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The one percent improvement

James Altucher often writes about the one percent improvement. It's a simple idea. Whatever it is that you're doing, try to do it one percent better the next day. And the next. And the next. Theoretically, this will make you twice as good as you are today in just seventy days. But clearly, it gets harder and harder to keep improving by one percent each day as we get better.

But that's alright. We might end up becoming twice as good in a year, or two years, instead of seventy days. But that isn't the point. To me, it is about two things.

One, it helps build a habit. Admittedly, it is easier to do one percent better each day in the early days. But achieving that keeps you coming back until it becomes a part of your daily routine. Any professional will tell you that the only way to get better is to practice everyday. Also, any Premier League manager will tell you that he is focusing on winning one game at a time and not thinking about winning the season from the word go. Because it is easier to look at the next obstacle and knock it down, to get in the stride and to form a habit. This is better than being overwhelmed by the loftiness of the goal and giving up before even starting.

The second, and more important thing is that it sets the balance between the short term and the long term. One percent is such a small increment that there is likely only one way of doing it, one that doesn't involve cutting corners. It doesn't involve burning down the forest or overexploiting the available resources because they are needed again the next day and the next and the next.

We learn to do things sustainably.

Just like you don't work yourself out hoarse at the gym today such that you need three days to recover, because you need to hit the gym again tomorrow, you will not over-stretch yourself on any given day. But you will constantly do a little better, one percent better, every single day.

And yet, we constantly yield to short term (artificial?) pressures and make decisions that have a negative pay off in the long run. Be it on the road while jumping a signal or in business in spamming a customer. The one percent improvement removes the thinking that anything goes for a quick win in the short term.

After all, the long run is just the addition of all the short runs. It makes more sense to aim for a one percent improvement in each short run, one at a time.

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