If all goes as planned over the next couple of weeks (and there’s every indication that it will), then I will have experienced more goal-oriented success in the past 3 years of my life—culminating this year—than in the prior 48 years combined!
I’m not going to go into detail about these goals here; for one, that’s not the point of this article. And for two, it seems that would be somewhat narcissistic; the purpose of this blog is not to talk about myself, but to relay what I believe to be important information, knowledge, or wisdom which has helped me, in the hope that it may benefit others as well. But for those of you who may be curious, suffice it to say that my achievements were in the areas of personal finance, my writing endeavors, and my music interests.
But the point of this article is to convey some of the ideas and techniques I’ve picked up along the way, which I believe contributed to this new-found progress in my life.
In his book The Compound Effect, Success Magazine founder Darren Hardy discusses…well, the compound effect, which he describes as “the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. What’s most interesting about this process to me is that, even though the results are massive, the steps, in the moment, don’t feel significant. Whether you’re using this strategy for improving your health, relationships, finances, or anything else for that matter, the changes are so subtle, they’re almost imperceptible.”
“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”
But the fact is, few may realize the actual time frame: the compound effect kicks in big-time on day 31. It’s in the math. (For those of you who may be wondering: it’s over $21 million!)
And this compounding effect doesn’t only work in the area of finance; it works with anything we do, anything into which we make tiny investments on a daily basis. Over time, those tiny investments grow exponentially—just as compounded interest does in the financial world. Work at something a little bit, each and every day, and on day 31—or week 31, or month 31, or even year 31, depending on the goal or project—suddenly the results skyrocket and you see a huge difference in your life. And to everyone else, you will magically appear to be an “overnight success!”
To illustrate this, Hardy uses an example of friends, one of whom decides to make some small, daily changes in his diet and lifestyle, to get healthy and lose weight, and the others make no changes:
“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.”
And obviously, the keys to making such changes in our lives are commitment, daily work, and diligence over time. And making this commitment, doing the work, and sticking to it over time is what author Steven Pressfield refers to as “turning pro.”
In his book Turning Pro—which I read cover to cover three or four times a year—Pressfield writes: “I wrote in The War of Art that I could divide my life neatly into two parts: before turning pro and after. After is better.”
And I agree wholeheartedly.
Turning Pro is about finally making the decision to take your life and your calling(s) (your art) seriously, and understanding that achieving your dreams or goals, becoming who and what you were born to become, requires commitment, diligence, and work—lots of work, every day. You must treat your art like a job, or career. Anything less is merely amateur. By turning pro, you make a decision: this is what I do now, and then you treat it as the priority, as you would your job, career, or vocation.
And, as I mentioned earlier, doing so automatically triggers the compound effect; and supposedly, after going pro and therefore investing time, energy, and resources on a daily basis into your new career, vocation, or art, after approximately 18 months (a year and a half), you should begin to see results; after approximately 25 months (two years), you should begin to see solid, measurable progress. And after 31 months (two and a half years), your results should begin to multiply and skyrocket—and you will essentially be living your new life.
Now, I don’t have documented start dates or time frames regarding exactly when I began working diligently, on a daily basis, toward building a new life for myself, but I can tell you I began the process in the spring of 2009, and I think my progress came about in two stages: first, I spent two and a half years (spring 2009 to fall 2011) rebuilding myself from the inside out, establishing an entirely new set of principles, a new belief system, a new set of priorities, and spent much of my time educating myself, not only in the areas of psychology, spirituality, philosophy, etc., but also in other important and universally applicable areas such as personal finance, economics, and political philosophy. And then, after the requisite 31 months, after I began feeling much more confident in my new self, I set about working toward some of my external goals. I proceeded to invest much of my time, energy, and resources, on a daily basis, into my goals—and, amazingly, approximately 31 months later (fall 2011 to spring 2014), they began to manifest, in nearly shocking fashion!
Going pro, and experiencing the compound effect over time, works. And not just for me…
In Neil Gaiman‘s commencement address to the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, the successful author and prolific writer imparts his experience and wisdom on the new graduates who will likely soon be embarking on a career in the arts. One of the realities he touches upon is that of putting in lots of hours, and producing lots of work, for a long time, before seeing the results. He compares this with sending out messages in bottles, and warns that we should be prepared to send out hundreds of them before we see any of them return:
“A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles on a desert island and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles, and open it, and read it—and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out hundreds of things for every bottle that winds up coming back.”
Later in his speech, when sharing some of the success he experienced as his career progressed, he returned to the idea of the messages in bottles, and how over time they began returning to him en masse:
“The problems of success, they’re real. And with luck, you’ll experience them. The point where you stop saying yes to everything because now the bottles you threw in the ocean are all coming back, and you have to learn to say no.”
Pursuing your art, pursuing your health, pursuing your education and personal growth, pursuing anything important and meaningful in your life, requires dedication, time, and effort, on a daily basis, relentlessly. But just like any financial investment, the compound effect will automatically apply itself to the process, and the results will begin quietly growing, in the background, almost imperceptibly.
So make the commitment, work on it daily, and be diligent—and with time, all those bottles that you threw into the ocean will begin coming back, en masse.
I know this to be true; for I am living proof.