1% a day makes you 37 times better in a year

p s kullar
Jul 31, 2016 · 5 min read

“If you start out with $100 at the beginning of the year and you were able to increase what you have by 1% every single day, at the end of the year, you would have $3,778.34 = $100 * (1 + 1%) ^ 365. That is 37.78x what you had at the beginning of the year. Get that 1% every single day!” — Zappos

Zappos wrote this urging employees to improve 1% each day and become 37 times better by the end of the year.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do this and turn into superhumans in 1 year? Fitter, faster, smarter, happier and more productive.

There is a problem though, we’ve all read many life improvement articles but woken up and none of them come to mind so we just do the same crap we normally do.

The lazy bastards guide to doing this

Most life improvement methods talk about discipline and discipline sucks.

Have you noticed how people who are great at things tend to enjoy them?

Warren Buffet says he dances to work! Happiness appears to be key.

Therefore, I use the ‘what feels good’ and ‘what sucks’ system and it makes all the difference.

These are the steps:

1. Write down a list of ‘what feels good’ in the day.

2. Write down a list of ‘what sucks’ in the day.

3. Look at the list each morning to remind yourself to do things that feel good. Pick out things that suck and change them.

(2019 edit: I found that when people say be passionate, it does not click so well as when people say ‘be obsessed’. Obsessions involve a little bit of all of my personality and passion sounds too clinical. Obsessions might involve deep down childhood reasons which I can use without judgement)


What feels good

Reading a book on the train. I love doing this so I’ll keep doing it.

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Going out for lunch, sitting somewhere and watching the world go by. My brain is sharper when I get back because it needed the break.

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What sucks

I need exercise but I hate jogging.

How do I change this?

Listen to the trashiest sci-fi guilty pleasure audio book while running in a park.

I can run all day.

This is called temptation bundling.

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I hate doing admin work.

How do I change this?

Salted caramel milkshake while I do it.

I love admin work!

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What about changes to how you work?

Feel too distracted?

Turn off the phone, plugin headphones.

Still distracted? Use a focus booster. Still distracted?

Talk to the team about how to change this. Either way, identify and improve in simple small steps.

Why does this work?

It iterates. It improves itself.

You change what sucks and then you realise it still sucks a little so you change it again until it becomes great.

This is also how we generally learn to do anything in life. 1% a day = 37X a year.

If you are smart you’ll double loop the learning i.e. you improve the process of improvement.

I’m not that smart. My brain is lazy.

My full list contains around 5 to 10 items and I read it either every day or every few days. I enjoy going over it because the list is all about enjoying things. I make changes to it when I feel something needs to be changed.

(2019 edit: I have now updated this to a list of core obsessions e.g. learning spanish as part of a practical joke and multiple trips to Spain in the sun and understanding all of Money Heist without reading subtitles. I am writing a book but only writing characters I want to write, mysteries I would enjoy, conversations that I always wanted to hear in books. I’m building a side project for an app just exactly the way I wished it would always work. My obsessions now lead, everything else follows. I need minimal discipline as I have desire. Time is the big factor. Also, sticking to decisions and focusing on a few and dropping the rest.)

Here is the customary Steve Jobs quote that may or may not relate :)

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“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.” Jobs.

You know what works, do more of it. You know what sucks, change it. Write it down and look at the list whenever you can. Don’t stress about doing it each day because that then becomes part of ‘what sucks’. I certainly don’t do it each day and that’s why I don’t improve 37 times but ya know what… I make a few changes here and there, I remember this mathematical formula and things happen. Slowly at first.

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