Being better, and being a betterer

The topic of personal "Kaizen" has been on my mind a lot lately. Probably on the mind of everyone that has had their plans shaken unexpectedly by this pandemic. Or in other words, all of us. Personal improvement. Professional development. Picking oneself up after falling down, and picking up a friend, colleague or family member when they have fallen down. Getting better and making others better.

REVIEW.REFLECT.RETRY I created this simple alliterative device to try to capture the essence of this...:

The image above shows 3 of around 5000 paintings done between 1974 and this past february, 2020 when the artist, Peter Dreher, died. This series, called Tag um Tag guter Tag (Day by Day, Good Day), started as a simple exercise in painting skills and became his lifelong work, which he likened to meditation. I was first introduced to this work in 1993 and it has resonated with me ever since. I have always felt that the English translation of the title misses out on the most important point. It is not that day by day is a good day, it is that day by day is a better day. He painted, reviewed, reflected and retried.

Problems happen. Best laid plans backfire and as Mike Tyson said "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Screwing up is what happens when people take initiative. And initiative is good, isn't it?

If we wait for perfection before starting, we never start. There is inertia as things are planned and analyzed. PDCA is a great cycle but if the planning stage is the longest stage, there will be missed opportunities.


Are you making an airplane and a mistake will cause thousands of deaths? Then please plan, test and retest a thousand times. If you are taking on a new job, writing a blog post, or baking bread for the first time...try. Fail. Learn from it and try again. Review.Reflect.Retry.

1% Gains I am inspired recently also by the concepts of Sir Peter Brailsford, who was able to take the British Cycling team to the top of their game by making "marginal gains" such as improved hand-washing to reduce illness and better pillows to improve sleep. In this video he mentions another important point about performance improvement.. When "the top of the mountain" seems very far away it is better to focus on achievable targets than on the "dream". Emotions can hijack our performance when we start to worry about the consquences of failure like looking stupid, or disapproval from a "boss". Set a reasonable target and measure yourself against yourself yesterday. Day by day is potentially a better day. Right, now to get out of this chair and put some of these words to action.


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