Why did I just drop and do 25 push-ups at 2 a.m. ?
Why were Maria and I working on a grant proposal for Small Business Innovation Research until past 1 a.m. while her oldest child fell asleep on my couch?
Both questions have the same answer, one I learned from my college track coach:
It takes a little more to make a champion.
Coach Bailey had that on a poster in her office. She said that there was no secret to doing better than everyone else, all you needed to do was work harder.
After working on the grant for weeks, we had decided it was ready to submit. Maria wrote the abstract while I verified we had all of the information in the appendices and aggregated everything into a single pdf file.
Then, at 10 pm, we read it over one last time and decided that there were two sections we had not adequately addressed in a way that met the requirements. I cannot tell you how much we did NOT want to spend the next 3 1/2 hours working on those. Still, we did it, and around 1:30 a.m., hit the submit button and I did a little dance.
I have heard the arguments against hard work as the key to success and I agree with some of them, but I still think Coach Bailey had it right. Yes, some people succeed without hard work, but it is a little late for me to be born to the Walton family, so work is what I have left as an option. Yes, there is discrimination based on age, gender, ethnicity, race and your family not having belonged to the right country club. Yes, that does suck. Again, it’s a little late for me now to be born into a more fund-able strata of society.
Here are the facts – I know that 7% of IES SBIR awards are funded, just like I know that half of small businesses fail within four years, and even the largest companies tend to decline over 15 years.
If the odds are against you, if you know how difficult of a slog it is going to be, why WOULDN’T you put in the extra hours? Yes, there are diminishing marginal returns and I am not saying you never sleep, eat or spend time with your children (when they wake up). What I am saying is that if you put in those extra three hours, time after time after time, they WILL pay off eventually. This grant proposal will be just a little bit better because of that extra work. If that little extra doesn’t put us over the top into the funding pool, maybe it will on the next one or the next one.
We apply this not just to grant proposals but to everything. I was testing our newest game, Aztech, which will be tested in the very first school next week. We had tested it on Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari. I tested it on Firefox and everything looked fine until I hit the button that changes from English to Spanish. The text flipped over fine but the voiceover kept playing in English. Can you guess how much I did NOT want to de-bug this and how much I could just wave my hands and say,
Well, it played on Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer fine, obviously it’s a browser problem.
Except, that is no help to people who use Firefox, now, is it? So, I spent a couple of hours tracking down the problem, changed some functions and now it works on all browsers. I also emailed our other developers so they would know about the issue and how to fix it, and then documented it on our company wiki. Can you guess that I did NOT want to do that documentation knowing that the grant proposal was still ahead of me later that night? (What weirdo wants to documentation anyway?)
What does all of this have to do with doing 25 push-ups at 2 a.m. (or writing a blog at 3 a.m., for that matter)?
Because I am convinced that the key to success is not just that champions do more but that they do a little more EVERY FREAKING DAY ! (I promised Maria not to swear on our company blog.)
Around Christmas time, when the judo class I teach was off for the holidays, I realized I was spending a whole lot of time at my desk working on the latest game releases and grants and not working out at all. I was starting to get the very hint of those little old lady flabby arms. So, I decided to do 25 push-ups a day. That’s not a lot, but hey, I’m not training for the Olympics. I sit at a desk and write software.
After having worked late last night reviewing this proposal and working on Aztech, I got up just in time to take a shower and drive 90 minutes to see my youngest daughter play in her high school soccer game. Then, I came home, went grocery shopping, since, to my great disappointment, no magic fairies had dropped food off while I was gone, and worked on Aztech and the grant proposal some more.
After I dropped Maria and her daughter off at their house, I realized that I had not done my push-ups today. So, just like I had a marine drill sergeant in my living room, I dropped and did 25.
It takes a little more to make a champion.
Psst …. watch this blog … our next two games are coming out AMAZING. You’ll be able to buy them in the next couple of months and be blown away.