Improvement is Non-Linear

Previously we wrote about how change, any good change that is, occurs slowly over longer periods of time. On the same topic it is becoming increasingly common to see people quit early because their gains aren’t easy anymore. In the weight room people expect to pack on pounds of muscle without seeing any sort of pull back. When dating women they say “this is the best I can get” or “I just don’t get why I can’t get past XYZ point with this girl”. With work they believe their paychecks should skyrocket without a significant change in work responsibilities “I do so much I deserve to be treated like a ‘princess’”. It’s sickening. If this is your belief system the below graph depicts what real gains are.

Since our society suffers from attention deficit disorder, there are three takeaways:

Improvement is Not Linear: The graph is not pretty like all those stock charts and financial jargon items you see where everything is “up and to the right”, that’s a fantasy. Real change is slow, bumpy, painful and even downright torturous. You get to that next level and life comes back at you knocking you down a peg. Your mindset gets frazzled, you injure your arm, you lose out on that next promotion, you get moved to a new location and the list goes on.

The Jumps are Smaller: Sports are the best example for improvement. Moving from a 66 second 400 meter time to a 60 second time is infinitely easier than moving from 49 seconds to 43 seconds. There is less room for error. The big gains have been made and now it is time for a series of small gains to reach that new high. Maybe you need to sleep an extra hour a day to gain those 2 extra pounds, maybe you have to give up alcohol, maybe you have to sleep less to get that promotion, whatever it is there is one thing for damn sure. You’re not going to like it. This brings us to the final point.

Are you Quitting? Notice that for each high there is a subsequent prolonged low under the “quitters” line, time spent below the line is longer than the previous low. The point? To get to your next high you must suffer. A lot. Do you lift until you’re in tears to get that next 1 pound of muscle? If so get ready to do it 2x as much. Do you work 12 hours a day? Get ready for 15. Do you find yourself denying your own abilities? Get ready to sign up for psychiatric therapy and practice meditation. No matter what, the longer you spend trying to figure out how to get what you want, be certain that it will be 40x more satisfying than the work you put in.

Conclusion: Hopefully the problem is clear, people are unwilling to suffer and maintain longer and higher levels of pain. Conversely, the sickening part, once you realize the pain is going to repay you 40x more than what you suffered through. The pain will feel good, you’ll get there.


  1. Greg says

    Great website. Reading this, specifically how permanent long term growth takes so long made me think of an analogy. Trains, the most efficient and powerful method of transportation take literally miles to change direction. Barely perceptible to the eye, a gentle curve over miles is what it takes to alter the vector of something this size. Cruise ships follow similarly. In contrast, sprinters and wake boarders can flip direction in a heartbeat, but which of these lasts longer and produces more results?

    “Do you work 12 hours a day? Get ready for 15” I think this is better: “Do you work 12 hours a day? Tomorrow, that’s 12.5; 10 days from now, 13.” In my life, ramps have seem more conquerable than stairs.

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