One of my mentors is fond of pointing out that, just like money in a savings account, the “returns” from learning tend to compound over time. As a result, if we make the effort to improve by just one percent each day, in seventy days we will be twice as good.* As we turn the corner to a new year, this is a perspective that every dedicated lifelong learner would do well to adopt both for looking back and for looking forward.
First, look back on your efforts in 2011. If you made some big leaps, congratulations. But also consider where you have made smaller, incremental progress. Have you done it steadily over time? If so, congratulate yourself on that as well. Have you got the start of something you can carry forward into the new year? Are there areas where you can re-apply yourself?
Now, look forward to 2012. Where will you focus your efforts? If you have some big goals in mind, how can you break these down in to manageable objectives with small, daily steps to carry you forward on your journey? Even with a lifetime of effort, true mastery of anything is an elusive goal, but bit by bit, with conscious, consistent effort, we can improve dramatically. And each improvement makes the next one just a little easier.
* The mentor I have in mind is Alan Weiss. I don’t know whether the “1% solution” is original to him, but I have heard him reference it many times in various seminars. If you don’t believe the math, I encourage you to use a simple interest calculator like the one at MoneyChimp. Put in “1” for “Current Principle,” nothing for “Annual Addition,” “70” for “Years to Grow,” and “1” for “Interest Rate.” Leave the rate of compounding as it is, and then hit calculate. As shown below, the result is just a bit more than “2.”
Note: It doesn’t matter that “years” rather than “days” are the unit of measure here. The point is that the original amount is compounded 70 times.
I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.