Beat Yesterday

During what I call my “corporate period” I ran service and distribution centers for the North American part of a multinational. Every week, I tried to get out of my office and “carry the kit” for one of our salespeople. Chuck was my favorite.

Chuck wasn’t just a great salesperson. He thought about his work and how he could do better. Chuck showed me the first “Beat Yesterday” book I ever saw.

Chuck kept track of the things he wanted to improve. Every day, he decided what his challenge would be that day. Every evening, he wrote how he did in his Beat Yesterday book.

I didn’t know it then, but many salespeople use Beat Yesterday books. Sam Walton used a Beat Yesterday book when he opened the first Wal-Mart in Rogers, Arkansas back in July 1962. By the time he died in 1992, Wal-Mart had almost 2,000 stores. Sam still kept a Beat Yesterday book.

Beating yesterday is the key to great success. Beating yesterday means doing little things every day just a little better.

Build On Your Strengths

Building on your strengths is a key to great success. So, every day, do something to build on your strengths. Get even better at what you do naturally and well.

Work On Your Weaknesses

We’ve all got things that we’re good at, but also, things we’re not so good at. Throughout my career, I’ve been pretty good at the “head” part of leadership. Far too often, I didn’t handle the personal relationship part well.

The way I attacked the issue was to use what I was good at to help me improve what I was not so good at. I developed checklists for the relationship parts of my work. I set a goal of doing a certain number of relationship-building activities every day. Then, I tracked my performance.

You probably won’t naturally improve activities where you lack natural ability. So, use the areas where you’re strong to help you improve areas where you’re weak.

Make Your Days More Productive

Modern motivational speakers talk about making your day productive. But they didn’t come up with the concept. Effective leaders from Marcus Aurelius through Ben Franklin structured their day the same way.

Take some time in the morning to focus on your goals. Decide how you’re going to get better that day. Decide the most important things are you want to do.

During the day, pay attention to the most important things you want to do to beat yesterday. In the evening, review how you did.

Practice Reflection

Frederick the Great said, “What good is experience if you don’t reflect?” Reflecting is how you bring your lessons together.

You need two things to make reflection work for you. You need time alone. You need to be honest with yourself. No one else has to know what you think or what you discover about yourself. Reflection won't help you if you don’t face reality.

A journal can help you. I’ve kept a journal for almost 50 years. The practice helps me identify what I’m doing well, what I need to improve, where I’m improving, and where I’m slipping.

Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy. You can keep it on a computer if you like. Personally, I prefer a bound journal so my thoughts stay together, and I can spot trends. I prefer handwriting in my journal because I believe it slows down my thinking and results in better insights.

You’re Never Done

Getting better, beating yesterday, is something you never finish. The destination is always over the next set of mountains. But the journey can be wonderful. Remember Sam Walton who was keeping his Beat Yesterday book until the end.


Beating yesterday is how you get better.

Build on your strengths.

Work on your weaknesses.

Make your days more productive.

Practice reflection.

You’re never done.

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