The Power of One

One person can make a difference. One action can change the world. All it takes is one blog post to start a blog. My first post was “A Single Step.” This post expands on the ideas presented in that post.

Every goal starts with a single action to make that dream a reality. Start with one idea, then do at least one thing, every day, until you achieve your goal. Don’t you dare underestimate the power of one thing adding up daily. Learn one new thing every day for a year and you will have been exposed to 365 new things at the end of that year. It could be anything. Songs, vocabulary, trivia, history… anything!

Strength is a skill that you wouldn’t think can be trained daily, but it can be. Blue collar workers and farmers are known for their exceptional strength, all while not spending a minute in the gym. Sure, they might not have huge bodybuilding muscles bulging from their shirts, but let them give you a good solid handshake and report back to me. These men and women build their strength daily, out of necessity. Check out Pavel Tsatsouline’s Simple and Sinister for a great example of a simple strength program that employs daily training.

Another interesting thing about the number one is that it has a strange relationship with the number zero, which is in fact, the lack of a number. Zero means nothing. One means something. It’s the basis of binary. On or off. It’s almost like one is infinitely greater than zero, whereas two is only one that has been doubled. Such a mind blowing thought. Think of this: it’s better to have something and not need it, than need it and not have it. The power of one applies here. Would you rather save your money and not buy something that could potentially help you in some way or risk not having it at all? Having something, even a crappy something, is generally better than not having that something. Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.

Back to skills, allow me to give you some practical advice for leveling up.

Jerry Seinfeld’s Method for Success

This practical tip has been dubbed “The X Effect” by reddit, and was popularized by Jerry Seinfeld. The basic idea is to get an index card, divide it into 50 squares (or rectangles if we’re being pedantic), and put a number in each square. On the back of the card, put details about the activity you’ll be doing, such as what you will be doing, how long you will be doing it, why you are doing it, etc. Once you complete your goal for the day, mark off that day’s square. Continue for at least 50 days (66 being the average amount of days to form a habit according to this study). If you only have one habit you’d like to work on, you can follow Seinfeld’s original method and use a calendar instead of an index card.

When using this technique, it’s important not to start off with too much. Allow me to quote Terry Crews from one of his reddit AMAs:

TL;DR: start off slow, one thing at a time, make it enjoyable, stick with it, gradually add more to your daily routine. The power of doing one small thing daily strikes again.

A small side thought: How many of these “one things” can we do per day while still being productive? It’s probably a good idea to build the skill of building skills first (meta skill-building). In order to do this, focus on one project or habit to work on. Once you build up this willpower muscle, you should be ready to tackle more things. But again, not too many! It’s arguably more efficient to focus on a select few, say, 5, than 20. (I’m basing this off of what I read in Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter, Faster, Better in the Focus chapter.)

Bringing this post to an end I have a final thought: how can we make things that we NEED to do into something that we WANT to do? Why is it that we can play video games all day, even to the point where it becomes work to beat it? A couple of ideas here: we usually have a clear-cut goal that we know must be accomplished. We get the gist of how to accomplish it, we just need to put the work in.

A related idea is that we have all of the resources we need at our fingertips to accomplish this goal. It’s all there, we just need to put it all together. Although sometimes when we get stuck, we resort to the Internet or other people for advice. But that honestly doesn’t sound like such a distant reality from how many people accomplish work in the real world… but I digress. This topic is for another day…

With all of that said, I hope the mystical Power of One can help you in your quest to level up IRL. Until next time.