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Bring the target closer

Today is the first day of the month and as with every other month so far, I will start a new Strength training routine at my gym today. My instructor defines a new routine each month and the goal is to repeat the routine in every session of the month and observe a difference in what I can do by the last day compared to the first.

My instructor always outlines what the hardest level of the routine looks like on a board that remains there all through the month as a reminder of what the target end goal is. But I'm free to choose wherever I want to start. For instance, if the target end goal is to do squats with thirty kilos, I'm free to start by doing squats without any weights and then build up to the target goal.

And that is precisely what I always do. While it is daunting to do the squats with thirty kilos on day one, and a request that my body might refuse to comply with even if I try, starting with no weights on the first day and then adding two kilos the next and two more the next and so on helps me get there.

Of course, it is never a linear progression like that. In fact, in this example, I got up to sixteen kilos on the very first day over multiple repetitions on the session, and to twenty four by the end of two weeks, and had still not managed to do it with thirty by the end of the month.

By bringing the target closer (zero at first and then two more and two more and so on), I'm always staring at a target that feels like it is just within reach, and I can push a little harder to get there. But despite that, it gets progressively harder as I keep incrementing the target and eventually I get to a stage where my improvements start to plateau.

That is when a step jump is needed.

When starting off in my first job right out of college, the thought of earning a salary five times what I was being offered was a daunting proposition. When I started writing my first blog post, the thought of writing a thousand posts was a daunting proposition. Writing a novel was an even more daunting proposition.

And yet, I've managed to do them by bringing the target closer within reach and incrementing it ever so often.

Bring the target closer. Hit it. Increment it. Repeat.

Keep doing this until you reach a stage where it starts to get very hard to make those incremental gains. And then, look for a new approach that will give you a step jump from there.

The classic dilemma of a product manager who is working on a successful product is whether to incrementally optimize the product features and clock in that incremental growth or to invest in a disruptive new idea by taking a bold new approach.

I have learnt to optimize until there is the option to do so, and then to cast aside what got me here and find a new way to get a step jump from the place I'm at.

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