The Simple Math of Change

Maybe imagine something for just a moment.  Imagine that you could – simply because you want it – be what you want.  Anything you want.

one percentIt’d be sweet wouldn’t it – to be whatever you wanted, as soon and as easily as you wanted it – cooler, fitter, richer, freer, happier?  In a day.  In a moment.  At our whim.

“Umm, I think I’ll be cool.  Today, please,” we’d say.  And it’d be so.

Or, “Oh, I think maybe today I’ll be thin.”  And so it would be.

Or maybe we’d ask to be financially independent.  Or stronger emotionally.  Or better or more talented in something.  Or whatever, really.  And it would become as we say.

As easy as that.

As simple as that.

As immediate as that.

But the thing is…it’s probably not too hard to imagine at all.

Because – at some level – we already think it’s true.  Kinda.  Unknowingly.  Unconsciously.

And though we’d never say it, and perhaps never realize it, we somewhat expect it – that big things can be done overnight, that huge changes can come in one fell swoop, that we can be whatever we want in a days time, or after a single night’s sleep; that we’re owed success as fast as possible, and not a moment longer.

Just look around.

At the advertisements.  The commercials.  The slogans.

They so often promise miracles, do they not?

Real results.

Easily.  Quickly.

And as ridiculous as it may be, they actually work.  Ads like that work.

Because they speak not to logic, but to our innermost desires – that change can be bought with a price, acquired in a sale, earned simply because we’ve put money down and think that means something.

We live in a kind of magic pill society – “5 minute abs”, “5 easy steps”, “5 days to change your life” – where results are guaranteed in 30 days or your money back – where we expect results in 30 days or think it all to be failing, or not working, and demand our money back.

We live in world where most give up as soon as they encounter any difficulty at all – as soon as what they receive is not what they believe they deserve, or have earned, or have purchased fairly.

We have no patience for progress.

But let’s be honest with ourselves…

…are most goals, skills, or accomplishments achieved in 30 days?  Are any of the things you’d give anything to have right now, or be right now really so possible in 30 days, or simply when you want them accomplished?



I’d definitely hope so.

Some goals are small enough, of course.  Some are quick enough, as well.

But frankly speaking, it’s not freaking likely – for anything that’s of true importance or impact, or of life-changing consequence or improvement.

And that’s why most don’t try, or too soon give up.

Because when we’re faced with something daunting – with a goal too hard, or a challenge too long – like becoming cooler, like becoming stronger, like becoming thinner, or richer, or whatever might make our broken or sadder lives that much better – we look at the horizon of the journey – the end of the goal – and say “Ahh, it’s so far.”

“I’ve traveled so long.  And it’s still so far.”

And, guess what?

You’re probably right.  The goal probably is pretty damn far away.


Because when you come from a place of real weakness, or scarcity, or depression, or whatever damn thing prevents you from already being that person you want right now – living that life you want – there’s so often so long to go to completely healing what was done, or overcoming what must be overcome, or learning what must be learned to make your life as you’d hope it.

And we’re almost never willing to be honest with ourselves about how hard that will be, or how much work that will take.

But the truth is, the more damaging your broken home, the more daunting the journey you must travel.

The more difficult it will be.

The more lessons you must learn.

The more frustrating it is.

So we have to finally be honest with ourselves.

We have to be realistic in our expectations.

You have to look at the distance left to go, and learn never to be discouraged whether a few steps remain, or so many miles.

That you won’t be a straight-A student tomorrow.

That you won’t be ripped, or thin, or healthy by next sunlight.

That you can’t be the coolest, most awesome dude or lady when you wake this next morning.

That it takes more than a day to change a body, a mind, a life.  That goals are more than simply matters of time, or patience, or whatever price you paid to some company that promised you the world.

That you won’t be rich by next paycheck.

That you can’t sit under a tree and attain nirvana in a moment’s meditation.

That you can’t suddenly be the happiest and most put-together sir or lady just cause you read a few uplifting posts here, or wherever else.

Cause it’s not so much…

…that all these things take time.

Cause of course they do.  Everything does.

It’s that big goals are big things. And the magnitude of the challenges or achievements that would truly change your life are so often greater than you’ve ever thought before, or would ever care to imagine now.

And things like that simply can’t be done at once.  They can’t be completed with a single act, finished in single effort, done because of one day’s work.  And like a mountain isn’t climbed with a single jump or step, this goal won’t be reached in one fell swoop.

Because goals aren’t single things.  They aren’t monolithic things.  They aren’t but one thing to learn, or master, or achieve.  And the biggest lessons in life aren’t lessons learned in a single sitting.


They’re hundreds, thousands, hundreds-of-thousands of smaller, individual lessons really – an innumerable amount of smaller, lesser lessons which – as they’re encountered, as they’re experienced, as they’re learned – make up the pieces which will one day form the larger puzzle that is your goal.

How many individual things must be learned to learn the violin?

How many separate lessons actually comprise learning another language?

How many different conversations would it take to learn charisma, vibing, humor?

A lot.

A shit ton, even.

And that’s why your goals are impossible in so short a time.

Not because you’re any less capable than any other, or any less able than any other, but because no matter what you do, or who you pay, there’s simply no way you could learn the countless little life-lessons that in fact constitute the entirety of your goal – of what you would perceive as a singular goal –- being the happiest dude maybe, or the most popular maybe, or the richest, or the most successful maybe.

It’s that any one goal isn’t simply one thing to master at all, but a million little problems to encounter, a million little lessons to learn, a million little failures to learn from that the person who has experienced them, and learned from them, and mastered them knows and is familiar with.  But that those who simply dream of it – of doing it, or of achieving it, or of becoming it – almost always fail to recognize.

And these little lessons just don’t come all at once.

Though we may wish it.  Though we may want it.

Nor can you force them, usually, or seek them out, specifically.

They just happen – when you’re trying hard, when you’re failing hard, when you’re learning and working towards a goal with an effort deserving of it.

And little by little you achieve it.  Little by little you change.

That’s what change is, then…

…a 1% process, a 1% game – a thing by which the the largest efforts only ever result in the smallest improvements, but consistent efforts result in the greatest change.

And so no matter how hard you may work or how much effort you may put in, it’s simply the way of the world that you can never learn more than a thing at a time, or improve but a bit at a time.

The pace of your improvement can be improved – from more time, more effort, more instruction – but the improvement itself from any single action cannot.

Even your greatest efforts, then, are not ever likely to give you more than the smallest improvement.  Sometimes noticeably.  But more often not – to your eyes, at least, at that time.

That’s how the math of change works.

That when you put in 100% effort, you get 1% return.  And when you’re consistent and dedicated in your efforts (in collecting 1% returns), you get 100% change.

It sounds like the worst investment ever maybe.  But in a world where so few try, and so many quit before the end, it may be the wisest investment you’ll ever make.

But the thing is…

…when we see someone who is now where we want to be soon, we so often think: “Aw damn.  They have everything I want.  They have it all. They have 100%.”

But no, actually.  They don’t.

What they have are many life-lessons learned through the difficulty of their experiences – through the trial of their errors and their corrections, from the work of their efforts and the exhaustion of their energies.

They have a lot of 1 percents of that goal, which together make up the entirety of what you want, and they now have.

And that’s what your efforts and struggles and failures will give you too should you try hard enough and be dedicated long enough: those 1 percents of the goal that will one day lead to you having it all.

Just think of Kobe Bryant, for instance – who probably shoots a thousand balls a day.

One of the best players in the world.  A thousand shots a day.

Or Derek Jeter – who probably takes a thousand swings a day.

To be better.  To be just a little bit better.

Think of how many times they’ve done that, to get where they are today.  Think of miniscule, almost unnoticeable improvements they made every day to get to where they are now.

And the thing is…each player’s single shot or swing in practice is mostly useless when you think about it, right?

Neither will be actually better from a single shot or swing in practice.

In fact, the thousand swings and shots are probably aren’t much better, really, either.

But from that practice maybe Bryant’s shot is 1% more consistent that night, and Jeter’s swing 1% better timed that evening.

And in games determined by mere fractions of an inch, those improvements are huge.  Those improvements do make a difference.

Realize the value…

…of 1%.

1% may sound depressing now, I know.  It may sound discouraging, even.

But imagine for a moment the difference 1% would make.  Imagine how much better your life or self would be with only a 1% improvement.  Imagine what that might bring and to what that might result.

A lot.

It would mean a lot.

And – to you – it may mean everything.  It may make all the difference in the world.

1% is a powerful thing in life.

And those 1 percents add up.  And add up.  And add up.  And suddenly the goal isn’t so far anymore, or the mountain so tall anymore.  And on and on.  Till you are wholly different.  Entirely better.

So quit worrying about achieving the entirety of a goal.

Quit believing that you’re owed progress and success in 30 days or less.

Quit worrying that you’re not “there” yet or “done” yet.

Cause you can’t be anyway – right now, with a single effort.

Just worry about 1.


Cause if you’re dedicated enough, and determined enough, and try enough, you may win something amazing today.  You may improve 1%.

And it’ll likely be 1% more than everyone else.


Share and comment below.  It’ll put me 1% closer to owning the world.  And I always wanted to own land.

4 Responses to The Simple Math of Change

  1. Madison S. says:

    I completely agree. Tiny steps have always worked better than giant leaps for me. No one ever makes a complete 360 degree transformation overnight. It’s less overwhelming to take things one day at a time.

    “Like the mountain isn’t climbed with a single jump or step, this goal won’t be reached in one fell swoop.”

    True dat. 🙂

    ~ Madison

    • Adam Austyn says:

      Ah not quite what I meant actually, and I just edited the post a rather large amount, haha. Happens sometimes. Thanks for reading though Madison. You’re still cool.

  2. Beat Schindler says:

    Adam, I 100%, oops 1% :-] agree with you. To TAKE action on the 1% you can right now is worth a thousand times more than to THINK about taking action on what you can’t right now. Everybody knows someone who thinks less and is more successful than they are. ~Beat

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