“Do the dishes” the voice in the back of his head whined. “There’s only a few, it will take less than five minutes.” But the voice was ignored. For two long, gloriously dish-washing free days, the voice was nothing more than background noise. Then the voice began to change tone, and ignoring it seemed less plausible. “Please clean this mess up. Those walls weren’t green a few days ago, and the ten scented candles aren’t putting a dent in the stench coming from the sink. It’s going to take forever to finish, so please get started now.”
While this is an extreme scenario, we’ve all been there. The fast release of dopamine we receive when we simply decide “I’ll do this later” is highly addictive. The result of this behavior however is not. Procrastination (or as I like to call it: negligence) leaves in it’s wake nothing more than giant problems. So why is it so hard for us to observe this and change our behavior over time? The main reason we tend to not notice the cause of these type of negative outcomes in our lives is because the compound effect takes time.
Most, if not all, sound investors that have made great deals of wealth from utilizing the compound effect have done so over the past 30 to 50 years. Most, if not all, famous athletes only become famous after having spent their entire youth on their respective sport. Even most, if not all, college students only receive an A in their course after putting 4 months of hard work into a class. The compound effect takes time to realize it’s full potential, and the majority of people aren’t able to accurately track its progress. This becomes a problem for people because in the same way it takes a long time for positive outcomes to become a reality, so does it usually take a long time for negative outcomes as well. Most, if not all, gamblers become buried in tremendous debt over the course of a few years of bad gambles. Most, if not all, college drop-outs only become so after having done poorly in their studies for at least a year. You get the idea. Because of this it’s hard for us to notice the huge impact such little negative decisions have on our lives. The good news is: change is possible.
Notice I said “possible” and not “easy” or “simple”. It’s important to realize early on that changing behaviors is inherently difficult for humans to do. So what can we do? Think of each action as a small part to a larger picture. Each positive action, minute of work, dollar invested instead of wasted, is an important piece to a grand final picture that can only be realized over time through the compound effect. A top-notch student never became that way overnight. The practices they have built into their lives are a result of years and years of discipline and good habits.
What I’m going to urge you to do is to get a notebook, any notebook. It can be printer paper stapled together, scrap paper taped together, It doesn’t matter. The important part is how you utilize it. Record in lists every positive thing you can think to do. From washing the dishes, to saving money instead of buying non-useful items, to telling someone you love that you love and appreciate them. Anything and everything you can think of that would have a positive impact on your life (or the lives of others within reason) should be written down as they come. The next step is simple: while you’re writing these ideas down each day of positive things to do, do them. Do as many as you can. Utilize your time to direct your life in a positive direction as much as you can. The compound effect works a hell of a lot better if there’s something there to compound over time, so give it your best shot. After all, it’s you and the people you love that will be getting all the rewards from these actions.
I’d like to recommend a book as a closing note called The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. While not too complicated (that’s a good thing!), this book illustrates what this blog post has been about quiet well and in a way that is easy to understand. The book flows easily and is a reasonably short read as well, which makes it easy to fit into your schedule. I hope that, if you should choose to read it, you’ll get as much out of it as I did! I’d also love to hear from those who read the book as to what they thought of it. Or, as always, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below if you’d like to discuss further the content found within my blog!