Given that my perspective is often financially based, I’ll start there.
Imagine you’re able to save $500 a month. That’s $6,000 per year or $240,000 over 40 years time. This is supposing linear terms. If you diligently put the saved money under your proverbial mattress – a non-interest bearing safe haven – you’d have just under a quarter of a million dollars at the end of 4 decades.
On the other hand, you might choose to invest that same $500 per month; with your investments conceivably averaging 7% annualized compound gains. The same $6,000 per year turns into about $1.27 million 40 years later – $1 million more.
Your contributions are linear, but the outcome is exponential.
Of course this works the other way as well. If you’re creating debt and paying interest, the math moves against you.
In everyday life it can be easy to cast aside the benefits of a saved dollar here or the drag of an extra $5 there. Yet keep in mind that pennies today can equate to thousands tomorrow.
In turn, this applies to your life as well. Forget the money – if only momentarily. Let’s say you want to lose weight. What’s your course of action? You could stop eating and try to run back-to-back marathons, but for some reason I think you’d be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, we all know the remedy: eat better and exercise. And not just today or tomorrow, but frequently – over and over again – until your consistent, linear efforts pay off in a way that no single marathon ever could. Even if you’re just barely improving, it’s important that the ball is rolling. It might take months, but the same amount of effort (progress) each day leads to results.
I’ll give you a personal example. I’m not sure if you know this, but I wrote a book. It took me a month: June 4th to July 4th. Now I didn’t set out to write a book in a month. For that matter, I didn’t set out to write it in a year or a day – none of that. Instead, I knew that if I put some time aside each day and wrote, that I’d get there eventually. I didn’t fret over having this much finished by that date or creating arbitrary rewards or penalties for meeting artificial deadlines. I just wrote. And my linear efforts – writing for a few hours each day – lead to exponential results. A conscious and consistent decision allowed for something that I never considered possible until recently.
The important part is the linear bit – just getting started. The exponential component tends to come along as the process evolves.
Yet be cautious. Much like the debt example, this pull works both ways. If you begin down a negative path – say wasting afternoons or treating others unfairly – these linear actions tend to result in the accumulation of exponentially less desirable outcomes.
Or expressed using Samuel Johnson’s words:
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
My sentiment is the same (perhaps Johnson’s quip is a bit more illustrative). In everything you do or hope to do, remember: “linear is exponential.” Consistent effort leads to larger and larger returns. Conversely, persistent negatives could very well dig an insurmountable hole.
Sometimes I’ll write a long treatise and other times it will just be a quick note. In either event, my job is to cut the fluff and give you the reading goods. My hope is that in consistently doing so your enjoyment (and perchance my readership) will grow exponentially.