Take Small Steps Toward Big Goals: Crawl, Walk, Run

Small Steps to Success

A few weeks ago I was excited to see my friend Tom X Lee, C.E.O. of Galileo Medical, and serial entrepreneur, speak at a private event in Boston. He spoke about having big visions, but taking small steps to get started. Crawl, then walk, then run.

Tom sold his prior company One Medical Group to Amazon in February 2023 (for 3.9 billion), and he was the founder of Epocrates which, among other things, helped digitize drug interaction data. His new startup, Galileo uses telehealth and in-home appointments to blend a new model of patient care.

He’s the real deal entrepreneur and is often invited to speak (he’s a super passionate keynote speaker!).

Crawl, Walk, Run: it sounds like a header on a PowerPoint slide. But it’s a mantra that applies to doing anything of meaning.

Taking small steps applies to creating a company, improving your health, or making any change in your life. I believe in the Brownie Bites method of food, fitness, and mindset. It’s better to take a small step each day toward the life you want, as opposed to an all or nothing mindset.

Thinking like a startup entrepreneur can help anyone take action toward a life of meaning and wellbeing.

There is no perfect time. Just start. Start with what you have right now.

Tom X Lee and I enjoying dinner. We both believe in a life of balance!

“Don’t Boil The Ocean.”

Tom said one of the common holdups companies have is trying to boil the ocean. When a vision is enormous, it can feel like an impossible task.

And, if you wait for the perfect time to try and make everything happen…then NOTHING happens. People get into a freeze state and end up doing nothing.

This mentality applies to business and personal endeavors.

One Medical started with just one clinic in San Francisco and now has more than 150 locations. While the original business was enormous, they had to start somewhere.

The founder mindset is about starting. Tom said it is important to:

1. 💫 Find your North Star (guiding principles!)
2. 👁️‍🗨️ Focus on one core thing
3. 🚶‍♀️ Walk before you run. “You have to figure out the basics.”

Figuring out the basics of what your ideal audience wants is a starting point. “It starts with building trust,” Tom says. “Crawl. Walk. Run.”

We’ve heard this before, but when spoken from someone who has literally been in the trenches of building multiple successful startups, it carries more weight. I could tell the room really heard Tom.

When you capture an audience’s attention–no matter what the context–you have a foundation to expand upon.

But you have to start somewhere.

One Medical started in San Francisco with just one clinic.
Now, it has more than 150 locations.

Math + Usability: How To Create Value

“There’s math, and there’s usability,” Tom said, when talking about how people interact with a product or idea.

They are BOTH needed when you build any product, or create any experience. They are BOTH required even when making a change to your own life. I’ll give you an example:

We all know that eating too much sugar is bad for us. Education is not the issue. We know. But then, we go ahead and eat too much sugar anyway. The “math” and logic behind the decision is simply not enough.

But…let’s say you layer on top of this decision a pool-side party in a few months. Now, suddenly you might want to wear a small dress or bathing suit in front of many people. Perhaps that becomes an emotional trigger to make you think twice about a few donuts. And–not to body shame because ultimately if YOU are happy with your body and it is functioning well, then it doesn’t matter. But what if you realize that waking up every night at 3am, or not being able to go to sleep and being exhausted all day is directly linked to the sugar?

The emotional trigger–the usability–paired with the logic affects the behavioral change. We make decisions from a blend of education and emotion.

The math or logic behind a product or solution is what many founders start with. Many of my corporate clients only pay attention to the quantitative reasons an audience would purchase a product.

Yet without an emotional driver, products fail.

We all must understand the psychographics –the habits, views, and value systems of your audience, even if that audience is YOU.

Math and usability together form the recipe for success.

Piercing the Norms

Presumed assumptions are just that.

Tom told a funny story about cabinets that you see in every doctor’s office, usually empty, maybe a few notepads or so. But EVERY doctor office has them. He questioned WHY, and when he looked into purchasing them for One Medical offices, he discovered the ugly things cost thousands of dollars! Shitty weird cabinets with no purpose for thousands!

One of Tom’s biggest disruptive moments early on for One Medical was going to Ikea and buying cabinets. They looked better, were cheaper, and were decidedly cooler than the norm for most doctor offices.

You can change your life with small disruptions.

I had a conversation with a friend last night about his morning walking commute, which was full of unhinged homeless people on Boylston Street, trash, and rats.

I suggested he add 3 minutes to his commute each day to walk down the beautiful Newbury Street (parallel to Boylston street in Boston). Newbury is full of Brownstone townhouses, boutique shops, and cherry blossom trees.

His commute can be full of beauty and peace instead of a stressful mess. That one small step will change his entire day.

Sometimes revolutions start small.

Small steps in a new direction, such as walking down Newbury Street instead of a busier and less beautiful street, can change your whole perspective.

Small Steps Are Easier When You Have A North Star

A North Star is a guiding purpose.

It enables you to have a direction.

Finding a North Star keeps us focused whether you’re a solo-entrepreneur, a big brand, a pre-seed startup, or a person looking for something to believe in. When you have a clearly defined focus, you can take small steps toward it every day.

With One Medical, the team vision was to fundamentally change how patients experienced doctor appointments. Once that became “the North Star” every decision stemmed from that.

As Tom said, he realized, “How you hire, the talent you hire, and how you manage their jobs,” were the foundational ingredients. They decentralized the administrative work, and “hired and trained for swiss army knives” as opposed to hiring many specialists.
With his new company, Galileo Medical, the North Star is a principal: “We bring the best doctors to you: at home, in your community, and on your mobile device.” Simple, clear, and focused.

Figuring out your guiding purpose will help guide small choices every day. These small steps eventually lead to greater visions. Just remember, anything worthwhile takes time. You can’t boil the ocean in a day!

You can live a purposeful life when you have a North Star and take small steps toward it.

What do you believe in? What is your #1 goal? How do you want to feel, and how do you want others to feel.

Small steps in the right direction will keep you motivated, and ensure steady progress toward any big goal.

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