How Thinking Small Can Lead to Big Success
Most of us have seen enough James Bond movies to recognize a seduction when we see it; few of us, however, recognize the seduction process. A seduction process is a series of small steps so minor that we are not aware of what is happening.
Small steps were the secret sauce I used as an FBI counterintelligence agent recruiting foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. Each act in the recruitment process was so small that the spies were not alerted to the changes in their environment. The reason this approach was so successful in my investigations is that it is a form of persuasion that is gradual, intentional, and progressive.
If I had walked up to a spy and simply asked them to work for the FBI, a huge barrier would have instantly sprung up between us, making progress toward developing a relationship impossible. Instead, the presence—and eventual acceptance—of the FBI was a gradual process, each step small enough so it was not intimidating.
The principle behind the seduction process can be applied to breaking down the resistance of people as well as barriers and obstacles. Many hurdles in life can be overcome in the same way if they are broken down gradually, deliberately, and relentlessly.
The use of small steps can be applied to any barrier or obstacle we face. In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about how leaders with strong minds are those who find ways to move forward when confronted with adversity, risk, or uncertainty.
Here is how small thinking can lead to big success:
1. Quicker, To Prevent Escalation
In business and life, bigger is no longer able to beat smaller anymore. It is the fast that will beat the slow (click to tweet).
Small steps don’t mean you move slowly—you can still move very quickly, but by taking small steps instead of giant leaps when you’re moving into the unknown, you have time to explore a volatile and unpredictable situation as you press into it. The quicker you can move when faced with a fast-moving situation, the better your chances of preventing the situation from escalating.
Strong minded leadership moves quickly to prevent the escalation of a situation where predictability of the outcome is limited.
One of the most dangerous arrest situations occur when FBI agents follow a suspect to a house. As they prepare to enter the house to make an arrest, they face many unknowns: How many others are inside? Are they accomplices or innocent bystanders? Are there weapons? The quicker agents can enter a house, the greater their chances of apprehending suspects before the situation escalates to the point where they have a chance to grab weapons.
2. Smarter, To Reduce Uncertainty
Smart is using our strengths and resources in ways to overcome our obstacles, not walk around them (click to tweet).
Strong minded leadership makes smarter moves if they allow themselves time to go deep in figuring out one aspect of the situation at a time, rather than trying to tackle the entire problem all at once.
Small steps allow you the opportunity to take the problem by the “soft handle”—by the approach that is easiest to grasp as you’re looking right at it. This allows you to make smarter moves by reducing the element of uncertainty as much as possible.
When FBI agents move into the interior of the house, they reduce uncertainty by clearing one room (as they come to it) at a time—they move quickly into each room but they don’t spread their net too far by trying to clear the entire house at once.
3. Measurable, To Move Forward With Intention
The more specific and measurable your goal, the more quickly you will be able to identify, locate, create, and implement the use of necessary resources to achieve it.
Strong minded leadership makes measurable progress in reasonable time (click to tweet).
When facing an obstacle:
- Break the bigger goal down into a series of small goals.
- Identify one of the small goals
- Take action and complete it
- Pick another small goal
- Get it done
- Continue until you’ve completed each small goal
- Re-evaluate what still needs to be done
4. Build Confidence, To Bring Out The Best In Yourself and Others
Confidence is bred by action and courage; doubt is bred by inaction and fear. If you want to build confidence, do not sit and think about. Go out and start planning.
Strong minded leadership gains confidence in every experience in which they stop to remind themselves that they have learned from past crises, and that not only can they take the next thing that comes along, they’ll be smarter about it.
When tackling an huge obstacle, we need an equally large belief system in our own capabilities to continue to move us forward. It doesn’t matter how much we want something; all that matters is how much we believe we can achieve it. Small steps allows us to build momentum, and nothing builds confidence like momentum. The purpose of small steps, and smaller goals along the way, is not just to get us closer to the bigger goal of overcoming the obstacle. It’s also to help us develop the confidence that we can do it.
5. Strategic, To Be Flexible Enough To Take In New Information
Obstacles and barriers cannot be avoided, but our approach to them can be strategic if we continually re-evaluate our situation as new information becomes available.
It’s easier to make mini-evaluations along the way and determine whether a change in direction is needed before you get too invested down one path. Look at an obstacle like an opponent: it needs to be brought down and can be attacked from a variety of angles, some of which do make themselves known until we are closer to the very thing we fear.
Strong minded leadership is the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, conflicting, and risky information (click to tweet).
In arrest situations, communication is pared down to simple affirmations and directions. Arrest plans follow a set protocol and can be adapted to almost every arrest situation; however, the plan is always flexible enough to be changed or tweaked if needed as new information becomes available.
Sometimes, the person who needs to be seduced into believing they have what it takes overcome obstacles and breaking barriers is . . . you. By taking small steps, you will be amazed at how big your accomplishments can be.
This article was originally published on LaRae Quy