E19: The Compound Effect

I Hear You
I Hear You
E19: The Compound Effect

Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Forgive typos and odd grammatical mistakes—this was transcribed using the magic of AI, and while it’s insanely awesome, it’s not perfect.

[00:00:00] Welcome back to the I Hear You podcast. This show is dedicated to helping you live a more powerful, connected, joy filled life. And while we typically focus in on relationships and how to change our thinking and actions there, today we’re taking a break from that, at least in part because while today’s episode doesn’t relate directly to relationships, it absolutely has an impact on them. And the reason that I’m talking about it today, is that it has an impact on your productivity as a human being.

[00:00:33] It has an impact on your dreams and on your passions and on your physical health, on your financial health and your financial stability. With really every element of your life, if you want to improve, if you want to be better, today’s principal, the compound effect is one of the best ways to achieve that. Let’s dive in.

[00:01:15] Alright, today’s topic comes from The New York Times best selling book titled The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. Love, love, love this book. I read it. Gosh, I don’t even know 15, 20 years ago. And it literally changed my life. I’ve got to find a different way of saying things because I feel like I say that every single episode. And yet, as as you’re going to see here later on in the episode, I’m not exaggerating.

[00:01:45] It’s so empowering. It’s such a simple principle, but it makes such a difference. And so I’m going to cut right to the chase here. The core idea of this principle is that small, consistent actions result in massive success. The keyword here, though, is consistent. Small, consistent actions make all the difference.

The Magic Penny 

[00:02:12] Now, I want to lead into this with a couple examples that Hardy shares from his book and they’re pretty early on, the first he titles The Magic Penny. And so I want to relate this to you, I want to ask you this question. So if you were given the choice between taking three million dollars in cash today or a single penny that doubles in value every day for 31 days. Which would you choose? Now, you’re probably skeptical because it seems like too obvious of a decision, and so you probably are assuming the penny must be the better choice. But why? And why is it so hard to believe that that’s the better choice? Well, the issue is, is because it takes a lot longer to see the payoff of one penny doubling every day for 31 days.

[00:03:02] And it can be difficult to imagine that that could possibly be any bit as good or better than three million dollars in cold hard cash today. So let let’s explore, though, what happens here. Let’s say that you take the cold hard cash and your friend takes the penny that doubles. We go forward a few days here. Day five, your friend has 16 cents, a whopping 16 cents. You, on the other hand, have three million dollars. Maybe you’ve got a new car. You have a new house. You maybe even have a vacation home and you’re living the dream. Life is good. Getting that cash upfront, amazing.

[00:03:41] And it’s going to kind of look like that for a while. We fast forward day 6, day 7. Day 20.. Your friend only has $5,243. You’re three quarters of the way through the month. He’s got five grand. How do you think they’re feeling in that moment? Looking at you in your new house, your fancy new car, your $3 million cash, and they have five grand. Maybe they’re regretting it a little bit thinking, gee I should’ve taken the cash. I thought, you know, someone told me that this was gonna pay off, but day 20, five grand.. I’m not seeing it.

[00:04:15] Day 29, skip ahead nine days later, now your friend caught up to you or pretty darn close. On day 29, they have $2.7 million. Wow. But guess what? There’s still two more days of doubling there.

[00:04:35] Day 30, they have $5.3 million and day 31, the last day, they now have over $10 million. And it kind of feels like magic, to us on the outside, it looks unfair. You might look at that and go, what the heck? $10 million!? I wanted $10 million dollars! Well, you had the choice, you just didn’t have enough foresight. You didn’t have enough vision to recognize that if you took one simple action every single day, it would pay off in spades. Days and then in most instances, weeks, months, years down the line.

[00:05:15] So this principle, I mean, obviously, no one’s going to give you that offer. And if they do, let me know because that would be awesome to see that actually happen in real life. But nevertheless, it illustrates this principle of the power of compounding. Right. Doubling or at least consistency, day after day, what it can mean months, years down the line.

Simple Changes Over Time

[00:05:38] Hardy shares a second example that I also really like and puts it in a different light here. Let’s say that we have three guys that all grew up together and they’re basically the same type of human. As same a human as three people can be that aren’t twins. Let’s say that they live in the same neighborhood, they each make 50,000 per year, they’re married, they have average health and body weight and they’re just kind of your average guys.

[00:06:05] Trend number one. Hardy calls this guy Larry,he goes through life doing what he’s always done. He’s happy, or so he thinks but he complains occasionally that things never change. He wants more, but he’s not really willing to do anything about it.

[00:06:20] OK, friend number two, we’ll call him Scott starts making small, seemingly inconsequential, positive changes in his life. So he starts reading 10 pages of a good book per day and listening to 30 minutes of something inspirational or educational during his commute. He cuts 125 calories from his diet every day, like super simple, right? That’s like half a soda or less. And finally, he walks a couple thousand extra steps a day, that’s less than a mile. All of these changes take minimal amount of time, especially, you know, 30 minutes of listening. But you’re already driving to work. It’s just swapping out music, perhaps for a podcast, something like you’re listening to right now. So that’s Scott, small positive changes.

[00:07:08] Friend number three, we’ll call him James. He starts making a few poor choices. He buys a new TV, which I’m not saying is a bad choice inherently. He starts to try out new recipes from the Food Channel. He loves cooking, he loves eating, but he doesn’t give much thought to their health. He just loves those cheesy casseroles and the big juicy burgers. And he installs a bar in his family room and starts drinking an alcoholic drink one night per week. You know, nothing crazy. He just wants to have a little more fun just looking to spice life up a little bit.

[00:07:42] At the end of five months, what do you think happens?

[00:07:49] How different do those three guys look from each other? Really no different at all. Right? In fact, you might even look at James, the guy who put the bar in an and living life a little more, he might look a little happier. Maybe he’s got more energy, more pep in his step. If you chart their weight, it’s gonna be the same. Five months is not that long.

[00:08:10] How about we go to 10 months? Still really no perceivable differences there. But at 18 months, you start to see some differences in weight and income and happiness, most likely. By 24 months, definitely noticeable.

[00:08:26] Now, Hardy hones in on month 31 here. And points out how startling the difference would be in the situation. James is now fat while Scott is trim. Scott cut 125 calories from his diet over 31 months. That’s 33.5 lbs that he would have lost.

[00:08:46] James, on the other hand, only ate 125 more calories. And guess what? Simple math, simple science, assuming everything else is equal. He gained 33.5 lbs, so now he weighs 67 lbs more than Scott.

So…Why Is This Significant? 

[00:09:03] Are you following me here? Small differences in diet and in exercise or lack thereof doesn’t make a big difference in the in the immediate term, but long term, boy, does it add up. And if you take that beyond just body weight, Scott will have invested almost 1000 hours reading good books, or listening to self-improvement podcasts.

[00:09:28] And you could imagine that by putting that new knowledge into practice, they probably got a promotion or a raise at work. He’s certainly performing better at work because he’s honing his skills. He’s learning to live a better, more powerful happier life. Most likely his marriage is thriving and you know, life is good for him.

[00:09:47] If you compare that to James, he’s probably unhappy at work. His marriage might be on the rocks. And you compare all of those to Larry, the guy who didn’t change anything. Well, surprise, surprise. He’s still in the same place he was two and a half years ago. And maybe a little more bitter about it.

[00:10:04] Now, I recognize these are hypotheticals, right, and there are gonna be some critics among you who are probably thinking, well, it’s not all about physical weight or it’s not about this or, you know, there’s so much more at play here. I recognize that, I’m sure Hardy recognizes that.

[00:10:17] Simply using this illustration here to illustrate the principle that small, simple changes done consistently make a huge difference for good or for bad down the road. So why are we talking about this on this podcast? Well, if you want to improve your relationships, it doesn’t always have to be big heroic acts that change things. In fact, most of the time our major issues are the simple result of consistent act.

[00:10:53] We were taught to show up or think a certain way and we might have 20, 30, 50, 90 years of learned behavior to overcome. That was the compound effect working against us.

[00:11:06] And I don’t say that to shame you or to make you feel bad, because guess what? We all have that. That’s just part of life. And yet the opportunity we have now is to become aware of it and go, Woah, OK. Makes sense why I am where I am now, maybe we can look at other people who are more successful than us at whatever area and look at them and say, well, OK, I thought it was all luck. I thought they just, you know, grew up with perfect parents or that they had everything given to them.

[00:11:34] If you scrutinized most people like that, you’ll find that really they just understood how to use the compound effect for their benefit. So our opportunity is to do the same, to look at this and go, oh, OK it’s really not that complicated. It’s not that difficult to achieve amazing things, to completely heal certain relationships as long as we’re willing to do the simple daily things that ultimately add up.

I Speak From Experience

[00:12:05] Now, I’ll add to that my own testimony, if you will, that I know this works because years ago and again I mentioned this last week, I wrote a whole article on this on my blog. It’s titled Why I Swear by Having a Solid Morning Routine, because it comes down to this principle of the compound effect. Years ago, I was in my goal setting mode. I think it was January or December and I looked back on the year and I thought, come on.. year after year, I say, I’m going to work out more. I say I’m going to accomplish this project. I’m going to read more books, I’m going to do whatever it was.

[00:12:42] And very, very rarely am I consistent, at least not to the point that I’m proud of. And this particular year, I was done, I was fed up. I’m like, OK, I’ve got to change something here because it doesn’t feel good to keep wishing for that and dreaming of that and then ending up more or less the same spot I was twelve months prior.

[00:13:02] So I took a good, hard look at what was stopping me. For me, it was two main things. First, I noticed that my willpower progressively weakened throughout the day. You know, first thing in the morning, I wake up, I’m refreshed, I’m ready, I could get myself to do just about anything but come 6:00 p.m. and after a long and emotionally draining day at work. Netflix and Chill seemed like the only reasonable activity.

[00:13:28] And that was just it. I couldn’t get myself to exercise. I couldn’t get myself to read a book or to write the book that I was trying to write at the time because I was so exhausted.

[00:13:38] The second thing I noticed is that work, errands or other commitments, often ate into my evening more than I expected. And that in turn pushed my resolutions farther and farther back until it was time to head to bed. And so in those instances I used the excuse, well, I just ran out of time.

[00:13:59] Now, again, if you’ve been listening since the beginning, you know that that’s a weak way to live life. It’s an excuse. I didn’t run out of time, I prioritized other things. And so in that moment, I recognized the truth of those two realities and I resolved to change something about it.

[00:14:17] For me, it was putting in the rocks before the sand. If you’re not aware of that analogy, it’s a simple object lesson, where somebody gives you a bunch of sand and a pile of rocks and then a little mason jar. And they fill it with sand and then they ask you to put all the rocks in and you can’t fit them all. They just don’t fit. And so if you leave it there, you think, well, you’ve got to get rid of some rocks and sand if you’re gonna make this work.

[00:14:48] But if you put the rocks in first and then pour the sand in, the sand goes through and fills up all the cracks. And surprise, surprise you can fit everything into that jar. Now, I’d seen that as a child. It’s part of my thinking it’s burned into my brain. And so I jumped on that, I realized that was a true principal there. And so my rocks for me were the most important things. They were my goals, they were things that related to my relationships. They were things that related to my personal and professional success and certainly my physical, emotional and mental health.

[00:15:22] The sand to me was Netflix. It was even speaking frankly, might my corporate job, it reading articles that were interesting, but not really helping me achieve my goals.

[00:15:36] So, I created a morning routine and I committed to doing just some very simple things first thing before I did anything else to make sure I got them in. For me, it was simple, especially starting out. Exercise for five minutes every morning, which sounds stupid, right in like five minutes, you can’t get any effective workout. I didn’t care. All I wanted was consistency because five minutes was still better than nothing.

[00:16:05] OK, so my initial goal was five minutes of exercise. It was five minutes of meditation and it was five minutes of studying a good book. That was it. Fifteen minutes. Who doesn’t have 15 minutes? And at 6:30 in the morning, there’s no one else calling me out. There’s nobody walking into my office saying, hey, I need you to do this or, hey, can you do that?

[00:16:24] Zero excuse, which was my goal. And guess what? It worked.

[00:16:32] Days went by. Weeks went by. Soon months went by with a perfect record, which felt awesome, especially to me as a recovering perfectionist. It was so empowering to realize that I was making positive changes in my life. And like most things, most healthy habits, they spawned new healthy habits. It became addicting. You know, as I was exercising, finally with five minutes, I felt that I didn’t really want to stop. After five minutes, I was willing to keep going a little longer. So eventually I changed my goal to 20 minutes. And now I work out 40 to 60 minutes just about every morning, quite consistently.

[00:17:11] My studying for five minutes turned into 15 minutes as well. I added in the new goal, or new part of my routine, which was writing in my book, or working on my book for 15 minutes every morning. And guess how that year ended? When I sat down to evaluate the year prior and set my goals for the next year, I totaled everything up. I had done 200 hours of exercise, which burned an additional seventy eight thousand calories.

[00:17:41] 65 hours of study, 22 hours of meditation, which sounds crazy. And I got my 20,000 word rough draft of my book done in about five months because I didn’t add that goal until later. And probably the coolest thing was all of that felt automatic. You know, if anybody had come to me at the beginning of the year and said, I need you to write your book in five months, I would have been like, there’s no way, I’ve never written a book, I don’t know how to do that.

[00:18:12] If they said I need you to meditate for 22 hours, that just sounds ridiculous. You know, 200 hours of exercise, it’s all big until you spread it across 365 days. But at the end of that year, I was in the best shape of my life, physically speaking and frankly, emotionally and mentally, because I had read like 20 books I think it was.

[00:18:35] I had spent a lot more time meditating and calming my mind. And I was on cloud nine. I felt like I was killing it at life. I was happier. Those who knew me could see it. And it was hard for me to not just jump on top of tables and preach the power of the compound effect and how cool it is, because I recognize that those simple little things did add up. And once you take control of those, life is good.

[00:19:05] That’s when you start to really see the difference and again, it doesn’t happen right away, which is why it can be difficult to get going. But I can tell you, people will see the difference. You will see the difference months and certainly years down the line.


[00:19:23] So my invitation to you today is to think about something or perhaps a few things that you want in life.

[00:19:33] What do you want or what do you want to accomplish? And I’m not just talking physical items and not talking money necessarily, though that can certainly be a goal of yours.

[00:19:42] But what do you want? Figure that out and then put the compound effect into play by committing to at least one daily practice to get there. So if you want a strong, healthy marriage and you’re not married yet, that might look like going on one date or maybe just going to one social gathering every week. That starts to add up, and if that’s too difficult, then break it down to something even smaller.

[00:20:11] If you are married or if you are in a relationship, maybe you commit to reading a marriage or a relationship book for five minutes every morning. Maybe you write down one thing you love about your spouse every evening. Maybe you do one small act of service for them every day. I mean, think about that last one. What good do you think 365 acts of service towards your spouse will do? That’s pretty significant.

[00:20:41] What if you like me, wanted to write a book? Fifteen minutes every day. Again, I got my rough draft done in about five months by fifteen minutes every morning. What if you want to get into better shape? Start with what I started. Five minutes of exercise every day. Or maybe like. Hardy’s thing, you commit to cut one thing. Maybe you get one less coffee a week, or you get your coffee without the cream, without the sugar or however you have it.

[00:21:09] Look for something simple. You want to read more books? Just commit to five minutes every day. You want to buy a new home? Commit to saving $10 every week. You know, that’s a little over $500 a year. If you can do more than that, you can get to $1,000 a year. But over five years, guess what? You suddenly have money for a down-payment. And people aren’t typically going to miss $10 a week if you structure your finances well.

[00:21:38] So, again, write down what you want and then leverage the compound effect by choosing one simple daily practice to get there.

[00:21:49] And the final thing that I’ll say, this is not sponsored by Darren Hardy, but definitely go pick up a copy of that book, The Compound Effect, I’ll include a link to that book in the show notes on my website, michaelssorensen.com it’s a must read, absolutely a must read.

[00:22:05] I would love to hear from you if you’ve taken this to heart. Comment on the show notes post on my website or shoot me an email or tweet me on Twitter or wherever. Let me know what goals you’ve set. It’s so fun for me to see what other people are accomplishing in life and what they’re working toward and it in turn benefits me. It inspires me. It gives me energy and excitement. And again, I’m big about putting more light and energy into this world. This is one way where you can dream big, you can live big. And by sharing that, you inspire and you empower others to do the same. Now go and do something awesome and I will talk to you next week.

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash


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