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Winning At Working: One Bite At A Time
by Nan Russell

Three hundred and twenty miles he traveled alone in the Artic wilderness. It made the front page in the small Montana town where I live, heralding the winner of the Yukon Artic Ultra Race as a member of our community. I found the article fascinating. Turns out Andrew Matulionis was so far ahead he never saw his competitors, enduring five days of below zero conditions to win. When asked how he managed to persevere, Andrew explained, "The checkpoints are your goals." He continued, "it's one bite at a time."

Whether you're in an Artic race or a business endeavor that same winning strategy applies. Yet what I found in twenty years in management was something different. While people desire career achievements or the trappings that go with them (the title, higher pay or more flexibility), they flounder trying to figure out where to start, how to get there or what to do. Often they fail to optimize opportunities that come their way.

It's not that they aren't working hard. They are. But like hamsters on a wheel, they put in effort that takes them nowhere. They confuse working hard with making progress. You see, making progress requires gradual betterment, a forward movement or enhanced personal development. And if you want to be winning at working, you need to make progress.

But that's where it breaks down. The big project comes along, the large goal looms or the significant accomplishment hovers. Each can appear overwhelming when viewed in total. But the secret, as Mark Twain puts it, "is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." I happen to call that "chunking." That's what I used to create a life dream to live and write from the mountains of Montana before I turned fifty. It took twenty-five years, but chunking the dream made all the difference in actualizing it.

People who are winning at working know the way to achieve results, tackle big projects or accomplish their life dreams is to create them one bite at a time. They break big projects into next action steps, goals into bite-size segments and dreams into small increments. They understand that winning is a process. And just like the Yukon Artic Ultra winner, they focus on the next checkpoint goal, and once they're there, they then focus on the next and then the next.

That's the secret people who are winning at working use to achieve results, build businesses and accomplish what others only talk about. They learn what they need to know in the current step in order to get to the next one. They develop their knowledge and skill-sets incrementally, building their pathways as they go and adding to their wisdom along the way. As long as they see progress in who they are becoming and what they can do, they know they're getting there.

No matter where you are or what you want to accomplish in your life, it's one bite at a time until the project is finished, the skill mastered, the dream realized or the aspirations met. It's one bite at a time to finish your degree, find a fulfilling job, reach financial solvency or buy your first house. And it's still one bite at a time to win the Yukon Artic Ultra, write a best-selling book, make your first million or offer the best of who you are to the world. Want to be winning at working? Take it one bite at a time.

(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved. Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at Nan Russell may be contacted at or


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