Imagine you’re walking down the street enjoying a beautiful day. A limousine pulls alongside you and stops.
“Excuse me!” A man in a perfectly tailored suit steps out of the back of the vehicle and smiles. He hands you a briefcase. “Open it.”
Confused but intrigued, you unlatch the briefcase and peek inside. It’s lined with stacks upon stacks of $100 bills. Your blood runs cold as the briefcase trembles in your hands.
“One million dollars cash,” he tells you. “And it can all be yours. No tricks. No gimmicks.”
You’re frozen. A gust of wind shakes you back to reality. You slam the briefcase shut and latch it before the money blows away. The man stares at you with intense eyes, “Do you want it?”
You feel like you’re going to throw up. You’ve never seen this much money in your life, let alone held it in your hands. Your nerves pinch at your throat, but you manage a weak nod.
The man claps his hands. “Good. I’m an eccentric billionaire, and you’re going to be my test subject.”
Your eyes widen as you imagine the kinky, 50-Shades-of-Grey-esque fantasies a crazy baller like this dude must have.
The man winces as if he’s reading your mind. “Nothing crazy. All I want is for you to make a choice. You can have this one million dollars cash, no questions asked, or you can have this…”
He pulls out a single penny. Oh no, he’s going to do one of those annoying math problems, isn’t he?
“I’ll put this one penny into a bank account in your name, and I’ll double the money in the account once a month for three years. By the second month, you’ll have 2 cents. By the third, 4 cents. By the fourth, 8 cents. And so on.”
Once a month for three years…?
The man quickly interrupts your thoughts: “Which do you want, the $1 million dollars cash, or the penny in your bank account? You have five seconds to make a decision or you get nothing at all.”
He reads his watch and counts down: “5… 4… 3…”
Ahh! You panic as you try to do the math.
You shout your answer!
What did you choose? The one million cash or the penny?
In the moment, most of us would take the one million. It’s hard to turn down cash-in-hand, right? Since this is only hypothetical, you may have assumed that it was a trick question and the penny was the better option. But how confident are you in your decision?
Here’s how much you’d make if you chose the penny:
If you took the penny, by the end of the first year, your bank account would amount to a grand total of…
*fart noise* Yikes! Are you sure you don’t want to go for the one million instead?
Well, maybe things will get better by the second year. Let’s find out. After two years, your bank account would be…
Better, but it’s still $926,000 less than a million. Still sticking with the penny option? Okay, let’s see how you did.
By the end of the third year, your bank account would amount to a grand total of…
$343.5 MILLION DOLLARS!
I think we can all agree: $1 million is good, $343.5 million is better. And it all started with one penny.
It pays to be patient. Here’s what the math looks like:
As you can see, results are practically non-existent until they reach the tipping point — the “Finally!” moment where results come so quickly and easily, it feels as if it all happened at once.
But it didn’t. Even though those first 23 months look like a waste, they are extremely necessary in order to achieve the massive results later.
Such is the magic of compound interest — the thing Albert Einstein called “Man’s Greatest Invention,” according to a Wall Street Journal article. Ever wonder how the rich stay rich? Compound interest.
But what if I told you that this same exponential growth pattern can be applied to everything in your life? Not just money, but weight loss, fitness, sex appeal, learning a new language, honing a new skill, etc.
And what if this same law — the law of compound interest — works in reverse? What if the same forces that can lift you to amazing results can also drag you into the depths of failure?
Being on the right path should be your #1 priority in life, right? This is something EVERY human being should know about, so why don’t they?
They don’t because the term “compound interest” is one of the most boring sounding things on planet earth. Author Jeff Olson re-branded it “The Slight Edge” in a fantastic book of the same name, but it lacks a certain emotional punch, don’t you think?
So we’re going to name it something better. We need to name it something visceral. Something you can feel in your gut. Something everyone can relate to. We need the good side to sound amazing (perhaps even sexy), and the bad side to sound absolutely awful.
I got it!
This is quite possibly the most important graph you’ll ever see in your entire life. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “The S.Ex.I.E.R. Curve” and “The D.I.A.R.R.H.E.A Drop-off.”
Those are the first words that came to mind and I’m sticking with them!
S.Ex.I.E.R. stands for “Simmering Experience Increases Exponential Results.” Look at the graph. See that long tail before the “Finally!” moment? That’s the “simmering” period.
Ever try watching a pot of water boil? It looks like nothing’s happening… nothing’s happening… nothing’s happening… then you step away to check the fridge for a second and bang! When you look back it’s at full boil. How did that happen?
It happened because while the pot was simmering (i.e. when it looked like nothing was happening) A LOT of things were happening.
I have a friend in the entertainment industry who told me the following story: One day, allegedly… Megan Fox called her husband because she was trying to make Mac & Cheese and couldn’t figure out why the water wasn’t boiling. Apparently she put a pot of water on the stove but nothing was happening. She didn’t understand that water takes time to boil!
Be smarter than Megan Fox! Understand that water needs time to simmer before it boils.
You can’t go straight to boil without simmering.
If you want to lose weight, you have to “simmer.” Chasing a fad diet is like choosing the one million dollars instead of the penny. It might be great temporarily, but the results are finite. Instead, find the few habits that you can do every day. Walk a little more… eat a little less… but do it consistently. And the results will keep giving.
Don’t look for the short term reward now, look for the long-term reward later. In other words, let it “simmer.” When you simmer your experience, it leads to exponential results — the “Finally!” moment where all your hard work finally comes to a boil.
“Simmering Experience Increases Exponential Results.”
You want to be on the SExIER Curve.
You don’t want to be on the dreaded DIARRHEA Drop-off, which is the equivalent of your life shitting its pants. Let’s refresh our memory of the graph:
D.I.A.R.R.H.E.A. stands for “Daily Inactivity Activates Receding Responsibility; Hope’s Erased & Abandoned.”
How often have you said this: “I can’t wait ‘til I have a day off so I can just rest and do nothing.”
I’m guilty of it.
Sometimes, a good day’s rest is exactly what we need. Unfortunately, instead of being a rare treat, if we’re not careful, inactivity can command and dominate our lives.
This applies to just about everything. Every day you don’t exercise, every time you let an argument with your spouse go unresolved, every time you don’t do the thing that you know you’re supposed to do, you get pushed closer to the DIARRHEA Drop-off.
The more you ignore your daily responsibilities, the more you erase your hope for the future until eventually it’s abandoned entirely.
Every see the show “Hoarders?” No home starts out like that. Instead, it starts with a few clothes left on the floor, then a dirty dish or two, then some junk mail and a couple newspapers. Simple things that should be easy throw away, but because they’re ignored, over time the house gets so messy that it appears beyond hope. That’s the DIARRHEA Drop-off.
“Daily Inactivity Activates Receding Responsibility; Hope’s Erased & Abandoned.”
Let’s pick an example everyone can relate to: Brushing Your Teeth.
If you don’t brush and floss tonight, nothing will happen (other than some bad breath). If you don’t do it tomorrow, your teeth will still be okay. In truth, they’ll be fine for a long time, because just like the “simmer” period on the SExIER Curve, there’s a long tail on the DIARRHEA Drop-off where it looks like nothing is happening. Then one day, your tooth falls out. That’s the “Oh shit!” moment when you realize that your mouth just crapped its pants.
I’m doing you a favor by blurring that out.
The point is that every decision you make has the potential for either long-term rewards or consequences. These consequences are easy to ignore, because they’re so far down the road that our “ape brain” doesn’t recognize the cause and effect. Our ape brain needs results immediately.
But life isn’t immediate, and we need to be smarter than our ape brain. Rewards and punishments both take time to develop.
Every decision you make either slides you into the SExIER Curve, or dips you into the DIARRHEA Drop-off. There’s no in-between. And yes, inactivity is a decision.
Truth be told, most of us never reach the “Finally!” moment or the “Oh shit!” moment because our decisions are such a mixed bag of good and bad. We’ll floss one day but not the next because we’re “too tired.” We’ll eat salad and kale chips one week, then pig out on fried cheese and pork doodles the next. We’ll hit the gym for a few days, then take the rest of the month off.
And that’s fine if you want to stay in the middle. It’s tough to make the right decisions day after day after day. It goes against our biological programming.
But screw our biological programming! We can program ourselves to be much, much more!
Therefore, I offer you the following challenge:
Pick out one habit. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad habit you want to stop or a good habit you want to start — just pick one. Something simple. Now choose the option that puts you on the SExIER Curve and do it today. Just for today. And if you can do it today, you can do it tomorrow, right? So do it again. Repeat this for one month.
Don’t worry about making the right choice in the future. Just worry about making the right choice today. Tomorrow will become today, so focus on the now.
Whatever your chosen habit is, don’t choose the option that puts you in the DIARRHEA Drop-off. Keep it on the SExIER Curve!
Do this for one month. Then see how you feel.
Maybe you’ll want to keep testing yourself. Maybe you’ll find that you’re much stronger than you thought you were. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to give 30 Challenges to Enlightenment a try.
Because contrary to popular belief, it’s not the major decisions that shape our lives; it’s the tiny, seemingly insignificant minor decisions that make us into the person we are today.
Who do you want to be tomorrow?
“Be a better person tomorrow. Make a better decision today.”