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1 Percent x Infinity = Growth

The Math of How to Improve at Anything

No matter who you are you have something you want to get better at. Maybe you want to lose weight? Maybe you want to learn French? Or possibly raise your first round of funding? Whatever it is, the only path to success is 1% at a time.

Improving by 1% is something we can all do. The beauty of it is that the numbers compound, meaning a measly 1% becomes more and more valuable over time. 1% for an Olympic swimmer could be the difference between achieving a world record or not, but that doesn’t mean 1% from a first-time swimmer is useless. It just turns out that the value of our 1% input isn’t immediately seen. We must take a step back and watch it grow, expand, develop and multiply.

Let’s say you want to train for a marathon next year. That’s 26.2 miles. Right now, you can only run one mile comfortably. One mile is 5,280 feet. 1% of that is 52.8 feet. That’s about the length of an awesome slip n’ slide. Anyone can add that to the end of their run today.

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This is an awesome 50 ft slip n’ slide — aka 1% of a mile.

If everyone can run one mile and everyone can improve by 1%. Let’s do some math on training for a marathon:

If s = starting distance on day 1

and d = number of days training to reach your goal

and g = goal mileage,

then: s * (1.01^d) = g

starting distance = 1 mile

goal = 26.2 mile

days of 1% training = 328

If you were to train every single day, it takes less than a year to go from a one mile runner to a marathon running athlete. All you have to do is run 1% farther each and every day.

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A graph of your 1% improvement over time. AKA — UP AND TO THE RIGHT

We all desire to be a better version of ourselves. We tend to focus on large scale changes. Cut out sugar entirely! Run a marathon! Lose weight! Drop 50 pounds! And we focus on anything we can do to speed up this improvement. These huge changes and betterments are seemingly insurmountable when we start, but this is simply because large changes don’t happen overnight.

Take a look at the beginning of the graph above — it’s nearly parallel with the X axis. The beginning of training largely looks like nothing is getting better. Because it’s not — because at 1 mile, the next day is simply running an extra slip n’ slide worth of distance.

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For the first half of 1% training to run a marathon — you barely see any distance increase. However, over time 1% improvements accelerate exponentially:

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1% daily — training for a 100 mile run. Not physically possible, but demonstrates the rule

Though no human can sustain daily marathon’s as they train towards a 100 mile run. Sustained daily 1% betterment works forever in many fields. As you build a company, each 1% success is compounded by all previous 1% successes. But without stepping away and looking at a graph like the one above — the 1% improvements just feel like 50 ft. slip n’ slides at the end of a one mile run. Remember this when it feels like nothing is getting better.

***A very important shout out to my co-founder Masha Belyi for creating these sweet graphs for this blog post******

As always, you can reach out to me at — Helping brands tell their story.

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