Marginal Gains

I know, I often say Never Write a Novel. It’s a labor of love. That being said, you can crank out a book if you outline a proper plan, project manage the chapters (or even portions of the chapters) into finite steps, and allocate an hour daily to working against said plan. If possible, spend more time going through what you worked through during the week on the weekends. After six months, depending on the length, a first draft might be waiting. Then, the fun can begin. The iteration. Cranking each sentence one more time, or deleting entirely, until you have a work of art. I came across this article on an HBR site on marginal gains. No, writing isn’t cycling. Yet the principle holds.

If you can break down a problem into the incremental, great gains can be made.

“Marginal Gains. The approach comes from the idea that if you breakdown a big goal into small parts, and then improve on each of them, you will deliver a huge increase when you put them all together.” 

Sir Dave Brailsford

Despite recent allegations against the coaching legend, his thoughts provide great insights into success. Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, nothing can be taken from the approach. It can be applied to work, losing weight, painting the next great work, writing the great American novel, or any sport.

Still, cycling has challenges. Love the sport. Enjoy the ride. Be skeptical of your heroes.


  • The picture is from the Ryman Auditorium, featuring Trampled by Turtles. How many hours of work did it take to hone their ever changing craft? A fitting picture for this post.