1% Gains and Winning

Stop believing the lie that you'll get 1% better every day. You can do better than that and it will cost you.

1% Gains and Winning

Visualization and manifesting often get a bad reputation as "woo-woo" BS; and that is partly true given the manner that it's often presented.  The phenomenon that actually occurs misses the point.  We imagine the good things, the finish line, and miss the road (the struggle) that actually leads us there; thus we remain stuck.

That is because the internet and social media are littered with things like this:

This is part of the problem...

We fall into what I call The Planning Paradox.  We spend hours crafting the perfect comprehensive training plan, "new year, new me" we tell ourselves.  We gaze at the perfectly organized schedule... and the dopamine levels rise in our brain.  We're doomed.  Why?  Because we're literally already imagining the reward (and our brain responds as such) and will likely never take action towards achieving it.

It's late February, go ahead, look at your "New Year's Resolutions" and those of friends and tell me how you're doing?   I'll be honest, some ares I'm ahead of schedule and others I'm falling behind in, already.

Before getting to "where did we go wrong?"  Let's look at one more example.  Let me first say that I enjoyed James Clear's "Atomic Habits" as much as anyone; and the graph below is powerful indeed.

Jame Clear author of Atomic Habits

There are a few things left out of this equation:

  • First, it's a safe bet that the effort required will correspondingly be 36x higher as well by the end of that theoretical year – if not more!  Winning isn't different than other addictions, "I used to do a little, but a little wouldn't do it, so a little got more and more."
  • Second, that nice and clean graph line is a retrospective construction.  Meaning, you only see those big gains when it's all over, after the fact.  In reality there were huge dips along the way.  Don't buy into The Myth of Perpetual Progress individually or culturally.
  • Third, motivations is only hype.  It's supposed to be that way.  You're supposed to get a spark under your a** and from there fueling the fire is up to you.  The "big wins" in life happen explicitly because we did something even when we weren't motivated.
  • Fourth, the mantras of Jocko (much love brother!) would tell us to "count on discipline."  We won't sell ourselves short this way, but we can certainly be led astray.  How many people are "grinding it out" on a 2 hour commute to a dead-end job they hate?  This is what you're supposed to do right?  More on this later.
Winning by Tim Grover

Tim Grover is as candid as they come and he's also worked with some of the greatest athletes of all time – and doesn't hesitate to describe his own shortcomings either!  At any rate, if you were to ask Tom Brady (before retiring) which of his 7 Super Bowl rings is his favorite; he would say "the next one."

If you're enamored with that first meme with a pretty picture and a feel-good statement, you're missing the point.  You're at an elementary level.  Or, perhaps, at a level where 1% gains are still realistic.  What if you're already in the Top 1%?  Telling you to "get after it" or "put in the time" is laughably out of touch.

Let's look at some examples:

  • 1.01^365 = 37.78 - One percent better, daily.  That is assuming you actually give 100% every day rather than telling yourself you will and actually doing far less.  So, let's consider this a theoretical maximum.  Honestly, how many things can you say that you actually give 100% towards every single.  I can't think of one.
  • 1.0001^365 = 1.037 - 1% of 1% better daily is just shy of 4% better over the whole year.  This is far more conservative, but also accommodates for some setbacks or "less than optimal days"; both of which are inevitable.  The real world belies the theoretical maximum above, cultural myths of perpetual progress, and planning paradoxes.
  • 1.000001^365 = 1.00037 - Assuming Tom Brady / Michael Jordan / Tiger Woods / etc. are only 100x better than you, they're looking at "goals" in the range of 1/3 of 1% better over the whole year!  Let that perspective sink in.  Real winners are looking to improve a fraction of a single percent over the entire year.

None of this is meant to discourage anyone, it's meant to illustrate that "there are levels to things."  It also illustrates that as performance increases exponentially, so does the effort required to sustain the level; let alone progress beyond it.  Not only does it take more, but it takes more to get you less.  Do you think Michael Jordan was giving less than 100% even though his "theoretical maximum" improvement for the year was 12x less than yours?  Obviously not.

In jiujitsu for example, as a white belt, 1% better every day might actually be reasonable for a short time; especially if you have no prior grappling / combat experience or are generally out of shape.  About half the people that start BJJ will never make it to Blue Belt.  Your "average" purple belt has spent about 1,000 hours on the mat.  Somewhere I saw a statistic that you're more likely to walk past a murderer on the street than a BJJ brown belt.

I've written many posts about "The (fallacy of the) 10,000 Hour Rule", but hopefully you can see the connection.  Certainly, a BJJ black belt is far more rare than 1%.  But, we're not talking about 1% gains, we're talking about 1% of 1% of 1%.  Why settle for being a closer when you can be a cleaner?

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