Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

We often get mesmerized by the suggestion that we need a grand vision. That is why I always find it fascinating to hear that so many high achievers had no grand vision, or at least they did not have the grand vision of the particular success they achieved.

Tom Brady was the latest person I heard to suggest such a thing. In the pregame segment he taped with Terry Bradshaw, Brady told Bradshaw, “I never imagined myself in this situation,” meaning playing in his 7th Super Bowl with a chance to win 5.

We often hear that we need to imagine it before we achieve it, but in reality, being excellent always rests with doing one’s best in the present moment, after all, it’s the only moment we ever live in. Now, to be sure, some of that excellence in the present is direct toward planning, but it always strikes me unusual, and quite wonderful actually, when someone exclaims that their life exceeded their wildest dreams.

I am not suggesting that imagery, planning, and/or goal setting are bad. That’s not at all my point. Planning has a purpose, but even though planning is about the future, it’s an act that must be done – like all others – in the moment. Thus, even planning must be performed excellently in the moment.

If one is to do rather than just dream, the planning must turn to action, and when taking action, so much big excellence is in the tiny details. Sometimes the grandest way to imagine something is to see the ordinary with extraordinary detail, focus, and care. Grand visions without action never materialize, but actions without a grand vision can still build a masterpiece one little detail at a time.

I think this is why Brady was so composed when Super Bowl LI started so poorly for the Patriots. He realizes that his vision of what he wants need not prevent him from dealing effectively with what is. He understands that he has built a masterpiece one little detail at a time, so that is how he took to dismantling the large deficit. Like with his entire career, perhaps in focusing on the tiny details he could influence, he exceeded what he could have accomplished had he tried to take in the entire bigger picture.

There is nothing wrong with a grand vision, but there is also nothing wrong with a limited or seemingly small vision with extraordinary focus on the little thingsĀ that make the big things possible. As Emerson wrote, “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” Sometimes this wisdom leads us to places beyond our wildest dreams.

The Little Things

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make the big things happen.”
-John Wooden, Legendary College Basketball Coach

In explaining what it means to make the play, I often point people toward their own areas of expertise, their own endeavors, their own lives, and ask, “What are the little things that make the big things happen? Those are the plays to be made.”

Here is a letter I wrote to my daughter’s basketball team helping explain this concept. I think it will help clear it up for you, and it’s a great resource to share if you have kids. It’s about basketball, but I think you will be able to easily apply it to other activities.

Here’s the letter:

Ladies, what a pleasure it is to get to coach this great team.

Did you know that great teams look at every single day, every single practice, and every single rep in every practice as an opportunity to either get better or get worse. Do you agree? What little things are you striving to improve today?

As we move forward and continue to get better as a team, it is very important that we improve our performance on the little things.

What are the little things? The little things are the important little pieces of the puzzle that make big things – like winning – happen.

Here is a list of little things you might improve today:
Boxing out;
Playing defense with our feet;
Not reaching and not committing silly fouls;
Improving shooting form; Improving ball handling;
Improving passing;
Improving catching;
Calling out picks;
Moving around picks;
Playing great help defense;
Calling and running offensive plays;
Picking up teammates with enthusiasm.

Can you think of others?

What little things are you committed to improving today?

What is your commitment level to getting better at the little things today?

We then talk more about their ideas about the little things, and they give themselves a silent rating of their own commitment at moment, just a little reminder self-pointing in a certain direction.

So in making your own plays out there in life – be it sports, school, family, business, education, law, etc. – I ask you:

What little things are you committed to improving today?

What is your commitment level to getting better at the little things today?

I hope your day is great and you rise and shine.