing mortal quest to improve ourselves. So what happened in British cycling that has great relevance to our personal pursuit to be better daughters and sons of God? In 2003, Sir Dave Brailsford was hired. Unlike previous coaches who attempted dramatic, overnight turnarounds, Sir Brailsford instead committed to a strategy he referred to as “the aggregation of marginal gains.” This entailed implementing small improvements in everything. That meant constantly measuring key statistics and targeting specific weaknesses…Brailsford’s small gains began with the obvious, such as equipment, kit fabrics, and training patterns. But his team didn’t stop there. They continued to find 1 percent improvements in overlooked and unexpected areas such as nutrition and even maintenance nuances. Over time, these myriads of micro-betterments aggregated into stunning results, which came faster than anyone could have imagined. Truly, they were onto the eternal principle of “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.””

The story of the British cycling team is a powerful example of what leads to actual change. Change doesn’t happen by focusing on everything you want to improve, it happens by small and simple things. This is one reason why having a key focus for the year can be super helpful to discovering small gains that can be had to help you perform at your best!

So what can you change? This week I’m going to work on being early to everything. It’s something I need to revisit. It helps create an abundance mindset, rather than rushing to everything making it feel like you don’t have time for anything. If you’re early you can relax, enjoy the travel, and stop to help people.

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