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SPI 626: 1% Better

One thing we all want to do is to hone our skills so we can improve our output. But, with tips and tools coming at us from all sides, how do we take action without getting overwhelmed?

I remember trying to become a better public speaker and focusing on all the things I needed to work on to make that happen. The list seemed endless, and I was getting nowhere tackling everything at once.

The strategy that changed everything for me was the opposite of that. Inspired by James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I decided instead to focus on a single aspect of my presentations at a time and improve on that by 1% every day [Amazon affiliate link].

Speaking at FinCon in St. Louis comes to mind. I noticed my hands were always glued to my sides during previous talks. For this particular event, I decided to learn everything I could about what to do with my hands. Zeroing in on one issue was eye-opening and it completely changed my approach to improving my skills.

So how can you focus on improving one aspect of a skill at a time? Listen in on this episode to find out about the tactic I use and how you can apply it to your own goals.

SPI 626: 1% Better

Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, in 1999, he used to work at Toys R Us and now he wishes he bought all the Pokemon cards. Pat Flynn.

Pat Flynn: One thing that I think we all want to do is to improve, to improve our skills, which then can improve our output.

But it can be very difficult because there are a million things we can do better, and I think a lot of us suffer from the bloat of absorbing content from all different places to try to improve all the different things all at the same time. And as a result of that, we go nowhere or we just find that we’re not making any improvements at all.

And inspired by James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, where he talks about, you know, the 1% improvement every day sort of concept, right? And that 1%, although it might seem small, it stacks over time and it starts to exponentially grow. And I think the same thing can happen when it comes to learning certain things.

So my advice based on experience, and I’m gonna tell you something from my real life that I have improved upon quite a bit, that I was very, very not so great at at the start, as an example here, and I’m talking about public speaking. Public speaking is something I’ve spoken about before here on the podcast.

But to be specific with learning how to become a better speaker. You know, there were a number of things that I did that I think we should all do. Watch other speakers and see how they do what they do. I watched a ton of TED Talks just to learn what is compelling, what is engaging, what is not engaging?

Where do I lose focus when watching others? When do I gain focus and sit at the edge of my chair? These are all inputs that I could take in that I can then try to figure out how to do for an audience who’s watching or listening to me. But very early on, I realized that as I wanted to do better the next time, every time I spoke on stage, you know, consider, Okay, here’s the entire set that I did and here are all the things I did wrong.

I’m gonna try to improve all of them. And I found that by approaching it that way, it was very difficult to A, just get better because there were so many things and it was harder to learn and harder to focus. But B, it was just difficult to measure. So what I ended up doing, which again is sort of mapped out inside of James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, was simply choose one thing that I was gonna focus on, learn everything I could about, and then execute on the next time I get on stage. For example, I remember speaking in St. Louis at FinCon, the Financial Blogger conference, and there were a lot of new things that I was bringing to that presentation. But there was one thing in particular that I said, Okay, this specifically, I’m going to try to improve this time, and what was that?

That was what my hands were going to do was always something that was an issue. I remember my hands. Laying close to my side in some of those first presentations, and when I watch myself, I would notice that and pay attention and realize that, well, I could probably be doing something better with that. So, leading up to this event in 2013, I decided that I was gonna focus on my hands.

So what did I do? I watched other speakers and just saw what they did with their hands. I didn’t take a training for what do you do with your hands during public speaking, but I looked up a lot of people who were teaching, speaking to see if I could find anything related to what do you do with your hands?

And there was some material both on YouTube and in books about that. Very simple to find actually. Then I reached out to a speaking coach who then I asked specific questions about related to what do we do with our hands and in keeping that one thing in mind, I was able to focus that learning and thus be more likely to have a better performance the next time.

And if, I don’t know if you’d be able to find it, but if you have access to finding that event, you would be able to see that my hands were doing very specific things at very specific times. I learned, for example, that with your hands, your hands can be used to emphasize certain things that you’re saying, almost like a punctuation, but using your body to do that.

As you were saying, certain things, other times, hands could be an absolute distraction as you’re telling a story or transitioning hands sometimes are used as safety blanket, if you will, and you start to notice a lot of movement in hands when maybe they shouldn’t be there. That could be perhaps distracting.

There are a few signals with your hands, for example, in certain cases, if you clasp your hands together and make a tight fist while you are speaking, it can often become a sign of either, a lack of confidence or unsurety or being uncertain. I’m a much better presenter than I am a grammatical speaker at this current time.

But you, you know what I mean? So, when I focused on what do I do with my hands, I got better at, what do I do with my hands? And then that information sticks with me. For the rest of the presentations that I do from that point forward, because I’m literally absorbing it, learning it, practicing it, and and then executing on it.

And then the next time I choose something else, one time I chose to focus on where am I on stage, at what point in the presentation. And thankfully I started to realize that you could do the same presentation over and over and then I could do. Specifically things to improve a particular slide deck or particular talk and topic.

And that was really cool because I could do the same talk and just make that talk better. But then again, what I learned about where I am on stage, the outer extremities of the stage, making people on the outside feel like they’re being paid attention to, which a lot of speakers don’t do, to using the center as a sort of your power area to make and drive home certain points to walking the stage during transition moments or stories.

To better emphasize those points where you pause again, these things are things that I could focus on on one presentation, get better at, and then become a part of my repertoire. Right? And this is how I’ve become a. I would like to consider a world class speaker. I’ve been told that before. I, I don’t like to say that about myself, but I know that I’ve improved and I know that I got asked to speak on stages quite often because of this kind of work that I put into it.

So those are just a few tips for you, not just for speaking, but for learning. How might you improve one thing the next time you do something right? The next time you write an email, how are you gonna make this email better than the last one? Well, you could just do everything to make it better. Or what if your storytelling in this email was as good as it can be?

All right. Let’s research and find other emails maybe in my inbox or that other people have used, or maybe there’s templates out there for different stories and story frameworks that could be used in emails to increase that engagement, to pay attention, to click through rates and open rates and such.

The next time you do a sale, how might you improve conversions? Well, you could focus on the sales page, you could focus on the checkout sequence. What if you just focused on the checkout sequence? How do I optimize the checkout sequence? Let’s just focus on that. Yes, you should focus on a lot of things, not just like discount everything else, but as far as your all in learning about a particular small percentage of something like a checkout process could be exponential growth over time, and in, in that case, you know, exponential additional revenue into your business as a result. And so again, I’m just encouraging you as you move forward here into the end of the year and into the start of 2023, if you do something over and over again, like present on stage, or send emails or create YouTube videos or create podcast episodes, pick one little thing for the next iteration that you can learn about and improve.

I promise you over time and not a very long period of time, but even a short period of time, you’ll begin to see really, really big results. So good luck to you. Thank you for listening to this episode of the podcast here on Friday, and make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss out on the next episodes coming your way, including our interviews that we have on Wednesday and more follow up Fridays.

So thank you so much. I appreciate you and wishing you all the best.

Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at I’m your host Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski. And our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We’ll catch you in the next session.

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