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14 December, 2023

Next year (and I don’t like to mention it, mate), I’m cycling to Spain. I’m currently in planning mode, so I am sorting out a tonne of things – the things I can control – knowing there is a lot I can’t fix right now. They’ll iron themselves out along the way.

For instance, minimal weight and maximum fitness are essential – not the easiest things to control when you’re ill for nearly three weeks, can’t exercise, and Christmas Hampers start arriving at the door. But January is another day, and I’ve had a tendency to put those things off since the age of 12.

My equipment is also important, especially the bike. Sounds obvious, right? But you’d be amazed at how many times I’ve cycled with people on very expensive bikes that squeak away just for the sake of a little TLC and lube.

There’s plenty about cycling you can’t control – the terrain, the weather (especially headwinds). But, as they say, a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, which can hamper progress and make it seem like you’re peddling uphill the whole time. No amount of fitness or weight loss will remove that problem; it’s all about regularly checking the machine and rectifying the issue.

Meanwhile, sneezing and coughing over my keyboard at home, I’ve been booking Christmas events for a client. Do you ever get the feeling, even though you are spending a four-figure sum, that the other person doesn’t care less – that the process is laborious, you are doing all the chasing, and that you are, well, peddling up-hill into the wind on a bike with a rusty chain?

In 2003, Dave Brailsford began the journey of transforming British Cycling by introducing the philosophy of marginal gains. The success that followed spoke for itself.

"The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike and then improved it by 1%; you will get a significant increase when you put them all together."

Now, you don’t have to take the approach of an elite sportsperson to improve your output (or sales input) and ensure your process glides with the least amount of friction. If you take the approach that ‘a job is not a job until the bill’s been paid’, you will absolutely find weak links in your chain. And, perhaps if you oil them, you’ll soon notice the combined effects and improvements.

Many years ago, I built a small website for a local mechanic. We met a few months later, and I could see from the web stats that it was working well. I was feeling bullish. He sat there and moaned at me – that he wasn’t getting any extra telephone calls and that he had wasted his money. I went away to ponder and check things through again, then called him back that afternoon.

No one answered the phone.

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