The power of 1%, Marginal Gains & A lost sheep

The power of 1%, Marginal Gains & A lost sheep

Like many of you I was struck by the power which tiny incremental changes directed and improving what you are doing can achieve. In the ChooseFi episode with Alan Donegan,  Alan alerted me to the philosophy of British Cycling coach - Sir Dave Brailsford.

I quickly went onto YouTube and found many wonderful clips and interviews with Sir Brailsford. What jumped out at me was the immense power that can be tapped by trying to make something better by just 1%! These tiny marginal gains culminate in epic achievement, demonstrated by the many gold medals at the recent Summer Olympics and Tour-de-France titles for British cyclists. 

My mind went to the Bible story about a man, a shepherd who had one hundred sheep.  One of these animals went missing.  Instead of the shepherd being ok with the 99 sheep still in his care, he left the 99 (presumable in the care of someone) and went looking for the one that was lost. This shepherd put effort into finding that one - the one lost sheep missing from the flock of hundred.  The 1%.

Putting effort into the marginal gains is rewarding for a number of reasons. 1) It sets a reasonable goal; 2) the goal is achievable 3) the joy in reaching that goal is palatable. When the shepherd found the lost lamb he put it on his shoulders and returned home.  He invited his friends and neighbors over and said: “be happy for me, for I found my little lost lamb!”. 

Achieving something is immensely satisfying. Watching the Olympics I cannot help but smile when I see the exuberance and joy of someone taking gold.  Re-watch Shaun White make his final run on the Men’s Half Pipe … nothing but tears of joy.

When it comes to saving and planning for retirement, it is no different.  Making small tweaks to the food budget, holding off on a big purchase, and making marginal increases in savings rate, all combine to boost and swell your net wealth. It really does not matter whether it is cutting the cable cord, finding a cheaper cell-phone provider or working toward maxing out a 401(k) plan. The power of marginal gains has a snowball effect and becomes a game changer in the effort to reach FI. Making marginal changes takes a bit of practice; and it is practice that makes better – Not Perfect! We don't have to be perfect. In fact I have come to believe that perfect for this finite being is impossible. But I can get better, and I can keep working around the margins, making marginal gains. And in the words of famed South African golfer Gary Player: “The more I practice, the luckier I get!”

What is the one small attainable thing you can do today to make a lasting difference? 


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