One Percent Better Every Day

Austin L. Church
September 8, 2016
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Once you hear certain ideas, they suddenly appear everywhere. My friend Bob’s nephew is a performance coach. He helps professional athletes with mindset training. One pillar of his teaching is getting one percent better each day.Another friend Danny attributed the idea of 1% improvement to Bruce Lee: You’re always moving forward, improving one tiny increment at a time, or you’re moving backward. There’s no such thing as stasis. You never stay in one place.


Sir David Brailsford, the General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky who helped the first British cyclist win the Tour de France in 2012, came up with a fancy term for 1% daily improvement: “aggregation of marginal gains.”When I tried various Google searches to track down the original source, of course, I discovered I’m last to the party. James Clear has a solid post on marginal gains. James Altucher applies 1% to habit-forming here. And let's not forget the Japanese concept of Kaizen popularized by Toyota.Oh well, I still believe that you only have to be one lesson ahead, so I’m going to share something I wish I had known earlier in my freelancing career.

It is better to make an imperfect, incomplete start with a new app or tool and become 1% more efficient tomorrow than to wait until you have fully research your options or understand an app or tool to take action.

Think about the near-term effects of marginal gains: Improve your business by 1% each day, and it will be twice as good three months from now.

To become one percent better every day, you first need to get started.

Duh.Yet, many of us succumb to analysis paralysis. In grad school, one professor encouraged us to set very strict deadlines for research. After a certain point, research gets in the way of the actual writing. We can easily become gluttons for information, and we mistake more fact-gathering for momentum.In business, we tend to research tools, methods, and strategies long past the point where more knowledge brings more benefits. Rather than act on what we already know, we accumulate more reference materials. Do you have folders on your desktop stuffed with guides, PDFs, checklists, cheatsheets, swipe files, and templates? Do you have email archives and folders of uber-valuable techniques, tips, and tactics that you’ll need at some point on the distant horizon?Information gathering is a really effective way to walk in circles.We’re strange, starving bees who hoard piles of pollen yet seldom turn it into honey.

one percent better

Photo Credit: Pedro Lastra via Unsplash

You don’t need to know more to get started.

You need to know less. You need to slough off the dead weight of excess tactics. You don’t need a stockpile of a thousand. You need one tactic. You need 1%.In his seminal business book Good to Great, Jim Collins introduces the concept of the flywheel. Seemingly insignificant nudges to a business enterprise create momentum over many months. Tiny, often imperceptible improvements, accumulate day after day, and eventually, they become the fertile black soil that sustain and nourish growth.You don’t need many one percents in a row to build an unusually prosperous business and to live an extraordinary life.Are you doing anything with what you already know?

  • The difference between doing nothing and doing something is 1% a day.
  • The difference between a flat business and a profitable one is 1% a day.
  • The difference between winning the Tour de France and not is 1%. a day.

So stop worrying about what you don’t know and start acting on what you do. Stop chasing magic bullets. Start tweaking your workflow now, and start becoming 1% more efficient now. If you're a freelancer or solopreneur or even running a small agency, then efficiency is the same as profitability.There you have it.Did you find value in this blog post? Please sign up for my weekly newsletter. I’ll send helpful freelancing tips your way.