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The Power of Small Wins

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When I was researching my book, I discovered that one of the first feelings when people see a book/course about money is…DREAD.

“Ugh…I’m going to have to analyze all my spending…find those old receipts….then keep a budget for the next 60 years…ugh” (throw book away and stomp on it on the way to read US Weekly).

The code word here is: PREMATURE OVERWHELM.

The idea of having to “get all your ducks in a row” is a powerful demotivator to behavioral change. There’s a reason why the cover of my book says, “Just a 6-week program that works.”

We know premature overwhelm happens with managing your personal finances.

It happens with earning more on the side (“Where do I find an idea? Do I need business cards? How do I get clients? Ugh, they won’t pay me…”)

And it happens with finding your Dream Job.

One of the antidotes to premature overwhelm is using SYSTEMS. Rather than a hodgepodge of 50 tactics you “could” use, finding someone who can help outline a clear, simple set of steps to take — including what to do when one of the steps fails — can quickly conquer premature overwhelm.

As I tell my students, using one of my systems (on automating your money, earning more, or finding your Dream Job), when you have a system, you can focus on what’s in front of you this week — and ignore everything else until you come to it.

For example, in week 1, my Dream Job students don’t even TOUCH their resumes. In fact, they don’t even think about them until they’ve done some of the foundational work that will let them craft such powerful resumes that they’re almost immediately sent to the top of the pile.

One other solution to premature overwhelm is identifying small wins along the way. It’s funny how we think “success” has to be a 6-figure job, or being covered in the New York Times. The biggest successes start with the smallest wins.

Most importantly, small wins keep you focused on moving forward (one reason why I like Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball approach, even though it’s not mathematically “correct”).

That’s why I spent tens of thousands of dollars building my own Dream Job software — so I could incorporate small wins directly into the course.

And today, I thought I’d share some with you. The first group of DJ students is working through the course, and they’re collecting a massive number of wins. Some of them have already found jobs and negotiated big raises. Others are racing along, marking successes along the way.

Take a look:

“Two phone interviews for Monday and Wednesday for next week. Both are aligned with community engagement. One is a Director position at a museum and I was jumping up and down when I got the news. I have never been a director, I was a senior manager in my old position so to make that leap would be incredible. The second is at a up and coming start up. Both are great fits and it feels great to know my first impression with the resume and informational interviews stuck.”

-Cathleen A.

“Met with the future CEO (undergoing a spinoff) of the largest publicly traded company in my state. Contacted him through email. Setup the email with warm network information including the names of mutual friends and pulled on the fact that we graduated from the same school. I asked for 15 minutes, we ended up talking for almost an hour. Covered details about his new position, the company’s growth plans, family, living in *****, and the possibility of working together.

I felt great having made the connection and persisting to get the appointment. I now feel like I have another ally — a very well-positioned ally in the business community here in *****. He asked for a copy of my resume to keep on file and will keep me in mind as the business grows. I was also able to share this meeting with another person in my network who can connect me with influential business leaders.”

-Matthew W.

And some larger wins…

“I redid my resume when Dream Job started and sent it out to jobs on the ***** site just as a test. As the free stuff came out, I kept shifting processes and trying to correct the mistakes I made (like telling them my salary.) Anyway, I got an interview yesterday and spent the last week practicing short, story based answers on camera, prepping a sample newsletter for the briefcase technique and quizzing a girl I know who works there. Oh yeah, and I borrowed a suit and bought $5 heels at a thrift store. They called me this morning (24 hours later) with an offer.

End result: $10,000 raise, great benefits, great boss, and a place I can actually rack up some wins, instead of just doing what I’m told. I plan to use the Dream job stuff to really work on my social and negotiating skills to become a top performer and be worthy of my dream job over the next 2 years.”

-Jessica V.

What was the last small win you celebrated? Leave a comment with the details.

(And if you’re interested, you can get the very same free Dream Job bonuses that those students above got.)

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  1. I went to my first outside of work get together with my co-workers and it was awesome. We talked about a lot of interesting stuff and I learned a lot about them. I had been dreading going to one of these because I hate talking about work outside of work but it worked out pretty well. 🙂

  2. 3 recent small wins:

    -Negotiated a title upgrade after 6 months (Note, I’m 23, this is my first job after graduating, and I’ve been here 9 months) AND set a benchmark to revisit my title AND salary for another review in July.
    -Last week, had an informational interview with an Executive VP in an industry I’m interested in entering. Came away with a game plan and resources to do some serious follow-up research, and was told I could have interviews at certain companies IF I wanted them (but I’m happy at my current job for now)
    -This one’s much “smaller,” but I got a boss from a past internship to write a recommendation on my LinkedIn profile

  3. Small win of the week: I ran a mile. My goal is to do a half marathon in 2012. Gotta start somewhere.

  4. I recently got started using a virtual assistant service to track down 401k accounts at my former employers so I can roll them into one plan. Two birds with one stone!

  5. I think it’s awesome how you use Clotaire Rapaille’s format to talk about our code words. The last small win I celebrated was starting to genuinely connect with my coworkers.

  6. I got my first incredibly positive feedback on the book I’m writing. I sent three chapters to my target audience and immediately got a phone call asking me, “Send more!” It really got my juices flowing and fingers tapping (on the keyboard, of course). I anxiously await feedback now on the next 10 chapters–all fueled by that one positive comment.

  7. VERY insightful post.

    Would love to see you tie it in to other things you’ve talked about, eg BJ Fogg’s practice of having everyone say what they did and what they are going to do.

  8. Not really a “small” win, but I’ve read about GTD and implemented it with MS OneNote and Outlook but this gives me an incredible control of my work (actually doing tasks that matter and cancel useless projects…) and my position (giving me an overview of where I want to go).

  9. small win: organized giant list of products I own, websites I visit, groups I belong to, a la 4 Hour Workweek for “muse” product ideation.

    Next up:
    Brainstorm complementary products
    Translate all items into niche markets
    Brainstorm products for markets

  10. Closed packages for my first two pure referral clients. Also, have generated three connections in the city I am moving to in a few months and scheduled one meeting (this weekend!) with a professional mentor I had been trying to reach for two months.

    Three wins in a month!