It’s the littlest decisions that shape our lives.

Imagine two friends: Brad and Charlie.

They live in the same neighborhood.  They have similar sensibilities. They each make around $75K a year.  Both are married and are of average health and weight, Darren Hardy shares in his wonderful book The Compound Effect.

Brad makes some small, seemingly inconsequential changes.  Every day he reads 10-pages of a good book per day and listens to something inspirational on his way to work.  He decides to cut 125 calories a day, trading in one can of soda for a seltzer water and walk a couple of thousand steps a day (less than a mile).  He’s committed to doing these new habits consistently leveraging the power of Brian Johnson‘s principle of “using his willpower wisely to install habits that run on auto-pilot.

Charlie makes a few poor choices.  He invests in the latest big-screen television so he can watch some more of his favorite shows.  He loves the Food Channel and enjoys trying out some recipes.  Two of his recent favorites are chicken Alfredo pizza and funnel cake fries.  He’s a bit stressed at work and enjoys one additional drink per week.  He adds about 125 calories a day to his diet.  No big deal.

Five months into our experiment, there’s no perceivable differences between Brad and Charlie.  In fact, looking at their weight, we’d see a rounding error of… exactly zero, Darren writes.

Ten months in, still not much of a change.

Around 18-months, there is a bit of a difference.  

But then around month 25, the compound effect kicks in and we start to see observable and measurable differences.

By month 31, Charlie is now overweight and Brad is trim.  By simply cutting 125 calories a day, Brad has lost 33 pounds.  (31 months = 940 days.  940 days x 125 calories/ day = 117,500 calories.  117,500 calories / 3,500 calories per pound = 33.5 pounds).

Charlie, on the other hand, has gained 33 pounds.  

But that’s just the start of it.  Brad has now invested one thousand hours reading and listening to good books and self-motivating audios.  He’s putting this new knowledge to work and has earned a promotion.  His marriage has never been better.

Charlie’s unhappy at work and his wife is unhappy with him.

Darren’s little story illustrates the power of the compound effect in our lives.  Small, seemingly insignificant changes in our behavior done consistently over time will create a radical difference.  Our choices shape our actions which become our habits.  

The ability to create new habits is our true “superpower” as human beings.  By eliminating bad habits and installing positive ones, we can take our lives in any direction we desire.

The challenging part according to Darren?

We don’t experience the power of the compound effect because we don’t see results fast enough.  

Many of us quit after the eighth day of running because we are still overweight.  Or, stop practicing piano after a couple of months because we haven’t mastered anything other than “do-re-me.” Or, cease making contributions to our 401K because we need the cash and it doesn’t seem to be adding up anyway.

But, if we keep at it consistently over time, we will see the payoff.  

It’s not magic.  Just hard work, discipline, and good habits.


Reflection: What’s one new habit I’m willing to commit to?

Action: Start today.

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