You may have heard of the “1% rule,” the idea that continuously improving by just 1% makes a dramatic difference over time.

It sounds great. For anything you are attempting, the promise of steady, incremental improvement can be a powerful incentive. But it is also often unrealistic, especially if you are already skilled to begin with.

A more accurate description of progress looks something like this:

When you are brand new to an activity, you might get significantly better every day. For the first few times, you may even get 100% better. As your skill level increases, the gains will become more incremental – 10%, 5%, 1%, half a percent, a quarter of a percent, and so on. At some point, the gains will be so small that you cannot even observe them. You might find yourself feeling stuck on a plateau for a few days, weeks, or months. And then, suddenly, you have a breakthrough!

In other words, progress is Non-Linear. The implication of this truth is both simple and significant: If you are addicted to visible progress, then sooner or later, you will burn out of whatever you are pursuing. This is a big reason so many people quit after the honeymoon phase of trying something new.  

The more skilled you get, the more important it becomes to release yourself from your attachment to progress and to find joy in other things: the work itself and the community in which you do it. It is what will give you the motivation to show up when you are stuck and keep you grounded when you succeed. It will help to keep you coming back for more over the long haul.

Keep pounding the stone. Some days nothing happens. Some days it cracks a little bit more. Occasionally, it splits wide open.

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