This morning, I taught seven eighth-graders–none of whom had ever touched a flag before–how to drop spin.
As everyone in the colorguard world knows (and everyone else can deduce from seeing it done), drop spinning isn’t a World-class skill. In fact, it’s a fundamental. It’s darn near the first thing everyone learns to do with a flag. In the world of colorguard, drop spins aren’t so much PUNCHING THE SUN as they are TAKING A BREATH: you’re gonna do thousands of them just as a basic function.
These kids have a week to go from “never touched a flag before” to “can compete with the veterans in the high school guard” for six open slots on that team. So why did I start with drop spins?
Simple: It was the ONE element I could teach today that would have the biggest impact on their performance one week from today.
Colorguard instructors put a lot of emphasis on the drop spin because it teaches a lot of fundamentals at once: pacing, hand and arm placement, muscle isolation, and (when done marching or while marking time) hand/eye/foot coordination and rhythm. It also looks good when it’s together, which is why so many parade routines are centered on it.
Granted: I wrote their parade/tryout routine, so I know that it’s chock-full of drop spins. I’m also choreographing the fall show, so I know they’re going to need the skills drop spins teach.
I’m also not interested in wasting time.
Between coaching colorguard, taking on freelance projects for clients, editing several books a year for Autonomous Press (the first of my 2017 batch, Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, is out now), writing a novel a year, and spending time with my awesome family, I don’t have a lot of procrastination time. And I don’t get any more time than everyone else gets (believe it or not, I also eat three meals a day, exercise daily, and sleep eight hours a night).
What I’ve learned to do is to use the time I have more efficiently, by asking this one question: What can I do RIGHT NOW that will get me closest to X goal?
“X” is always the goal in question, whether that’s increasing my freelance income, getting a bunch of newbies spinning together, or expanding my readership. This morning, that was skipping basics like the 27 points in favor of teaching my new colorguard candidates how to drop spin. This afternoon, it’s going to be sitting down and writing a thousand words.
(For authors, “what can I do now that will get me closest to my goal?” is almost always “SIT DOWN AND WRITE.” The fact that “sit down and write” is also the hardest thing we do is not a coincidence.)
For solid long-term growth, start by setting your five-year goal. Write it in present tense: “I make $50,000 per year in book royalties.” “I have an agreement to turn my novel into a film.” “I am the director of a Scholastic Open-class guard that just placed in the top five at Dayton.” Whatever your goal is.
Write it on a Post-It note. Stick it above your desk. Or on your dashboard. Or on your treadmill. Someplace you’re going to see it every day.
When you have to decide how to spend your time–what project to do next, whether to say “yes” to an offer, and so on–ask, “Is this the one thing I can do today that will get me closest to my goal?” If so, get on it.
- “If I could do only one thing today that would get me closer to my goal, would this be it?”
- “If I can only spend 30 minutes today on my goal, what will get me closest to that goal in that short amount of time?”
- “If I doubled my goal (make $100,000, turn two novels into films, direct a World class guard, etc.), what one thing today would get me closest to that goal?”
There’s a place in life for Netflix and chill–but to reach your goals, make sure it’s after you’ve done that One Thing.