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The 2 Types of Growth: Which One of These Growth Curves Are You Following?

The 2 Types of Growth: Which One of These Growth Curves Are You Following?

We often assume that life works in a linear fashion.

People will say, “You get out of life what you put into it.” The basic idea is that for each unit of effort you put into a given task, you get some unit of return. For example, if you make $25 per hour and you work for two hours, then you’ll make $50. If you work for 4 hours, you’ll make $100. Put more in. Get more out.

There is just one problem: most of life doesn’t actually follow this linear pattern. Don’t get me wrong, hard work is essential. However, if you expect your life to follow a linear trajectory, then you may find yourself feeling frustrated and confused.

Instead, most areas of life follow two different types of growth. This is something I learned from my friend Scott Young. Let’s talk about these two patterns now.

Which one of these growth curves are you following?

Type 1: Logarithmic Growth

The first type of growth is logarithmic.

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Logarithmic growth increases quickly in the beginning, but the gains decrease and become more difficult as time goes on. Generally speaking, logarithmic growth looks something like this:

logarithmic-growth-curve

    There are many examples of logarithmic growth in daily life.

    • Fitness and Strength Training: The “beginner gains” come quickly at first, but then it becomes more difficult to get stronger each week.
    • Literacy: Children and young students make massive leaps as they learn how to read. Meanwhile, college students and well-educated adults have to put in a focused effort to expand their vocabulary beyond commonly used words.
    • Language proficiency: Learning how to speak even a rudimentary level of a new language opens up a whole new world. However, there are only meager gains left for fluent speakers to discover.
    • Weight Loss: It may be relatively easy to shed five pounds within a week or two, but then the progress slows. Each successive pound of fat loss is more stubborn than the last.
    • Musical skill: Improvements come quickly for a novice guitar player. Improvements come very slowly for a concert pianist.

    There are thousands of other examples. In fact, most skills (writing, programming skills, juggling, running, etc.) fall into the logarithmic growth category.

    Type 2: Exponential Growth

    The second type of growth is exponential.

    Exponential growth increases slowly in the beginning, but the gains increase rapidly and become easier as time goes on. Generally speaking, exponential growth looks something like this:

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    exponential-growth-curve

      You will also find exponential growth opportunities in daily life (although I think they are less prevalent).

      • Investments and wealth: Thanks to the power of compound interest, your retirement savings start out as a small treasure in the early years, but balloon in size during the final decade or two of savings.
      • Email subscribers and website traffic: New websites receive just a trickle of traffic here and there, but as the weeks and months roll on those trickles can build into a raging river of visitors and subscribers.
      • Entrepreneurship and business growth: The assets that you build for your business stack on top of one another and revenue compounds throughout the life of a successful business.
      • Social media followers: When you only have 100 followers, getting another 100 followers may take six months. Once you have 1,000 followers, however, getting the next 100 may only take one month. Once you have 100,000 followers, getting another 100 probably takes one day. Your growth rate snowballs.

      The Challenges of Each Growth Curve

      Neither type of growth is good nor bad. These growth patterns are simply the way certain things work. However, it is important to understand the growth pattern of your task so that you can set your expectations appropriately.

      Don’t expect exponential returns when you’re playing a logarithmic game. Similarly, don’t expect quick wins when you’re building something that has an exponential curve.

      When dealing with logarithmic growth, the challenge is to avoid feeling discouraged as your improvements decrease. Improvement will come easily in the beginning and you will become accustomed to enjoying small wins each day. Soon, however, those small wins will become smaller.

      Logarithmic growth requires you to have the mental toughness to play a game that will, by definition, become more challenging to win as time goes on. You will feel like you have plateaued. You will question yourself and your abilities. If you want to succeed with logarithmic growth, you have to learn how to fall in love with the boredom of doing the work if you want to maintain consistency as your improvements dwindle.

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      When dealing with exponential growth, the challenge is to continue working through the early period when you have little or nothing to show for your effort. Exponential growth requires you to be remarkably patient and diligent (often for years or decades) before enjoying a significant payoff. There may be 10 years of silence before you hear the sound of success.

      Equally important, you need to give your best effort even when you’re getting average results. Exponential gains only result from sustained effort in the early years.

      How to Accelerate Your Progress

      Once you understand the type of growth curve you are dealing with, there are two ways that you can accelerate your progress on a given curve.

      Option 1:

      The first option is to break the task down into smaller tasks that can be mastered more quickly. In other words, by getting very specific with the task you are working on, you can increase the rate of growth (i.e. smaller tasks have steeper growth curves because they are easier to master). This strategy works especially well for accelerating your progress on tasks that experience logarithmic growth.

      smaller-growth-curves

        Dave Brailsford’s aggregation of marginal gains is a great example of this. By improving every small task related to cycling by just 1 percent, Brailsford was able to guide his British cyclists to massive success. Mastering these small tasks led to incredibly fast growth.

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        Option 2:

        The second option is to play a different version of the game. More specifically, play the version of the game that has the highest growth curve. This strategy works especially well for tasks that experience exponential growth.

        Take entrepreneurship, for example. You could build a candle shop. All of the statements about exponential growth hold true for a candle shop. Given enough time and a good product, you could eventually produce candles at scale, develop new product lines, and otherwise build assets that lead to exponential growth years later.

        However, if you played a different version of the entrepreneurship game and started a software company, then you may reach the exponential growth threshold much faster. There are a variety of reasons for this: reduced overhead and manufacturing costs, faster industry growth overall, higher margins, and so on. The end result is that both companies have exponential growth curves, but one has a much steeper slope.

        highest-growth-curve

          The Bottom Line

          Most things in life have some type of growth curve and very rarely is that curve a straight line.

          Understand the type of curve you are dealing with so that you can set your expectations appropriately. And if you aren’t happy with the type of growth curve you’re on, then start playing a game with a different curve. (1)

          This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

          FOOTNOTES
          1. This article contains many of my own insights, but I want to make sure that all the credit for the two types of growth concept goes to my friend Scott Young. I am simply building upon his work.

          Featured photo credit: Stefan via flickr.com

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          Last Updated on October 16, 2019

          Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

          Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

          Do you like making mistakes?

          I certainly don’t.

          Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

          Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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          Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

          Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

          • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
          • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
          • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
          • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

          We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

          If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

          Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

          Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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          When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

          Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

          We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

          It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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          Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

          Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

          Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

          1. Point us to something we did not know.
          2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
          3. Deepen our knowledge.
          4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
          5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
          6. Inform us more about our values.
          7. Teach us more about others.
          8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
          9. Show us when someone else has changed.
          10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
          11. Remind us of our humanity.
          12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
          13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
          14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
          15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
          16. Invite us to better choices.
          17. Can teach us how to experiment.
          18. Can reveal a new insight.
          19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
          20. Can serve as a warning.
          21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
          22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
          23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
          24. Remind us how we are like others.
          25. Make us more humble.
          26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
          27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
          28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
          29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
          30. Expose our true feelings.
          31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
          32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
          33. Point us in a more creative direction.
          34. Show us when we are not listening.
          35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
          36. Can create distance with someone else.
          37. Slow us down when we need to.
          38. Can hasten change.
          39. Reveal our blind spots.
          40. Are the invisible made visible.

          Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

          The secret to handling mistakes is to:

          • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
          • Have an experimental mindset.
          • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

          When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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          When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

          It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

          When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

          Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

          Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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          Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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