Which would you rather have: $1 million USD right now or a single penny that doubles every day for the next 30 days?
You’ve probably heard this question before because the answer is one of the clearest examples of the power of compound interest.
After 5 days of doubling, that penny will have turned into a measly 16 cents. After 10 days, it’s worth $5.12. At 20 days, it’ll be up to just over $5k - $5242.88 to be exact. By day 30, it will have transformed into a whopping $5,368,709.12 - far more than the $1 million offered up front.
Compound interest doesn’t care about intuition, though. After 5 days of doubling, that penny will have turned into a measly 16 cents. After 10 days, it’s worth $5.12. At 20 days, it’ll be up to just over $5k - $5242.88 to be exact. By day 30, it will have transformed into a whopping $5,368,709.12 - far more than the $1 million offered up front.
The real difference in the two scenarios has to do with how momentum builds over time. Seemingly tiny inputs can pay off big time over the long term. Very few things are as impressive as compound interest, but this concept need not be restricted to only money. You can use the idea in many areas of your life.
The Allure of Immediate Results
Let’s go back into our thought experiment for a moment. Imagine that you chose the doubling penny option and its day 5 and your “balance” is only .16. Would you get frustrated and wish that you had chosen the easier $1 million option instead? Might you get so tilted that you just give up in frustration and quit the experiment altogether?
By quitting you’ll relieve yourself of frustration, but you will also deny yourself the long-term gains that can’t be realized in the short-term.
Unfortunately, we are inundated with messages from our environment that convince us that we should be able to attain everything we want in short order - generally 21 days or less! Suppose you want to lose weight. If you’re like the majority of Americans, you’ll join a gym but quit before the first installment is even debited from your account. Or maybe you start a healthy diet that you stick with for only a week or two.
In our culture, we’ve become so trained to expect immediate results and instant gratification that many of us believe that any personal transformation should happen as soon as we’ve decided we want it. And when it doesn’t, we often get frustrated and quit in response. The bitter truth is that lasting change doesn’t happen quickly. The best way to see the results you are after is to transform yourself into a compounding machine and the best way to do that is by building the habit of consistency.
The Power of A Consistency Habit
For most endeavors, the results we’re after won’t happen quickly. But they don’t necessarily take that long either. In my experience, it takes just a little bit longer than most of us are comfortable with. Consider these common examples:
■ Exercising for an hour 3x per week for one month will show few visible results for most people.
■ Watching an hour of poker videos every day for a week probably won’t transform you into Fedor Holz.
■ Meditating for 10 minutes a day for a week won’t turn you into a tiltless wonder.
But how would things change if you decided to drop the quick fix mentality and instead committed to your good habits for the long haul? What if you decided to stop obsessing over and getting frustrated by your short-term results and instead committed to the ongoing process steps that will get you the long-term results you want?
You absolutely can do this by turning your goals into simple daily disciplines that you know will make all the difference. By committing to a process and not worrying about the outcome, compounding can do its magic and after some amount of time - it could be months or it could be years - you’ll experience the achievements you so desperately desire.
Ironically, when you stop focusing on results, you’ll usually end up getting exactly what you wanted! If you stick to the previous examples for a year, here are the outcomes you’ll achieve:
■ Exercising for 3 hours a week adds up to over 150 hours in a year, which is more than enough to improve both your health and appearance.
■ Watching 365 hours of poker videos may not transform you into Fedor, but it will put you miles ahead of most of your competition.
■ Putting in just 10 minutes of meditation a day adds up to over 60 hours of meditation in a year! Think of how much your emotional regulation and stamina would improve with that much meditation experience under your belt.
What is even more mind blowing is that these outcomes, as awesome as they are, don’t tell the complete story. That’s because the effects of one positive change tend to compound and naturally spill over into other areas. People who start a regular exercise program typically adopt better habits, for example. This makes sense because who wants to wreck the benefits of their hard work by eating junk?
Consuming 365 hours of poker videos will allow you to vastly increase your poker knowledge. You’ll see how concepts fit together and be better able to take advantage of more advanced learning materials. By improving your theoretical understanding you’ll find yourself in fewer tricky spots. Over the long run, this should translate into cold hard cash.
Meditating for 10 minutes a day for a year will undoubtedly help your mindset, but it will probably help your relationships, too. Most regular meditators report being calmer, less stressed and better able to communicate effectively with their partners and children. On average, they have lower blood pressure and better health overall. Talk about compound interest!
Developing The Consistency Habit
There are a few things that you can implement right away if you’re interested in becoming a compounding machine.
Play the long game. If you want to create dramatic changes in your game - whether on the mindset side or the technical side, you have to realize that you’re playing long ball (to borrow Dan Harrington’s term). Game-changing consistency can only come after you accept this truism. Dramatic improvements do not happen overnight. They compound slowly over time just like the penny. All you have to do to get the benefits of playing long ball is to change the direction you’re traveling. Consider your long-term goals. What small action could you take every day that would eventually get you there? You should start out very small and noted behavioral researcher Dr. B. J. Fogg says that small is much smaller than most of us think. He suggests going absurdly small. For example, he’d recommend that you should start with 1 minute of meditation a day and build from there. Or perhaps you start out by watching just 10 minutes of a poker video while taking notes on it. The trick is to go so small that you never miss a day. Once you build a consistent routine, it is easy to add more time to it, and this is how you build consistency over time.
Create habits and the goals will take care of themselves. While we typically start behavioral change by setting goals, they are not necessarily the best long-term strategy. Goals can give you an initial kick in the pants, but they are not good motivators over time. Some research finds that goals can be demotivating because focusing on them too much acts as a reminder of how far you still have to go. A much better strategy is to take the small actions you outlined in step 1 and habitize them. How do you do that? First, you start by tracking the target behavior(s). Creating a checklist and going over it every day is an effective way to do this. Checking off the behaviors as you do them puts you in control of the process steps which will inevitably lead to the accomplishment of the outcome goal you’re after, and it has the added benefit of helping you build the habit of doing the target behaviors. By adopting this strategy, you are able to focus on the progress your making and not get caught up in noticing how far you still have to go. This will help you to build momentum over time.
Celebrate everything you did well. If you stuck to your study schedule, give yourself a high five! If you meditated every day, even if only for 1 minute, that deserves a congratulations. Reinforce your habits by giving yourself a pat on the back. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished - it’s the start of something amazing!
Next, take a look at any problems or issues that you encountered. Maybe you picked a bad time to do your study. If that’s the case, acknowledge that and make an adjustment for the upcoming week. Maybe you didn’t give yourself enough time to do the needed activity. Again, make a change and move forward. It could be that you need to change your environment to one that better suits your aims. If you’re on a diet, but keep the cupboard filled with cookies, that’s not likely to lead to good results. Change your environment by removing the cookies and you’re much more likely to be successful.
Become a Compounding Machine
In the poker world it is easy to be impressed with the guys and gals who have put up the biggest scores. But you know who is more impressive? The person who wants to become a great player and who pushes through an intensive improvement process to make it happen. If you want to be that person, then all you need to do is to fall in love with the process of doing the things that will inevitably lead to your improvement. Make study, exercise, and mindset training into habits that you do daily. Develop the identity of a person who does what needs to get done in order to get what you want.
The good news is anyone can become a consistency loving compounding machine. Remember, that everyone has to start at the beginning and every poker master was once an amateur. What separates the greats from the rest is their relentless consistency in and capacity for doing what needs to get done - day in and day out. You can become an expert too. All you have to do is release your need for immediate gratification, focus on your daily disciplines and adjust as needed. Easy game!
If you enjoyed this article by Dr. Patricia Cardner then please checkout her forthcoming book - Purposeful Practice for Poker