The following is an except form the book, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
Let’s take three buddies who all grew up together. They live in the same neighborhood, with very similar sensibilities. Each makes around $50,000 a year. They’re all married and have average health and body weight, plus a little bit of that dreaded “marriage flab.”
Friend number one, let’s call him Larry, plods along doing as he’s always done. He’s happy, or so he thinks, but complains occasionally that nothing ever changes.
Friend number two, Scott, starts making some small, seemingly inconsequential, positive changes. He begins reading 10 pages of a good book per day and listening to 30 minutes of something instructional or inspirational on his commute to work. Scott wants to see changes in his life, but doesn’t want to make a fuss over it. He recently read an interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz in SUCCESS magazine and chose one idea from the article to implement in his life: He’s going to cut 125 calories from his diet every day. No big deal. We’re talking maybe a cup of cereal less, trading that can of soda for a bottle of seltzer, switching from mayo to mustard on his sandwich. Doable. He’s also started walking a couple thousand extra steps per day (less than a mile). No grand acts of bravery or effort. Stuff anyone could do. But Scott is determined to stick with these choices, knowing that even though they’re simple, he could also easily be tempted to abandon them.
Friend number three, Brad, makes a few poor choices. He recently bought a new big-screen TV so he can watch more of his favorite programs. He’s been trying out the recipes he’s seen on the Food Channel—the cheesy casseroles and desserts are his favorites. Oh, and he installed a bar in his family room and added one alcoholic drink per week to his diet. Nothing crazy; Brad just wants to have a little more fun.
At the end of five months, no perceivable differences exist among Larry, Scott, or Brad. Scott continues to read a little bit every night and listen to audios during his commute; Brad is “enjoying” life and doing less. Larry keeps doing as he always has. Even though each man has his own pattern of behavior, five months isn’t long enough to see any real decline or improvement in their situations. In fact, if you charted the three men’s weights, you’d see a rounding error of zero. They’d look exactly equal.
At the end of ten months, we still can’t see noticeable changes in any of their lives. It’s not until we get to the end of the eighteenth month that the slightest differences are measurable in these three friends’ appearances.
But at about month twenty-five, we start seeing really measurable, visible differences. At month twenty-seven, we see an expansive difference. And, by month thirty-one, the change is startling. Brad is now fat while Scott is trim. By simply cutting 125 calories a day, in thirty-one months, Scott has lost thirty- three pounds!
31 months = 940 days 940 days x 125 calories/day = 117,500 calories saved 117,500 calories saved x 1 pound/3,500 calories = 33.5 pounds!
Brad ate only 125 more calories more a day in that same time frame, and gained 33.5 pounds. Now he weighs 67 pounds more than Scott! But the differences are more significant than weight. Scott’s invested almost one thousand hours reading good books and listening to self-improvement audios; by putting his newly gained knowledge into practice, he’s earned a promotion and a raise. Best of all, his marriage is thriving. Brad? He’s unhappy at work, and his marriage is on the rocks. And Larry? Larry is pretty much exactly where he was two and half years ago, except now he’s a little more bitter about it.
The phenomenal power of the Compound Effect is that simple. The difference between people who employ the Compound Effect for their benefit compared to their peers who allow the same effect to work against them is almost inconceivable. It looks miraculous! Like magic or quantum leaps. After thirty-one months (or thirty-one years), the person who uses the positive nature of the Compound Effect appears to be an “overnight success.” In reality, his or her profound success was the result of small, smart choices, completed consistently over time.
The Ripple Effect
The results in the above example seem dramatic, I know. But it goes even deeper than that. The reality is that even one small change can have a significant impact that causes an unexpected and unintended ripple effect. Let’s put one of Brad’s bad habits under the microscope—eating rich food more frequently—to better understand how the Compound Effect can also work in a negative way and can create a ripple effect that impacts your entire life.
Brad makes some muffins from a recipe he learned from the Food Channel. He’s proud and his family loves it, and it seems to add value all around. He starts making them (and other sweets) frequently. He loves his own cooking and eats more than his share—but not so much that anyone notices. However, the extra food makes Brad sluggish at night. He wakes up a little groggy, which makes him cranky. The crankiness and sleep-deprivation begin to impact his work performance. He’s less productive, and as a result, gets discouraging feedback from his boss. By the end of the day, he feel dissatisfied with his job and his energy level is way down. The commute home seems longer and more stressful than ever. All of this makes him reach for more comfort food— stress has a way of doing that.
The overall lack of energy makes Brad less likely to take walks with his wife, like he used to. He just doesn’t feel like it. She misses their time together and takes his withdrawal personally. With fewer shared activities with his wife and an absence of fresh air and exercise, Brad’s not getting the endorphin release that had helped make him feel upbeat and enthusiastic. Because he’s not as happy, he starts finding fault with himself and others, and stops complimenting his wife. As his own body starts to feel flabby, he feels less self-confident, less attractive and becomes less romantic.
Brad doesn’t realize how his lack of energy and affection toward his wife affects her. He just knows that he feels funky. He starts losing himself in late-night TV because it’s easy and distracting. Feeling his distance, Brad’s wife starts to complain, then becomes needy. When that doesn’t work, she emotionally withdraws to protect herself. She’s lonely. She pours her energy into her work and spends more time with her girlfriends to fulfill her need for companionship. Men start flirting with her, which makes her feel desirable again. She would never cheat on Brad, but he has a feeling something’s wrong. Instead of seeing that his poor choices and behaviors are at the root of their problems, he finds fault with his wife.
Believing that the other person is wrong rather than looking inside and doing the work necessary to clean up your mess is basic Psychology 101 stuff. In Brad’s case, he doesn’t know to look inside—they don’t offer self-improvement or relationship advice on Top Chef or his favorite crime shows. However, the thought may have occurred to him that, if he had read the personal-development books his buddy Scott read, he might have learned about ways to change negative habits. Unfortunately for Brad, the small choices he made on a daily basis created a ripple that wreaked havoc on every area of his life.
Of course, all that calorie-counting and intellectual stimulation has had the opposite effect with Scott, who’s now reaping the bounty of positive results. It’s that simple. With enough time and consistency, the outcomes become visible. Better yet, they’re totally predictable.