I once read an interview of an athletics director as introduction to their new university community. The person was someone whom I didn’t know personally, yet respected from a distance for not only their professional advancement, but their commitment to personal integrity and honor. As part of the interview process this person was asked about their philosophy for how they saw the operation was going to proceed under new leadership.
The answer was 1% better everyday.
In a large, established organization, change doesn’t happen quickly and this leader recognized that fact. Change is inevitable, however, and this person also recognized that as well. With the right channeled, controlled change, a little at a time, big changes result. Just a little at a time.
This approach of getting better 1% everyday at life and work is called Kaizen, a Japanese word meaning continuous improvement.
Seth Godin called it the drip. Drip by drip, a little at a time things change until all of a sudden you realize how different things from when you started.
Both get at the same idea…the fact that big results can come from the small, continuous improvement of something over time. In finance, 1% compounded over time would yield incredible results, even if only for a short amount of time…and remember, you have your entire life ahead of you to start this 1% change in thinking and behavior.
Do you recall the “penny” question from middle school or high school math class? If asked if you could have your choice of a million dollars at the end of 30 days or a penny doubled every day for 30 days, which would you choose? There’s not a correct answer, but if you’re going for the most money you should have chosen the compounded penny because that results in almost ten times more money. That’s a big change in a short amount of time.
This approach to self-improvement is not about a destination, it’s about just being better than yesterday and not as good as tomorrow. If you fall short on something, you’re never very far from getting back to where you started if you only focus on the process. If you focus on the process and the daily steps toward getting further along, then your dreams become goals become reality.
1% better everyday. It’s a lofty ideal, but what else do you have? You have today. And that’s good enough for me.