Being Diligent

Diligence is careful and persistent work or effort. It is such an elegant word. When striving for excellence or reaching for success. We should consider our diligence.

Synonyms for diligence include conscientiousness, assiduousness, assiduity, hard work, concentration, care, industriousness, rigor, meticulousness, and thoroughness. Don’t those words represent how you would want your effort to be described?

I want to keep that list of words in my wallet. When I get stuck I can pull it out and find inspiration in those words.

Samuel Johnson once said, What we hope ever to do with ease, we must first learn to do with diligence.” Success follows diligence!

Living in the Moment

Do you really think that living in the past and letting it overshadow today is helping you? Do not stumble on the things that are behind you, nor fear that which lies ahead.

Carpe diem! Carpe diem is a shortened version of the original Latin phrase “Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero” meaning “seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.”

Carpe diem is commonly used to justify spontaneous behavior and to make the most of today, because one doesn’t know if they’ll live to see tomorrow. It is not saying “ignore the future”. Rather do as much as one can now because you won’t know how the future will unfold.

Carpe diem is a truth. You can only live in the moment. The future has not arrived, and the past is already gone. To make the most of the time you have you must live and act in this moment. But it does not mean you need to act  carelessly or recklessly.

Most meaningful projects take more than one day. The challenge is making the most of each day. Not by being spontaneous, but by being strategic. We still need to maintain some level of spontaneity for unplanned opportunity and fun. But significant projects will never be accomplished through procrastination.

Every action can affect the future. Every action can help reconcile the past. But every action can only be done now. When you think in those terms, hopefully you are encouraged to do more today. Be encouraged and take action now.

The Process of Success and Failure

We tend to think of success and failure as events. They are not moments in time, but rather processes. Our successes and failures come from the actions we take leading up to that moment in time.

In 2013, I defined a goal for myself to write a book. My target date for completion was December 1, 2016. That day passed by without having a book written. I had failed. In fact when I reached my target date, I had not even started writing the book.

Many excuses played in my head. I was busy. I didn’t know where to start. It was too much work. I can’t write very well. But the truth is that I never had a process that would lead to success. By default, I had a process that would lead to failure.

Doesn’t that happen to us quite often. For me, I have a more ideas and plans than time. It requires sifting and selecting the ones that are more important. The probability of success is defined by the next step. We must take that idea and develop a process that will lead to success.

Defining the process is different than defining milestones or goals. Milestones check progress toward a goal. The process is actually doing the work.

If I had dedicated 15 minutes a day toward writing that book, I would have completed about half a page a day. In two years, I would have accomplished over 300 pages of material. Even if I allocate a year for editing a rewriting I would achieve the goal in three years. Instead I wasted five, by not having a process.

But if failure is not an event, we can recover. After realizing failure, I changed my process. Today, I am writing a book using only 15 minutes at a time at least five days a week. It is a process that will eventually lead to success.

When we recognize failure as a process, we can change our process. What process do you need to change to achieve your goals? What should you allocate 15 minutes of your time to every day?

Observe and Discover

“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”, said Arthur Conan Doyle. There is a difference between seeing and observing. Observing with intent can lead to great discoveries.

I have led or participated in hundreds of kaizen workshops. The first step in almost all of them is to observe the work. We would go to the location the work was being done, and spend time observing. It was much more than just watching.

With practice and training you can learn how to observe work. To observe a manufacturing operation, I start with blank paper and write down all the motions the worker made. It would include each movement in the smallest detail, such as the estimated distances for each reach with their hand, or each step with their foot.

Depending on the cycle time of the process, observing and documenting the work could be done in minutes. If your observation was correct, then afterwards you could recreate the motions without equipment or material. You could demonstrate the work in a conference room.

This documented work became the baseline for improvement. Understanding the work unlocked the ability to discover improvements. It became possible to evaluate changes, evaluate combining and dividing the movements differently between different workers, and evaluate the elimination of wasted movements.

Observation is the key to discovery. We were trained to observe, and then we were trained to discover improvements. It sounds simple, but practice led to advanced skills.

What could you observe today that could potentially lead to a great discovery?