Albert Einstein once said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t, pays it.” He called it the greatest power in the universe. And, as he often was, Einstein was absolutely right.
Compound interest is a hard concept for us to understand, but it is perhaps best explained through a common financial riddle: would you rather have $1 million right now, or a penny which doubles in value every day for one month? Believe it or not, accepting the penny which doubles daily will earn you a whopping $10 million dollars by the end of the month. This is the power of compounding.
In its simplest terms, financially, compound interest is the addition of interest on interest. But, this economic phenomenon also makes intuitive sense in the realm of everyday life and self-improvement. In life, the power of compounding is absolutely undeniable.
What Is Growth?
Growth is an unpredictable thing. When we strive to become better in the gym, a better guitar player, or a better person, we engage in a process of growth that is hard to intuitively understand. Growth is not linear. It never has been.
For instance, you may feel that if you increase your workout frequency from one to two times per week, you’ll be doubly as proficient in the gym. Or, if you increase it to three times per week, triply effective! But, this is far from the truth. It’s more likely that the increase from 1 to 2 times per week will have no noticeable difference at all; meanwhile, an increase from 1 to 4 times per week, will make you much more than 4 times stronger in the gym. Past a certain point, your growth far exceeds the amount of work you put in. This is because of compounding.
If It’s Not Every Day, It Doesn’t Count
In order to reap the rewards of compounding, this is the mentality that needs to be employed: “If it’s not every day, it doesn’t count.”
Do you practice the piano? Once in a while isn’t good enough. Twice a week isn’t good enough. The best way to compound is to play every single day.
Do you exercise? The answer is yes, only if you do it every day.
Do you put your phone down when you’re with the people you love? Yes. Every. Single. Day.
It may be extreme, but it’s the best way to teach your brain (which would love nothing more than to be lazy and procrastinate all day) that you are dedicated to getting better. Your commitment to improvement is the most important thing, and that’s why you stick to it every single day.
Working To Your Take-Off Point
When you decide to become better at something, there is often a steep learning curve. Think about the classic story of a boy who watches a guitar player execute a wicked solo, persuades his mom into buying him a guitar, and then realizes that it takes too much work to get to that level. The kid expects linear growth; he expects to improve noticeably each time he practices. What he doesn’t know is that he needs to put in months of gruelling and unrewarding work to reach his take-off point. Soon, after three months of hearing her child struggle to play a chord on a guitar, his mom will walk by and hear a full song coming from his room. It’ll seem like a miracle, but the boy has reached his take-off point. He’s about to experience an unbelievable rate of growth.
So next time you set a goal and feel discouraged by a lack of perceived progress, don’t give up just yet. It’s often the work that feels the most useless, the least rewarding and the most unsatisfying, that ends up pushing you to your take-off point. And once you take off, there’s no telling just how far you’ll go.