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How to Create Leverage

In life (and business) we’re often dealing with finite resources. Scarcity exists and that means we have to get creative to achieve what we want.

One of the best (only) ways to do this is by creating leverage. Leverage is about maximizing impact for any given level of effort.

Yet people (and businesses) consistently underestimate the importance of leverage, even if we should know better.

So how can we unleash leverage? You can start by focusing on the following four areas.

Time as Leverage

The biggest and most consistent leverage point we ignore is time. If you do something today, if you fix something now without delay, the extra time where it is working properly will compound on itself.

That’s really THE definition of compounding. It’s literally letting time do its work in order to create benefits on top of benefits, all without additional work or input from you. From scarcity comes abundance. (Partly explaining why Warren Buffet calls compound interest the most powerful force in the universe).

Understanding that time is the basic amplifier of leverage creates urgency.

“The Margin” as Leverage

In the marketing/sales funnel I spend a lot of my time at work tinkering with, the truth of the matter is that leverage points often happen at the margin. Usually there is no (single) silver bullet. That’s when we need to depend on relentless incremental improvements to drive results.

Why is incrementalism actually a leverage point?

Imagine improving 2% each year for 15 years (1.02^15). That’ll get you a 37% improvement. That’s not bad but it can get a lot better without a lot more work.

Creating true leverage from marginal gains starts to get really interesting when we can achieve these types of incremental improvements across multiple areas. Say we improve three things at 1%, 2%, and 1% respectively each year. Now over our same 15 year period we’re now 87% better than we were–all without significantly more effort in any one area.

It gets even more profound if we take a slightly more Buddhist view towards what we mean by “the margin.”

If there is only now, this moment, then what is the impact of being 2% better in every moment? 

Team and Focus as Leverage

The relationship between time and leverage isn’t just about compounding your results. The more you can delegate things you hate to do, or things that aren’t part of your core strengths, the more time you have to work on the things that differentiate you from everyone else.

As Bruce Lee (the martial artist) once said,

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once…I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Creating the time and space to kick ass in one area creates leverage. It gets you noticed. And it probably means you’ll be having more fun in your work too. (This is especially wonderful if the things you can delegate are done by someone who enjoys it and is better at it than you will ever be).

Plus the biggest projects require many hands.

Emotion as Leverage

It’s hard to create large-scale results without an “oh shit” moment. You have to have a siren call, one thing that is amazing, to create a lasting impression or create a non-average result. Basically, emotion provides the spark you need to (1) ignite your efforts, (2) sustain your momentum, and (3) inspiring others to help.

This idea of leverage seems to contradict the earlier “leverage as margin idea,” but I think that’s just because the emotional angle is less literal. However it works strong emotions matter. “Love” is exponentially more powerful than “like.” The challenge is tapping into your emotional charge so that you start projects with momentum.

So to create leverage…

Start now…focus in on a few key areas…that you are (also) passionate about…try to create early momentum…and then be relentless in improving on the margin (in every single moment)…while building a team that compliments one another.

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Last modified: April 4, 2016