If you had to choose, would you prefer a million pounds or a penny that doubles in value every day for 30 days?
It’s a no-brainer, right? Of course everyone would choose a million pounds!
Well, not so fast. Stop for one second and do the maths. The results might surprise you.
I have drawn up a table to help you choose:
Incredible, isn’t it? That is compound interest for you. Little happens for three weeks, and then the pennies begin to grow rapidly. After one week, the total is 64p. After two weeks the total has reached a modest £82 and even by the end of the third week, you are only £10,000 up. However in the last four days the compounding effect kicks in, bringing the final total to more than £5 million.
This process looks even more impressive in graph form:
I found out about this while reading the work of Jeff Olson, an American motivational speaker I was researching for my sequel to The Human Race. Over the past 12 months I have studied dozens of speakers and I have to say that in my opinion, Jeff is the best. Perhaps it’s because his approach applies so well to writing that I was drawn to him. It’s also because his ideas are so simple and easy to remember. He calls his principle The Slight Edge, based on the basic premise that a little of something every day (a penny, for example) for a sustained period will eventually produce something big!
If you have a goal, you may not reach it after thirty days, three months or even three years, but if you keep chipping away at it, eventually the power of compound interest will kick in and all that foundation effort will deliver tangible results. In my case this is a completed novel, which, during the writing process can seem distant. My first novel is proof of this: it took me ten years to write The Human Race, but I kept going. Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page it was eventually finished – and published.
Now I have embarked upon a new journey: aiming to finish my second novel, which I am on target to complete within two years. Now that’s what I call progress! At this rate I’ll be hitting John Grisham’s annual word count!
The principle of compound interest is obvious, yes. But easy? No. However if you follow the penny approach, and I do, it makes it easier to write or do anything with a distant target or seemingly impossible finish line.
I like the approach so much that I even have a watch in the shape of a penny. My wife bought it for me and it’s the best gift I’ve ever received. I think of that single penny every time I check the time and it reminds me that without the first word, the second can’t follow.
And so I carry on, chipping away at the sequel to The Human Race, safe in the knowledge that someday soon I will finish it.
This post was selected for Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #6, hosted by The Book Designer, Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival – April 2011, hosted by Mysteries and My Musings, Lovely Words Vol. 32, hosted by Writing as a Sacred Art, The Mad Editor’s Round-Up #29, hosted by Diary of a Mad Editor and the 18th May 2011 edition of Writing Inspiration, Resources and Tips, hosted by Inspired To Write.
Image credit: Mukumbura.