“Well Being is made of small steps but is no small thing.” Zeno of Citium, founder of Stoicism.
“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.” Albert Einstein.
Millenia apart and yet they both understood the key element of success in many endeavors from finance to personal health to mastery of music. Little bits add up, and when consistent action is focused on improving particular areas of our lives, time becomes an ally and epic results are inevitable.
Let’s use some simple mathematics. Let’s assume that you have a base knowledge level of 10 (using whatever scale you want) in a skill. It could be your ability to play piano, or your knowledge of a subject. Maybe it is your capability to persuade others. Whatever skill we are looking at, the only assumptions we are making is that you can improve through your efforts and there is a lot of room for improvement. This is a fairly reasonable set of assumptions for most of us in most areas.
Now, we can all agree that we can get 1% better on this skill. That is not a big deal. You might even say “I can get 1% better today!” So why haven’t you? What is holding you back from making the tiniest of changes, the smallest step towards better being, and improving in that skill by 1%?
Now don’t shoot for the moon. Don’t try to do too much. Even if you can roll off the couch and run a 10k I don’t want you to do so, because if you can’t then run another one a few days later because you’re sore, or injured, or burnt out, your overall health will not improve over the next few weeks because you tried to do too much too soon. Doesn’t matter if it is physical effort or learning a language, the smallest step and building block is important.
Take the 1% win.
Next week, win again. Another 1%. This might still be super easy to do, and that’s ok. We are building a habit and mindset of growth, not trying to shoot like a rocket that burns out quickly and crashes back to earth. Maybe this 1% is not buying as much junk food, or it is walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Maybe it is just noticing you get your hackles up when someone says something, or learning a new technique on the computer or in the kitchen. Just a little bit better than last week.
And then again. Maybe its not quite so easy this week because you want to push harder and are getting frustrated by the slow pace. Maybe the low hanging fruit has been grabbed and you have to reach a little higher, expend a little more effort. This is where the psychology of change is most difficult but the habits of success and growth are starting to crystalize.
And again. Another 1%.
And then another.
After six to eight weeks, if you have kept up with it, you have the foundation for your growth. And after two months you are actually ten-ish percent better. Didn’t notice? Of course not, because the incremental changes aren’t noticeable unless someone that hasn’t seen you in a while asks “have you been working out?” or “what have you been doing, you sound great!” We don’t notice how our own kids grow over a several month period until an aunt or friend sees them and says “you’ve grown so much!” You won’t notice your growth for a while and that’s ok, others will. Stay on the program.
1% a week? You won’t notice the changes unless you look back after a quarter or more. But when you do, you will be amazed and impressed.
1% a week? In just over two years (by applying the Rule of 115), you are 3x as good as when you started. Your skill level has gone from 10 to 30 (if linearly measured). That is monstrous improvement.
Imagine being 3x in anything in two years.
Would you like to be 3x as wealthy in two years?
What about tripling again in the next two years?
1% per week improvement.
One step each week.
Zeno and Einstein approached improvement from totally different perspectives but came to similar insights. Hopefully you can find your own way to your Human Kaizen and start continuously improving, moving on your journey of excellence.