The Two Easies


“[F]ailure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day.” ~ Jim Rohn

This morning, like most mornings, I got up, spent a few minutes meditating, wrote in my journal, then went for a brisk walk (in the rain), followed by a few minutes of calisthenics and stretching. When I finished, I felt pretty good. If I hadn’t got up and done these things, how do you think I would have felt? Actually, on the mornings I don’t do this routine, I feel pretty good. To tell the truth, I don’t feel much different after I do or don’t do my morning routine.

I expect you have had much the same experience. If you exercise, you feel OK. If you don’t, you probably feel OK, too. If you eat a healthy meal, you feel OK. If you eat a cheeseburger and fries with a soft drink, you probably feel OK, too. But, how do you suppose you will feel in 5 years if you got up and exercised most days? How do you think you will feel in 5 years if you ate more real, healthful food and fewer fast food meals? How do you think you will feel in 5 years if you lived below your means and saved 10% of your income? If you meditated for a few minutes every day? If you read 10 pages of an uplifting or enlightening book every day?

Success (however you define it) is not difficult or complicated. Success comes from doing a few simple things, every day, over time. And failure comes from not doing those simple things, every day, over time. In The Slight Edge – Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success And Happiness, Jeff Olson tells us that consistently repeated daily actions + time = unconquerable results. Time is the force that magnifies insignificant things into something unstoppable. [Olson]

Here’s the stumbling block. These small actions are easy to do. They are also easy NOT to do. And as we discussed earlier, if you do them or don’t do them, you won’t receive much immediate feedback. You’ll feel pretty much the same at the end of the day whether you do them or not. If any time you ate a cheeseburger, you had a heart attack, you probably wouldn’t eat that many cheeseburgers. If each time you exercised, you immediately saw an increase in strength, stamina, and flexibility, you’d be more likely to exercise again.

The problem is, says Olson, that making the right choice (or the wrong one) is not dramatic. In fact, it’s mundane . . . some might even say boring. [Olson]

The Power of Compounding

The power of making the right decision, day by day, over time lies in the compounding effect. The right decisions, made daily, over time add up to a successful life – one might say an Excelerated life of flourishing, meaning, and purpose. However, most of us don’t understand about compounding, even though we think we do. If we did, we would be doing the small things that increase exponentially over time.

Olson uses a number of stories to illustrate the power of compounding. One is the story of a wealthy man with two sons. The man is dying and he calls his sons to his bedside.

He gives them a choice — they can have a $1,000,000 now or they can choose a penny, to be doubled every day (that is, 0.01 the 1st day, 0.02 the 2nd day, 0.04 the 3rd day, 0.08 the 4th day, 0.16 the 5th day, etc.) for 30 days. Which would you choose? (You probably know there’s a catch.) Here is the power of compounding. If you chose the $1,000,000, you’d have a $1,000,000. If you chose the penny, to be doubled each day for 30 days, after 1 week, you’d have 64 cents. After 2 weeks, you’d have $81.92. After 3 weeks, you’d have $10,485.76. Not very impressive considering you could have had a $1,000,000 on day 1.

But here’s where it gets interesting. At 4 weeks – 28 days — you’d have $1,342,177.28. The next day, you’d have $2,684,354.56 and on day 30, you would have $5,368,709.12. Not bad for starting out with a penny. Of course, you won’t find many banks that pay this kind of interest rate, but you get the idea . . . compounding is a powerful effect.

Putting The Power To Use

Where this idea has practical meaning for you and me is in the small, simple daily disciplines, practiced over time — “consistently repeated daily actions + time = inconquerable results.” Exercise today and you probably won’t feel that much different. But add the penny each day. In a year, you’ll see much improvement. Eat more healthfully today and you won’t feel much different. But add the penny each day. In a year, you’ll feel (and probably look) much better than you do now. Read a few pages in a good book today and you probably won’t be that much smarter. But add the penny each day. In a year, you’ll have a greater knowledge than you do now.

Start with a penny and the next day, you have 2 pennies. But in five years? You’d have a number that wouldn’t fit in this post! (Ha!) Does one penny make a difference? Does one exercise session make a difference? Does making one healthy meal choice make a difference? Does reading a few pages make a difference? Not a lot – but it does something. It’s a beginning. And added together over time? Now you are creating a life of good health and nourishing relationships, a life of meaning, purpose and service. And that is living the Excelerated life!

Excelerated simplicity — freeing yourself from unnecessary complexity — is one step in creating your Excelerated life, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.

Olson, Jeff. The Slight Edge. Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2005-2013

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