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If you are reading self-help books for a while, invariably every self-help guru would have said this at some point. After James Clear’s “Atomic Habits” became a hit, it’s now a mantra.

1% better everyday 1.01^365 = 37.78

1% worse everyday 0.99^365 = 0.03

This is a compound interest calculation. You start with $1 principal, you get 1% interest every day, you re-invest the interest every day, and after 365 days, you would have $37.78. Just that simple. I am not sure why these self-help gurus use exponentials and fractions, which most people cannot grasp. Maybe that’s the intention?. It has to be clear enough to make you feel good, but abstract enough that you don’t question it?

Did you really understand this concept and implement it in any aspect of your life?.

I didn’t. Actually, I couldn’t. I simply don’t know how.

Let’s take an example. You want to develop a reading habit. You decide 1% would be to read a single page. This magic “1% everyday” concept, requires you to start with one, not zero. If you start from zero, mathematically you will stay at zero. If you already don’t read a page every day, I am sorry, you are not part of the club.

Ok, let’s ignore this glaring mathematical error. Let’s assume you already read one page every day. What’s one percent of one page?. Let’s assume one line. You read one page and one line. What would you do the next day?. What’s one percent of (one page + one line)? The calculation of 1% gets fuzzier every day and in a very few days, you will have a fraction that cannot be applied to reading anymore.

Ok, let’s ignore this as well. Instead of compound interest, let’s switch to simple interest. (i.e) You start with $1 principal, you get 1% interest every day, you DONT re-invest the interest, after 365 days, you would have $4.65. It’s smaller than compound interest, but still better.

Simple interest makes it easier. You decide 1% is one page. You read one page on the first day, two pages on the second day, three pages on the third day, and so on. By the end of the year, you should be able to read 365 pages every day (i.e.) two small books. By the end of the 10 years, you should be reading 20 books every day. Hmm… That’s a problem.

Human abilities don’t scale exponentially, they scale linearly.

Apply this logic to running, lifting weights, programming, learning new languages, making sales calls - any damn thing, in any form. You will hit a ceiling. You cannot scale beyond that. There is an inherent limit on human capabilities. It would vary between individuals, but there is a limit. If there is no limit, you are GOD.

Has any self-help guru published a daily schedule for improving themselves continuously for 1 year? No. You can’t even measure this 1%. This “1% better every day” does not work. At best, it works only for the initial few days. Then why is this concept so popular?

I believe some of these could be the reason…

**Use of Mathematics** - Math deals with facts and truth. 1 + 1 = 2 (always), it doesn’t matter who calculates it or how many times it’s calculated. Any time, mathematics is used to explain a concept, we implicitly assume that it has to be true. Imagine talking to a physicist about relativity theory, black holes, or anything related to space, without the use of maths. It would be felt at best like science fiction or at worst as voodoo. We would never accept it as true. Because they use math to explain the concept, it must be true. So, I would try.

**Less Effort** - Like every other species, humans are lazy too. We prefer less effort to no effort. 1% doesn’t sound like much. So, I would try.

**Exponential Results** - With just 1% effort every day, I become 37 times better at the end of the year?. Wow. Who wouldn’t want that?. So, I would try.

What else uses these three aspects?. **A pyramid scheme**. They use mathematical calculations to show that this scheme is accurate and possible, you will have to use little effort and reap exponential benefits. Hmm…

No No No… You misunderstood the whole idea behind this concept. It’s not about mathematics, it’s about improving yourself every day.

Then, just fucking stop using mathematics.

To me,

It’s all about showing up every day, it doesn’t matter if you improve 0.5% or 1% or 10% or -10% on any given day. All that matters at the end is that you show up every day.

How are you keeping up with your goals?. Are you showing up every day?. If not, are you aware of why you are not showing up?.

home > blogsThanks for reading my blog post. I hope this one made you think. If you have question, comment or feedback write to my personal email. I personally read all the emails and respond to the ones that needs a conversation.

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