Making Progress by 1%

I’m getting antsy

We just got back from a trip. It was amazing.  And I’m getting ready to go back into the office, I’m struggling.

It was a beautiful trip!

As I prepare to return to the office after two weeks away, I’m just dreading it.  I’m having trouble getting motivated to go.  When can I stop?  Can we quit yet?

I keep looking at the numbers in our Personal Capital account, and they’re just not moving.

Come on Damn it!! Keep moving up!!!

You can just call me Veruca Salt.  Who is that?  You remember the snotty little brat from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?  The one who had the dad who spoiled her rotten and bought her everything she wished?

I want it, and I want it NOW!!

There’s so many other things that I want to do with my time and my life.  Most of which don’t include dragging myself into an office for a majority of my waking hours.

Why does it seem like we’re not making progress???  Why can’t I just speed this up?

Enter 1%

1% isn’t much.  I mean, think about it, if I have $1 and I increase my holdings by 1%, I now have $1.01.  Congrats, I got another penny, WOOHOO!

1% is hardly noticeable while you’re in the throws of struggling to get to your number.  You struggle and struggle to make improvements.  You’ll wait and wait, but you only see small gains.

People are weird in a way, especially us FIRE people.  We like to track things.  We like to see progress.

I’m sure you can sympathize, watching your Personal Capital net worth trickle up.  Today, I have $100k. I add 1% and now I have $101K, add another 1% and now I have $102K.

Wow, I’m not getting anywhere!  This is taking forever!!  Hurry up!!

How powerful is 1%?

1% sure feels like nothing while you’re working toward some big goal.  It also feels like nothing when you compare yourself to yesterday.  But, what if I told you 1% is extremely powerful?  What if all you had to do was improve what ever you are working on by 1%?  Does that seem to super daunting?

If you could save $100, and do you think you could find another $1?

Maybe you could.  But what if you increased by that same 1% for each day for an entire year.  Where would you end up?

If you can improve just 1% per day for a year, would you end the year 2x better? 4x better than you started?

Improving 1% per day for a year

That’s right, you end up 37x better than you started!!!

Wait, what?  Just by improving 1 measly percent?

Now, what if I’m lazy, and I’m not improving, but I’m getting worse?  1% can’t hurt me that bad.  I mean I could lift 100lbs yesterday, and today I can only lift 99 lbs.  That’s almost 100, I’m close.

So after a year, I’ll be at maybe 50% of where I started?

1% decrease per day for a year

Nope… If you decrease by 1% every day for a year, you end up around 3% of where you started!!  That’s right, you lose 97% of any skill.

Wow!!  That’s crazy!!!

What’s the rub?

So, that’s great.  Just adding 1% can get you great things.  You can make amazing progress on anything your heart desires by simply making small incremental improvements.

If that’s the case, why isn’t everyone doing it?

This comes down to one thing.  Impatience.  In today’s society, we’ve become horrendously impatient.  We want to see huge progress, and we want to see it now.

No one wants to wait to see the apple tree grow from a seed, we simply go down to Home Depot and buy one that is already full grown, probably already making fruit.

Everyone thinks the same thing during this journey, no matter how far along you are.

“This sucks, I’ve been working so hard and I’m not getting anywhere.”

And this is where it gets tough, the patience, the perseverance, the grit.  You have to trust the process.  You have to let the universe work itself out.

You have to tune out the quick fix.  I hate to burst your bubble.

There is no quick fix!  You have to put in the time, you have to struggle through the process.

This is the same for everything you do, despite what every infomercial and ad will tell you.

How can you combat this?

Keep track of what you have accomplished, and then keep it in perspective.  Avoid comparing yourself to anyone other than you.

I try to keep things in perspective.  I looked at our Personal Capital account for this month.  It’s frustrating to look at!!

Damn it’s Going Down?!?

But then, I change the time frame on the charts from this month to this year.  It calms me a little, seeing that we’re getting closer.

Wow, We’re making progress.

Then, I change the time frame from this year, to the entire history of our accounts.

Look at that… It’s going in the right direction.

Wow, we’ve made a TON of progress!  We’re way closer than we were, and we’re getting closer by the day.

I can start to see the end of the tunnel, I’m seeing the light.  It’s working… I can push through to the end.

Changing my perspective and looking at things from a broader perspective lets me see the bigger picture.  We are making progress, we’re making tons of progress.  Is it as fast as I would like at the moment? Maybe not, but even though I may not see the changes every day I can truly appreciate the power of 1%.

***As you can tell by the charts, I’m also pushing to learn Pandas and Numpy in Python.  I’m making progress… a little at a time.  But looking back at where I started?  I’m a lot further than I was.  Just gotta keep telling myself… Enjoy the process, You’re making progress!***


  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach May 30, 2018 at 6:13 am

    Welcome my world of slow PC growth. lol! Yeah I had hoped to see numbers like last year but it’s been fairly stagnant, but it’s true that you have to measure it over time, but tiiiiiime goes byyyyyy….so slooooooly, and time….oh wait, that’s a song. Anyway, feelin’ ya.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…California Baby Boomer Ditches His High Rent for Van Life

    • Mr WoW May 31, 2018 at 5:43 am

      The funny part is that it’s not just you! It’s everyone. I doubt there is anyone you ask, that says it’s going too fast. So, just gotta keep on keepin’ on.

  • My Sons Father May 30, 2018 at 6:20 am

    I’ve been feeling this same way. Impatiently waiting for FI, and frustrated at the slow progress. This is a great perspective to take.

    It seems like the middle of any journey is the hardest. The beginning has the excitement of something new, plus tangible progress. The end has the rush of closing in on the finish line. But the middle is just a slog. This 1% philosophy is a great way to stay positive during that slog. Happy slogging!
    My Sons Father recently posted…“Your Money or Your Life” Review and Giveaway – May 2018

    • Mr WoW May 31, 2018 at 5:48 am

      Ahh the slog. It happens to us all. There’s a ton of activity and excitement at the beginning and then there’s this huge flurry of excitement at the very end, but in the middle there’s nothing. And oddly that’s the longest part. Amazing how it works out that way huh?

  • Mr. SSC May 30, 2018 at 6:31 am

    The wai-ai-ting is the hardest part… lol That Tom Petty song just kept playing in my head while reading this. You make a great point about the 1% adding up over time. It doesn’t seem like much but it makes a bg difference.

    Once we got on the saving track and turned things around from spend to saving it was great watching the accounts rise, and then at some point, us putting $$ in had less impact than just regualr growth. Also a good threshold to cross but man does it take away the feeling like saving is doing anything. At that point I just quit checking our accounts. It didn’t have any effect for me and well, it was all automated so, yeah, just one less thing to think about,
    Mr. SSC recently posted…You’re Promoted! Thanks, But I’m Quitting…

    • Mr WoW May 31, 2018 at 5:50 am

      “Quit checking your accounts” I think it probably the best thing that I could learn here.

      There is something crazy about the point where you can lose all the money you put in the market in one day. Like, you invest your entire paycheck, and that day… POOF gone.

      I’ll have to agree with you, one less thing you worry about! Sounds like Forrest Gump, “And then I didn’t have to worry about money anymore, and that’s good. Cause that’s one less thing.”

  • Dads Dollars Debts May 30, 2018 at 6:42 am

    Nice! Perspective is everything so keep being positive! 1 percent. Yesterday stocks took a 1.5 percent dip. I did not freak out, it m is just noise, but hope for an increase so those numbers can keep going up.

    • Mr WoW May 31, 2018 at 5:55 am

      Yeah, this year has been a little test, I don’t know if I’ll like the bigger worse test that’s coming at some point. I guess saddle up and enjoy the ride!

  • Young FIRE Knight May 30, 2018 at 7:43 am

    Totally agree with how it seemly moves so slow, it’s very frustrating! I keep reminding myself that I really shouldn’t be looking at PC everyday.. but sometimes I can’t hekp it. When you broaden it out it really is amazing to see how far you’ve come! Always have to keep that long term perspective ?
    Young FIRE Knight recently posted…Is A Full Time MBA Worth It?

    • Mr WoW May 31, 2018 at 5:57 am

      I’ll have to agree with you. It’s probably time to stop paying attention and just let nature take it’s course. I like to check it every so often since that’s where we track our spending and it keeps all our credit card transactions, so I can see it all in one place.

      And when I’m doing that, I can’t help but see the other stuff. Again, we’re making progress, especially when you zoom out and look at it from that level.

      Long term is good. But, checking it is sooo addicting.

  • freddy smidlap May 31, 2018 at 9:36 am

    you bought the ticket, enjoy the ride. – hunter s. thompson. we all probably do this a little. i like negative visualization. there were times when i got home in life and it was a negative experience. in the here and now i go home and mrs. smidlap is extremely nice to me. i win and you probably win too.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…3 Friends and 1 Knucklehead Just Retired Early from Big Brother Corp.

    • Mr WoW May 31, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      I’m so glad you said that! We do win. I might not be excited to go in the morning, but I am excited to return in the evening.

      Continuing on the same topic. It works for relationships as well. Keep getting 1% better, and it will blossom over time. Get 1% worse and it will sour and become rotten. Always have to keep the perspective.

  • wendy May 31, 2018 at 8:18 pm

    Yes, waiting is hard… I check PC most days, but mostly because I like checking/fixing the expense classifications and paying attention to what I’m spending. Generally, I’m trying to ignore the day to day progress of the market because I did the ‘set it and forget it’ index funds at a healthy contribution rate. Instead I’m trying to focus on all the OTHER stuff in my life I’m trying to improve (health, fitness, attitude, gratitude, etc). That’s the kind of stuff I do need to pay more daily concentrated attention to….

    • Mr WoW June 2, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      Yeah, I do too. It’s a little bit much to check it every day. It’s hard and it makes things more difficult to see the variations.

      That being said. Progress is a great thing, so as long as you are tracking it, you’ll start to see the change. That I think it really important as you can see that you have changed a lot over the entire course, not just between today and yesterday.

  • Accidental FIRE June 1, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Coming back from vacay is always the worst. Way worse than the Sunday night dreads. FI is a “long game”. Unless your blog explodes and goes nuts 🙂 The payoff awaits, it rewards persistence.

    • Mr WoW June 2, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Oh, it’s the worst. But, it makes it nice to know that there’s an end in sight. Just gotta make it there. Have to enjoy the journey.

  • Seth @ Two Corporate Millennials June 3, 2018 at 5:58 am

    Nice post, Mr. WoW. Enjoyed your article and glad knowing I’m not the only one that feels that way! We will get there!!

    “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” -Dwayne Johnson


    • Mr WoW June 4, 2018 at 10:33 pm

      That quote is exactly true. That little bit of progress every day will make it well worth your while.

      And before you know it, you’ll be making massive steps towards your goal and you will be leaps and bounds ahead of where you were before.

  • FIRECracker June 5, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    “In today’s society, we’ve become horrendously impatient.”

    It’s so true. I blame smartphones and the internet. We’ve now been programmed to get dopamine hits instantaneously but, like you said, most things that are worthwhile take time, sustained effort for a long time, and tons of patience.

    Love the graph of your PC account! It shows that when you look at a snapshot, doesn’t seem like you’re making progress, but over time, you’re making HUGE strides! Well done!
    FIRECracker recently posted…The Importance of Slack

    • Mr WoW June 5, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      Yeah… it’s amazing to zoom out a little bit. You can see the progress that’s being made.

      I think you’re on to something blaming smart phones and the internet. The speed of access to information is a blessing and a curse. We can instantly find anything.

      There’s no more waiting and no more anticipation.

  • Dick October 2, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    And then there is the day no more is being added except organic growth. Depletion really sucks.

    • Mr WoW October 3, 2018 at 5:59 am

      That’s the magic of snowballing interest and progress. It works wonders, just have to keep at it. Little by Little.


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