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The 1% Improvement Factor and Why it's Legit

Constant improvement. Consistent work. Not giving up. Keep grinding. All of these phrases are touted by motivational gurus and business leaders, but what do they really mean? How much work to constantly improve, and how much improvement? 5%? 10%? 13.7%? And are the percentages truly reflective of improvement, not just natural progression from doing the same task repeatedly?

In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he emphasizes being just 1% better in your results. Is 1% better enough to give you the self-confidence you need to push ahead? Let’s look at a few examples of1% better on a top end scale.

·       Men’s 100m world record by Usain Bolt (2009):9.58 seconds

·       Women’s 100m world record by Florence Griffith-Joyner (1988): 10.49 seconds

First, these records have withstood decades of challengers around the world running every year to break them. Flo Jo’s record is in its 35thyear of existence! Can you believe no female is 1% better over that time? The men’s record is in its second decade of nobody being 1% better! To achieve the current record, Bolt was 2% than the previous record of 9.69 seconds, and FloJo was less than 1% better than the women’s previous record of 10.54 seconds.

In baseball, men make millions and millions of dollars if they hit safely 3 out of 10 times at bat. They are out an alarming 7 times, which means they can expect to fail more than half of their at bats. Baseball batting averages go to the thousandth of a percent. If you bat .289, and improve by 1% each year for 4 years, you’ve substantially increased your salary by millions of dollars to bat .300. Your salary has gone from around the veteran average, to the top 50 players in baseball because you to better by 1%each year.

As I write this, I’m also talking to myself about what a 1%improvement is. As we go through our careers, hobbies, and family life wanting tobe better in various aspects of them, 1% is pretty damn good! We all talk aboutgetting better at 10%, maybe even 25%, are those realistic in the time we giveourselves? I am guilty also of these thoughts and when I think I shouldaccomplish various goals and milestones at rates that aren’t achievable. Mathis hard, it also doesn’t lie. We have to be patient and consistent with 1%improvements to see massive results over a 3–5-year period.

What can make a massive difference over time for you in 1%increments? Putting aside 5% into your 401k or savings account from eachpaycheck adds up over time. Can you boost it to 6%? Maybe add 1% each year forthe next five years? If you make $1,000 per check and contribute 5% to your401k, you save $50 towards retirement. Add another 1% and now you save $60 eachcheck, do you really need that extra $10 or can you afford to put it away forlater? With compound interest, dividend reinvestment, and stock purchases, that$10 over 25 years can be substantial!

Don’t underestimate the power of 1%. Giving 1% more of your time each week to reading a book adds another minute per month when you start at 15 minutes per day. Over the course of a year, you’re almost double that time dedicated daily to reading. All of it started from just a few extra seconds, and now you’re reading a book per month. You know the benefits of reading more books for your personal development and career. Get to that 1% today!

Don’t give up whatever you’re working on to improve. Even at a 1% rate, you’re still progressing towards your goals. There are so many examples of how this math works for you over time, with the key being overtime. Let’s also not forget that math is impartial and works the same for areas that are declining in your life. Soon that 1% is substantial when you look at the scale, for example. You didn’t gain 30 pounds since last Tuesday; it happened incrementally over months and years of bad choices on exercise and eating. Be cognizant of both ends of the 1% spectrum. What you focus on expands in your life, we all know that from experience. Focus on the positive 1% and change the negative 1% into a positive. Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty in the process. You clean up nice!

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