It’s generally accepted that to get anywhere or do anything of significance requires many steps and a lot of work. However, I’ve noticed that many people tend to expect instant gratification. Unfortunately, significant change doesn’t typically work that way. It’s the proverbial journey of a thousand miles. Not only does it start with a single step, there are thousands of steps between the start and finish.
I spent 12 years trading agricultural commodities for a living. I always found it amazing how seemingly small changes in the price per bushel of a commodity resulted in tremendous dollar swings over the net cost of a contract. For example, I would routinely adjust my offer price by a mere penny or two in order to win a piece of business. On a ship-load of wheat being shipped overseas, for instance, a 1-cent change in the price per bushel multiplied over the entire quantity traded results in a change in the total value by $22,046! This is the multiplier effect. The multiplier effect can be applied to any endeavor we choose to undertake in life and it definitely applies to all of the principles in this book.
There is a theory of personal development that suggests striving to improve in a given area by 1% per day. That’s it, just 1% per day. The concept is an application of the multiplier effect in the sphere of personal growth and self-improvement. Small steps taken daily lead to big results over time.
What if you could improve by 1% per day in an area that’s truly important to you? At the end of a month you’d be 30% better. Nearly 100% better at the end of three months. Maybe 1% seems too big; perhaps a 0.5% daily improvement is more realistic. That’s still a 45% improvement at the end of a quarter!
Now, that probably sounds overly simplistic, and perhaps it is. The point, though, is that over time, big changes can be wrought when small steps are taken on a regular basis. The actual percentage is not what matters here. Heck, I can’t quantify public speaking skills. The fact that most of the skills we’re trying to improve are similar in that they’re nearly impossible to measure means that throwing out a 1% or 0.5% figure is completely arbitrary. What matters is the idea that small steps lead to big results over time.
The multiplier effect is at work when you take many steps toward the person you want to become. That’s it. But most people won’t bother to take a single step because alone, it seems inconsequential. Like a 1-cent change in the price of a bushel of wheat. But the multiplier effect changes the inconsequential to something that is ultimately of profound consequence. The thing is, we can’t even fathom how big it could really be. This is where you have to accept that to find your passion and become successful (whatever that means to you), you can’t be like most people. In this sense, you truly have to force yourself to be abnormal.
I’d even take this so far as to suggest that a single baby step is better than no steps at all. I’ve found that trying to take too big a bite out of a task often leads to procrastination. The job simply seems too big, the challenge too insurmountable. In writing a book, it’s daunting to consider all of the work that goes into it. If I tell myself, “I need 50,000 words,” it seems so big as to be discouraging. As a result, I struggle just getting started. But, telling myself “I need to write 750 words per day” is so much more manageable that it seems almost easy.
If small steps seem difficult, then take a tiny step. The key is to build momentum. Procrastination breeds self-loathing, which breeds more procrastination. Conversely, even the tiniest of steps forward breeds’ confidence which leads to bigger steps.
It’s incredible what happens as I write. Sometimes when I first sit down I’ll stare at a blank screen for an hour. Then words begin to trickle forth until I’m typing as fast as I can just to capture the thoughts that are streaming out of my consciousness. Momentum is a very real force that can propel any endeavor forward. Even if you have to take baby steps for a month before the momentum builds, do it. The alternative is stagnation.
Continuous self-improvement not only gives us purpose, it broadens our horizons, opens up new opportunities, and increases our capacity to help others. Having a growth mindset is a prerequisite, however; you must believe that you can improve, that you haven’t “maxed out.” The notion that people can’t get better is hopeless and wrong. We can develop in any area where effort and grit are applied over a long enough period of time. Small steps can lead to huge change over the long term.
The following is an excerpt from "The Way of the Harvest: 15 Lessons on Reaping a Life of Abundance"