Big outcomes don’t require as much effort as you think
When you think about achieving a big outcome such as growing a $15M company, achieving financial independence, retiring early, writing a book, or getting in shape – you can’t help but think “this is going to take a lot of work.”
You might even think that to reach your desired goal, you’ll need to put everything else aside.
And so you may not ever bother to start.
Well I am here to tell you that it actually doesn’t take much.
Big outcomes are not the result of one big action.
Big outcomes are the result of thousands of tiny decisions and thousands of tiny moments that eventually compound into something so big that they can’t stop themselves.
Big outcomes don’t need a big action. Big outcomes can start with simple things:
- Waking up a 30 mins earlier every day
- Or staying up 30 mins later every night
- Committing to learning one new thing every day
- 20 minutes of exercise a day
- Taking an hour a week to execute on your goals
Tiny habits and small changes are all that is needed to get going.
Building your personal flywheel
So how is it that a tiny new habit or a small change will help you to achieve your big outcome you are looking for?
Once you begin to build momentum, whether it is in business, personal finance, fitness, or really anything else, you become unlock an unstoppable force.
The Flywheel Effect as formulated in Jim Collins’ Good to Great does a great job of explaining how momentum really works.
The idea is that at first, moving your massive, heavy flywheel (your goal) is a challenge.
It takes time and effort to get it moving.
But after many slow and methodic rotations through your flywheel, it begins to move.
And then it moves a bit more.
Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster.
Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.
Now suppose someone came along and asked, “What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?”
You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel.– Jim Collins, Good to Great
Once you begin to enact small changes day after day, you start to build momentum for your flywheel.
Once you have momentum, your business, fitness, or financials take care of themselves. You don’t need to do too much.
Even when you start small, so long as you stick to it, you will eventually win big.
Building daily habits
In my Atomic Habits review I outline what James Clear expertly put together to help anyone serious about building great habits.
Ultimately, creating great habits comes down to being very specific AND clear, about what exactly you will do, where you will do it, and when you will do it.
“I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
- Meditation. I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my kitchen.
- Exercise: I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. in my local gym. “
So if your goal is to become financially independent, your best bet is to outline exactly what you can easily do to get there:
- I will automatically send $2,000 a month, directly from my paycheck into my investment account.
- I will max out my 401(k) every year, via automatic deductions from my paycheck.
- I will update on my Net Worth in an excel spreadsheet, on the 1st of every month.
Becoming financially independent at first seems like a huge huge task, but broken down into a few small steps, you can see that it actually doesn’t take much.
Now, let’s look at writing a book:
- I will set my alarm for 6 am every day.
- I will sit at my computer, in the office, without distractions.
- I will write for 1 hour. I will write. Nothing more.
If you did that every day for a year. I would be willing to bet that you’d have a book on your hands.
It doesn’t take much…
You don’t have to put in 80 hour weeks to be successful.
You don’t have to go on a crash diet to lose all the weight you want to lose.
You don’t have to be completely frugal to reach FI.
Big outcomes start with small steps.
It really doesn’t take much.
But it does take a little.
Reminds me of The Compound Effect. Compound interest really is the 8th wonder of the world! Small investments every year can have impressive future effects.
I really loved how specific you are with your goals. That’s my biggest takeaway here.
Yes, I didn’t realize the power of specificity until reading Atomic Habits. While I have done a good job writing fairly specific goals, I didn’t go far enough. The more specific, the better!
Finally started reading Atomic Habits–love it so far and am looking forward to diving into the actionable items.
Glad you are liking it so far. As you can tell, I am a big fan of it!