My recent quest to become fucking awesome has got me thinking about the power – and challenge – of a 5% improvement.
Here’s the rub. Most changes you can make – let’s take nutrition/exercise as an example – will result in a small change. Let’s say you add a protein shake after a workout. This is unlikely to result in an immediate and noticeable change. If an enhancement occurs it will be gradual and subtle – say a 5% change. Unless you are carefully controlling the rest of your life and fastidiously measuring everything – a 5% change will feel like no change at all. One could easily come to the conclusion that the protein shake didn’t work. And even if you did notice – what’s a 5% improvement anyways? I’m looking for MASSIVE changes. Next!
Five 5% changes = 27% gain
Ten 5% changes = 63% gain
Twenty 5% changes = 163% gain
And the reality is – once you are past the beginning stages of change in a given area (where it’s easy to make huge progress) – it’s much more likely that you can find a few handful of small changes that work rather than one huge change.
It’s also the case that a single change can take place extremely slowly – 5% at a time – until eventually you can see it’s work. Improving your eyesight works like this. Saving a few seconds on lots of things saves your time and effort for what is important.
The challenge of 5%
OK – so we have established just how important those 5% changes are – but there is a huge problem associated – that of measurement. How can one adequately detect 5% changes? Unless the effect is immediate and the object of measure is extremely predictable and measurable – a 5% change can be impossible to detect.
So if you lift a barbell at X weight with Y reps under the same conditions every morning – and max out consistently at Y – perhaps a 5% change can be detected from a supplement or routine change. But for most of activities and for most people who don’t exquisitely control their circumstances – a 5% improvement will go unnoticed. So much for the ‘try this and if it works for you keep it’ mentality – it will not work here.
This is the point in the blog post where I am supposed to have a solution to the question laid out. Tough luck – I’m still struggling with this one. Here is what I am thinking about:
So one 5% change doesn’t make a measurable difference – but a bunch together will. Take the supplement list in my fucking awesome plan. I don’t expect most of the supplements to make a huge difference individually. But with the right bundle I think substantial progress can be made. So instead or trying each sequentially in a controlled fashion – I’ll be bundling supplements together – measuring effect – and then taking them as a group. For now I won’t attempt to tease them apart too much. I’ll be organizing bundles of supplements that should effect the same systems – like energy, digestions, mental clarity, etc.
There is a chance that some of the inputs will work at cross-purposes to each other – but I feel pretty safe applying 5-6 variables as one and determining whether they worked as a bundle.
If it’s a Good Idea – Just Keep It
I’m not a fan of supplementing nutritionally where it isn’t doing me any good – and could easily be doing me harm. But there are some changes that I should just adopt – they have a possible upside and no downside (and little/no effort beyond the initial change). So don’t worry about how the measurement turns out – just adopt. Example: Follow my dentist recommendation and get an electric toothbrush. Small cost, then same routine – and maybe better results.
I am not quite satisfied with either of these methods – but I’ll let you know as I experiment how they go – and let me know if you have suggestions!