Book Jeff

“Most Improved”

Years ago, I had a student show up in my office asking if he could get his test back. The day before, I had returned the second of three major exams to the class, but it was a class he had missed due to illness. After I handed it to him, he looked at his score and was crushed. “A nineteen? I only scored a nineteen? I thought I did better this time!”

Trying to encourage him, I reminded him he had done better. “You only scored a six on the first exam. In fact, you were the most improved student in the class!”

I wasn’t wrong.

And he wasn’t encouraged. Just exasperated.

Honestly, I think it was harder to only score a six, or even a nineteen, than it was to ace one of my exams. The bad news is he did end up failing my class. The good news? He ultimately figured things out and graduated!

I taught thousands of students during my twenty-two years in higher education. I remember this one because he ended up inspiring and encouraging me. To go from a six to a nineteen…from failure to graduation is impressive!

I was reminded of this story last week when I learned a friend of ours, Kimberly, injured her back and initially feared she would never be able to walk or live a normal life again. Fortunately, she was able to find a way to take thirty-three steps on Wednesday, and then she took 148 steps on Thursday. That’s a 448 percent improvement in one day. Yay!

You may have never scored that low on an exam—twice. Or increased your step count from double digits to triple digits and counted it as a major win. But you’ve no doubt been frustrated with yourself, your lack of progress, and the seemingly slow steps toward your goals, dreams, and success.

f you are struggling this week, I want to encourage you to shift your mindset from “I can’t” to “I can’t yet.” Progress takes patience. Today, you only have one job: show up. Even if you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Stop measuring yourself on where you want to be. Instead, appreciate where you are today vs. yesterday. The day before. Last week. Last month.

Walt Disney understood the importance of progress. That is why the twists and turns at Disneyland aren’t just for Space Mountain. The queues are doubled back so that when we are in line, we have a sense of advancing toward the goal, with a constantly changing view.

The next time you feel stuck in the slow lane of success, remember that every journey starts with a single step, or thirty-three, or 148. No matter what, keep moving forward. Enjoy the journey. Appreciate how far you’ve come.

Become “most improved.”

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