The secret to my productivity in life comes from a single principle: continuous improvement over time. When I was in the US Marine Corps my superior officers taught this virtue all the time. Basically, you should strive to make constant growth at all levels over time. Moreover, try to make yourself a little better today than you were yesterday. It doesn’t have to be much, but the math adds up.
This productivity principle is so simple, yet many of us fail to see the enormous benefits of compound interest. The fact you can change your self from failure to success over a few months (or years) time, no matter what life conditions you face—is a powerful truth. It just takes a little grit, willpower, and consistency (the names of the game).
The fact one can go from broke to wealthy in a couple of years takes hard work—but it also takes something else, without which one will never succeed. That extra antidote is incremental improvement.
Focus, consistency, labor, and perseverance are traits talked about much in the self-improvement and business worlds, but who actually does them? Simple: the people who are successful are doing them. It’s not that complicated. The problem that persists among the masses is that average people don’t have the drive to focus until the end on their pursuits. They give up.
Average is not for you
This blog was created to teach and encourage high achievers. My audience are intelligent, hardworking people who want to break free from the shackles that hold them back, to soar like eagles!
There is a reason for everything under the sun. Broke people are without enough money for a reason; unhealthy people are sick and drained for a reason; lonely people are without romantic life partners for a reason; and high achievers whose obstacles seem non-existent are like that for a reason. However, many high achievers do not show much of the sweat they’ve been through. They have the SAME problems that you and I have, only they’ve decided to persevere and overcome their challenges. They value their life enough to not give up on their dreams.
In Marine Corps officer training we called this ‘friction.’ Friction is the unwanted, often unexpected hardships and problems that arise whenever you are trying to accomplish a mission. No matter how intense and thorough your planning is, crazy surprises will often amount, throwing a wrench into the system. It’s noteworthy to mention that even the smallest, insignificant problems that remain unresolved can grow into monsters that derail your whole plan.
That said, when you love yourself enough you get a sort of mystical energy that never leaves. It’s like a spiritual power that infuses your psyche, your biology, and your mind with good ideas. This causes you to persevere. Something magical happens when you make the personal decision to fight for your life’s purpose!
The Japanese have a name for continuous improvement
In Japanese business culture, the principle of continuous improvement is known as the Kaizen Principle. Though ‘gradual growth’ is intrinsic truth worldwide, the people of Japan actually gave it a name.
One example of this is in the aftermath of WWII when Japan’s infrastructure was demolished. They knew that if they made incremental shifts to rebuild their society, it would eventually come about.
The Kaizen method is motivational wisdom
I enjoy pondering the principle of continuous improvement because I know that it works. I’ve seen it in action, time and time again. If the US Marine Corps uses it as a wisdom attribute to build knowledge and skill among its officer corps, and if Japan labeled it with an official word—then you know we are on to something here.
When you do the math any large feat can come to pass so long as consistency remains the name of the game. People give up too soon, for various reasons. Sometimes it’s due to losing vision—they started originally with a great idea, fueled with passion. However, once the process was underway, complexities and unknown hardships kicked in. Without perseverance the logic of finishing the task just doesn’t happen.
We all know that if we remain faithful toward our mission we will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel. The dilemma is that most people fail to keep going, simple put. When you look at the process of completing a task from start to finish through incremental improvement, it appears simple. Nonetheless, when you actually roll up your sleeves and start doing it, it’s a different picture.
The bird’s eye view
Having a subjective mindset compared to observing the process objectively can be like night and day. You feel one one, supercharged with energy when looking at the plan from a map or sketch in a warm, light-covered room. You’re comfortable with a cup of tea in hand, and you’re really enthusiastic about seeing the fruition of your finished project. This is the objective mindset in the abstract, as compared to actually getting in the mud and doing it. Let me explain.
When you plan the work on paper and envision it in your mind, it’s often crystal clear. However when you start feeling firsthand the pain and frustration that comes with the labor of actually doing it, your entire perspective shifts. This is where motivation, courage, and discipline kicks in—or not.
If you have a perfect vision inside about what you want to accomplish, your ability to keep going in the hard times is strong. Thus when you reinforce that vision constantly, your enthusiasm to remain consistent grows.
My story of becoming a commissioned officer
In May of 2011, I earned my bachelor’s degree from Boston College as well as my commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. This process was basically a four-year venture—with much sweat, frustration and labor.
I started in 2006 while still in college in Massachusetts. I was thinking of joining the military as an officer, but needed to finish my bachelor’s degree first. I knew I wanted to serve, but understood the advantages of waiting to finish my education to enter as an officer rather than an enlisted member. However, this didn’t play out exactly that way.
My younger brother at the time was gung-ho about joining the Marines. I was actually considering the Coast Guard. Nevertheless, his enthusiasm sparked my original desire to join the USMC which I had back at Norwich University in 2001 (a military academy in Vermont).
So, I went ahead and enlisted, knowing that it would come with a boat-load of factors that were often less-than-ideal. I wanted to be an officer, but also appreciate the idea of first going in at the humble enlisted ranks, which earns honor and humility in both yourself and your reputation. I enlisted and went to Paris Island on October 10, 2006.
Upon joining and enduring the grueling 12 weeks of boot camp, I was stationed at Pensacola, Florida for about a year to complete my Avionics school. I was in the Air Wing and needed to earn my credentials as an Aviation Electronics Technician (MOS 6463).
To my shock, I realized what I had done: I signed my life away—in the enlisted ranks—as a well-read 23-year-old college student. I was saluting new officers who were my age, or younger. Though I knew that once I got into the Operating Forces (formerly called “Fleet Marine Force”), I could enroll in college classes (to include online) for free with my active duty tuition assistance. I also gained full advantage of my Post 911 GI Bill due to enlisting.
The friction came as soon as I joined, and got to my first duty station. I realized I was in a culture of young Marines who never went to college, and I sort of felt like a fish out of water. Most Marines in the enlisted ranks, though they had great character and life purpose generally speaking, were a little different breed than individuals on the officer side. I wanted to lead to a greater degree, and prove to myself I could accomplish great obstacles for the purpose of my life.
These days were when my manhood grew 7-fold. I had lots of Sergeants and other enlisted superiors who often gave me a hard time. I didn’t fit in exactly like most other enlisted Marines. Though I was more physically fit than them, and could outrun 99% on a PFT (Physical Fitness Test), I didn’t have a desire to get drunk in bars and hang with the crowd.
I was very into myself, in a quite healthy way. I wanted to keep my record clean, continue to take care of my body and mind, and eventually put in my officer package by applying for a commission.
While deployed to Iraq in 2009, I worked on distant (satellite) college courses from Upper Iowa University at my workstation in Al Asad. I was deployed for 7 months total. This was also a very powerful growing experience as an individual. Though I don’t agree with the U.S. military being over there—now that I’ve become very politically aware—personal transformation it had on me was astounding.
Well, eventually after much labor—including paperwork, medical screenings, taking the ASVAB over again, and take lots of ‘heat’ from my enlisted peers—my officer package was approved and I was accepted into the Meritorious Commissioning Program (MCP). This enabled me to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia, at a given date, return to Boston to finish my college while on active duty in the NROTC, and finally become an officer.
The process back home in Boston had many challenges and hardships along the way; they nevertheless developed more character in me. Though I had a blast for the 18 months during my time back home in my ‘stomping ground’ of Massachusetts, I had a severe break-up with a girl who I wanted to marry, mainly because she didn’t want to move with me down to Virginia upon my commission. This is totally understandable on her part.
Consequently, I enduring getting over the breakup and worked my way through The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico, VA. A year and a half later through, I decided to resign my commission out of my own free will—because my values about US foreign policy changed and I began getting politically savvy.
[Side note] This tangent of the subject matter is for yet another post, but the basic gist was that I got tired of seeing what the US government was doing all around the world. I read Dr. Ron Paul’s book, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom, and started admiring the original ideologies of the Founding Fathers which made our nation great and prosperous. Such values were built on individual liberty—private property, free speech, due process—and a foreign policy that LEAVES EVERYONE ELSE ALONE. Don’t get me started.
The principle of continuous improvement is a time-tested, longstanding universal truth. It has enabled me to learn incredible amounts of information over time, such as learning to write code for a WordPress site. By understanding the logical and mathematical process of task completion via small, incremental steps, I have found the wisdom to reach any goal that I put my mind to.