Video: The Rule of 5 / The Power of ConsistencyJul 23, 2021
About 7 years ago I heard John Maxwell-- a leadership guru-- speak to a group of business leaders...
“If it’s not your dream,” he said, “then don’t do it. Do something else, do whatever your dream is…”
He closed his speech by encouraging the audience to do something tangible if it was their dream. That is, he said that each of us should do something actionable every single day that moves the dream closer to fruition. He calls this his “Rule of 5,” because he’s found five things he does every single day.
Maxwell has so ingrained this into his personal routine his entire company has created it’s own “Rule of 5” they’ve plastered all over the walls of their facility. In other words, he’s identified the dream for the company, and the company takes tangible steps each day towards the fulfillment of that dream.
Maxwell provided us with an incredible image to understand this “Rule of 5” and how it works.
“Let’s say I have a tree in my backyard that I want to cut,” he said. “I’ve got to get rid of it.”
I imagined a massive tree— like the kind you build forts in when you’re a kid. The kind that sprawl out creating massive shade canopies so large that grass can’t even grow under them because so many kids take refugee under them, trampling it away as they play. We had one in our neighborhood when I was a kid that we simply referred to as “the big tree.”
He continued, “I can sit there and chop at it until it falls. That’s a valid option. But I’ll probably get tired. It’s a big tree… and I’ll probably grow weary and want to do some other things. I may get involved in those other things and dread getting back to the tree— and then eventually not go back and touch it, even though I wanted to get it out of there…”
“A better option,” he said, “and one that will also bring the tree down… eventually… is to go take that ax and whack the tree as hard as I can five times a day. Every day. Hit it five today, then go back inside and do other things. Then get up fresh and invigorated the next time and take a crack at it again. Five more times. And again… and again… and again…”
It became clearer with each word he spoke that Maxwell was talking about dreams— about the things we want to achieve in life. In business. Or with our fitness. Or our families. He wasn’t referring to real trees at all. He was encouraging us to maintain consistency with things far more important than landscaping.
He then asked the crowd, “Will that tree fall if I hit it five times a day?”
We resounded with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
“Can you all hit a tree, no matter how large it is, five times a day?!” he asked. “No matter how long it takes…?”
We were certain we could. We cheered. We clapped. We were ready to grab our axes and start hacking away at our dreams.
In that moment it dawned on me. Most people give up in their dreams not because they’re dreaming and moving in the wrong direction, but because they’re moving in the right direction and they don’t see the dream coming to fruition fast enough. In other words, they stop whittling away at the distance between here and there just a bit too soon.
“Here’s the key,” Maxwell continued. “I hit my tree every day. Every day.” He paused and then said it again. “I hit it every single day. Every day.”
He mentioned that people always ask him what he means by every day.
“What about Saturdays?” some people ask.
“I hit it every day. Even on Saturdays.”
Others wonder, “Holidays? Do you chop the five swings on a holiday?”
“If holidays fall on a day,” he snickered, “I hit the tree on those days, too.”
“And,” others chime in, “your birthday… do you take your birthday off? After all, it’s your birthday…”
“My birthday is the best day,” he said. “I seem to receive an automatic dose of extra inspiration on those days— I’m not sure why people stop pursuing their dreams on that day, of all days.”
Still others ask about vacations and what he does if he’s sick and what he does if he’s tired or just not in the mood.
“It’s five little licks. I take the five licks every single day. Even on vacation and even if I’m not in the mood. In fact,” he added, “sometimes I’m not in the mood when I go pick up my ax. But I’ve learned those can be the best days, too. Often, the motivation comes in the act of doing it.”
Think about his last insight…
Many times the motivation to do the thing comes in the act of actually doing it.
So the question comes: What does his “Rule of 5” look like?
Maxwell said that every single day he does these five things: he reads, he files, he thinks, he asks questions, and he writes. That’s it. Read, file, think, ask questions, write.
A little today. More tomorrow. More the next day.
After telling us his five, he posed this question to the audience: “What will you do every day— whether it’s 3 or 4 or 5 things, whatever— to move closer to your dream?”
So, I ask you what he asked us: What are the consistent things for you?
I’m not talking about all of the things you do every day. My routine every day looks like this: I wake up, I exercise, I shower… then I do whatever I have scheduled…. Every day.
I’m not talking about things like that. I’m talking about the unique things you will do to move your dreams closer to reality.
I do the following:
I move. Each morning, as part of my “power up” routine, I go to gym in my garage and exercise. Or hop on my bike and go for a long ride. Or, I lace up my shoes and hit the roads for a run. If I’m out of town, I make adjustments to move my body in some way.
I read. I’ve set margin in my mornings, as well, to read my Bible as well as other books. I generally do so with pen and paper in hand, making notes of concepts I learn and insights I have. Though I’m reading during that time “for me,” many of those reflections find their way into books, courses, social media posts, or other things I publish.
I write. It seems like I’m almost cranking out something— whether it’s a class, an email funnel, or even just organizing my thoughts for some yet-to-be-determined purpose. Sometimes I write and it looks like a finished manuscript; sometimes I write and it looks like notes jotted down on paper. Every day I move something from my head onto paper or computer screen, though.
I connect. I interact with several groups of people each day. Some of these are people with whom I work. Others are people I’m serving in some capacity. Some are friends and family I intentionally call one or more times a week. I also have goals related to my marriage which I pursue each day.
I review. I look back at my calendar and see what loose ends I left hanging. Each week I take a few hours to plan ahead for the following week. I find it helpful each day to take some time to make sure I’m on task. Often, looking back at meetings I had yesterday reminds me of someone I need to call today— or some bit of information I need to pass to them.
That’s my list: move, read, write, connect, review. I do those things— in some capacity— every single day. And I chase a bunch of kids around the house. Most of the time, I do all of this at the same time.
Now, a few observations— and encouragements— for you:
You may not have five. You might have more, you could have less. I named this chapter “The Rule of 5” because that’s what Maxwell called it. The fact I have five is purely coincidental.
The consistent “whacks” you take each day should resemble the list of catalytic actions you created earlier in the book. That is, these are— most likely— your little dominoes.
These consistent actions may not take very much time each day. It takes just a few minutes to grab an ax from the garage, walk through the yard, and then swing it a few times. In fact, it takes longer to gather the tool and make that trip than it does to do the work. Your catalytic actions may feel much the same.
If you don’t do the work each day, you can’t “make it up” or “get it back.” The compounding power of incremental change only works when you continue improving something a little bit each day. You make the phone call. Or you make the bed. Or you take the walk. Or you pray. Or you connect with that person. In most cases, you can’t “double-work” the day before or “catch back up” the day after. You either gain that day’s momentum or you miss it.
Finally, identifying your “Rule of 5” (or “Rule of 2” or “Rule of 7” or whatever it is) for each day empowers you to focus you efforts and see progress. In other words, these are the actions to make sure you calendar.
As the graphic above says, we tend to overestimate what we can do in a day...
... at the same time, we radically underestimate what will happen over time with the power of small repeating actions multiplied together...
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