The 1% Rule: Real growth that you can control

October 10, 2020
Posted in Focus
October 10, 2020 Zach Parcell

Learning a new hobby or developing a new personal skill is not only fun, giving our mind something outside the normal everyday things in life or at work is important. It doesn’t matter what the task or hobby might be, this concept applies across the board.

Key Takeaways

  • If you grow one percent every day for a year, you end up with 37 times the starting amount at the end of the year.
  • 1% quickly adds up, but early results won’t be obvious.
  • You rarely start at zero, you do have some knowledge or familiarity with a subject.

We know it’s hard to get off on that first step and get started with something. Momentum will soon kick in and it all gets a little easier. If we can take a patient mindset, we can set the goal of growing our knowledge and skillset at 1% every day.

Our “skill scale” certainly isn’t from 1-100. Professional athletes, the world’s top CEOs, or the top artists all rank on the skill scale in the tens or hundreds of millions. More on that in a moment.

Slow start leads to huge results

One percent of one is tiny and that’s ok. It takes a while before the growth is very visible. You also can’t rush these early stages or find shortcuts.

If you’ve not exercised for a minute in years and finally decide to get started, you need time. You can’t jump into the gym for 10 straight hours and expect to be in shape. If you go three days a week for 20 minutes at a time, it will take you 10 weeks to log the same 10 hours of exercise. You are likely now in better shape than when you started. Same number of hours worked, but now across a more realistic timespan.

It doesn’t matter where you start. What matters is the continual effort you put in.

You’re further along than you think

Very rarely will you begin at level one. You do have some knowledge or even the most basic of skills when it comes to what your new interest is. Don’t discount your starting point. Everyone starts someplace. Michael Jordan once took his first basketball shot. Gordon Ramsey once cooked his first meal. Alex Morgan once kicked her first soccer ball. Tom Hanks once acted for the first time.

Let’s say you are interested in baking homemade cookies. You’ve never done it before, but you know generally of the ingredients you need and you know you’ll need an oven and some baking sheets. If you’ve ever eaten a cookie, you know what they taste like and the shape of them. That alone is more than zero.

You also don’t need to be literally baking to increase your knowledge and skill set of baking. Every time you’re online researching cookie recipes or techniques you are making forward progress. Remember, 1% at a time matters.

Here’s a small spoiler… Plus, once you actually start to bake a batch of cookies, that 1% concept is thrown out the window. From the actual mixing of ingredients, baking, tasting (the best part), to reflecting on the decisions made and tweaking the recipe, you are learning something every step — and certainly more than 1% at a time in that specific moment.

Doing the math

Let’s take baking as an example, you do have some prior knowledge so your skill scale isn’t starting at zero.

If you start at 20 and grow by 1% a day, 365 days later your at 755. What’s better is if you start a second year with that same effort, you’ll be at 28,526 at the end of year two. 1,077,810 at the end of year three.

That assumes every day is just 1% growth. Here and there you’ll see a huge leap forward. That only accelerates the process. Plus, 2% growth actually gets you to the same 28,526 level in just one year instead of two.

What you have to remember though is early on the results won’t be apparent. Just because you can’t see progress doesn’t mean it is happening. Be patient.

You can’t stop

It’s easy to see a number like 1,077,810 and think that you can turn your entire career into this new hobby or skill. That is just three years of work. The work is far from done to take things to the next level.

You do have momentum on your side. Keeping that momentum will turn into great things. You also have time on your side. Remember, you have 168 hours in a week. If you can keep dedicated to this project, you will put yourself in a position to succeed. The long-term mindset must remain, otherwise you’ll allow frustration to take over and what was once growth will turn into declines.

The longer you stick with this mindset the more successful you’ll be.

Further Reading

James Clear wrote about the 1% Rule in Atomic Habits. We highly recommend Atomic Habits as a follow up to this post. The 1% Rule is just a portion of what Clear covers in the book.

Plus, Clear published an excerpt of Atomic Habits on his website to go into even greater detail of what the 1% Rule is all about.

Zach Parcell

Zach is a 35-year-old midwestern husband, father, son, gummy bear loving, digital communication professional. Zach has spent endless hours researching lifehacks, strategies, resources, tools, examples, and more in order to be a better person in the office and at home.

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