The Power of Tiny Gains


Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day
failure is simply a few errors in judgment, practiced every day.

—Jim Rohn


Estimated Read Time: 6 minutes

As you go through Damn Early Days, you might be wondering if a single morning really matters?

I mean, in today's world it's the huge transformations and overnight success stories that get all the hype.

And why wouldn't they – they just sound so damn good.

“I lost 30 pounds in 30 days without lifting a weight”
“I made $60,000 in TWO months without leaving my couch”
"I found happiness and rode off into sunset with the love of my dreams all by taking a magic pill...”

Those words and words like them litter the pages of magazines, blogs, infomercials, and courses everywhere. And with that kind of ubiquity, you’d almost be foolish NOT to believe them.

But if you’ve ever talked to anyone that has done anything of accomplishment then you know how much merit they have – nil.

Despite the underlying knowledge that there is no shortcut, we still flock to these get {insert lofty, audacious goal} quick schemes like a moth to the flame, believing that we will be the lucky ones who part the sea and get to bask in the glory without putting in the work.

But look around and let me know how that's doing for most people.


Breaking Our Biology

There seems to be some sort of (faulty) wiring in humans that overwhelmingly underestimates what it takes to accomplish big goals and grossly overestimates what it takes to accomplish a series of small tasks.

We buy into the narrative of a heroic, defining moment where we achieve it all and completely negate the value of making numerous small but good decisions on a daily basis. We convince ourselves that the change is only meaningful if there is some crazy large visible outcome associated with it.

And we're all miserable because of it.

See, not only is it causing us to fail, it's causing most of us not to try at all. For the sake of sanity and your life, this morning, we’re going to break that notion and make your life a hell of a lot easier (because we kind of feel bad about the whole 4:30AM thing).


Welcome To The World of Tiny Gains

People don’t suck at creating habits. In fact, they are really good at it.

What they suck at is choosing the right habits to build.

Most of our habits are decided haphazardly, driven by short-term desires with no care or understanding of their long-term effects on us.

Almost every habit you have — good or bad — is the result of numerous small decisions, repeated over time. There was no point that you “got smart” or “became fit”. It was a gradual change that happened through thousands of tiny choices, again and again. At some point you looked back on it all and were smarter or fitter – hopefully both?

Yet, when it comes to setting new goals and ambitions, this knowledge is the first thing we throw out the window. We choose to forget how easy it can be to follow simple decisions everyday and instead choose to focus on the biggest, baddest, most ambitious thing we can – the outcome.

Looking at Tiny Gains

Tiny gains are small decisions made frequently that move you slowly and steadily forward. They start small and add up to something big. Maybe you have read about this before, but sometimes, often around the halfwat mark, we need a reminder to get us back on track.

The math is simple. If you focus on simply getting 1% better every day, in 365 days you will be almost 38 times better.

Yep – 38 times better.

On the flip side, if you're bad habit is making you 1% worse every day, you'll be left with virtually nothing at the end of year. This applies to running, money, learning and just about every other life goal that can be quantified. Yet at no point are you growing (or shrinking) more than 1%.

Want to write a book? Start by writing a paragraph the first day and gradually increase how much you write as it becomes easier.

Want to run a marathon but couldn't even chase down the ice cream truck last time it was around? Start by putting on your shoes and walking around your block. Then run for 10 seconds and walk for a minute. Increase from there.

Want to learn to meditate like a zen ninja, but can't sit still for 10 seconds? Start right now by stopping everything and taking just 3 breathes. Then step it up and go back for 4.

It sounds simple – and, well, it is.

In a world of huge transformations and instant gratification, consistency trumps big but short lived spurts of energy, every single day of the week.

Find something worth sticking to, break it down into tiny components, and get after it – bit by bit, day by day.

So, Why Don’t We (The World) Embrace Tiny Gains?

If they are so easy and awesome, why don't we all embrace them?

Well, there's a simple reason: in the moment they feel insignificant, unsexy, and have no emotional charge.

Basically, they are boring.

If you don't believe me, tell the next person you see that you just did one push-up and tell me how they respond.

That's what I thought...

But the truth is, if you're previous best was zero push-ups then one push-up is infinitely better and closer to 100 push-ups than most people.

See, many of us would rather bask in the what-ifs of lofty goals than do the dirty (and sometimes boring) work that will help us get where we want to go. We'd rather talk about the potential of the success we could have than put in the time.

Don't be one of those people.

To make it worse, when people who are at the top talk about building the company, losing the pounds, or writing the book, they talk about it as a singular thing. They make it seem like success happened in moments, rather than being the accumulation of months, years or even decades of work adding up.

It's easy to let fall prey to these stories and let them trick you into doing too much, too soon. When you get motivated and inspired to take it to the next level, it's easy to fixate only on the end result (see every single New Years goal). It's natural to think that we need the result, the transformation, the overnight success. But know it's not what you need. You need better habits.

Audacious life goals can be fantastic and we're proud you have them. But let’s be honest for a second, it’s probably those audacious goals that are the very thing stopping you from getting where you want to go.

There is power in small wins and slow gains. Break it down. Keep it simple.

Tiny gains will take care of the rest.

And because you made it this far, you deserve this.