Incremental continuous change for the better across all aspects of life. "Everyday, everybody, everywhere improvement.", as Kaizen defines it.
Content on this concept seems to be not widely popularized yet. The One Thing and Atomic Habits are some standard bestsellers. A not-so-well-known Japanese concept of Kaizen represents the very core of this principle.
This post is an accumulation of multiple sources and concepts all speaking about one principle.
Incremental continuous change for the better across all aspects of life.
Here is a breakdown from kaizen.com:
Western writers made it more accessible by turning this into a specific number: 1%. A 1% change for the better in 1 area of life seems way more achievable than any other bigger goal.
I was introduced to this concept by my dad when he was trying to get me to incrementally improve on the lack of order in my room. Although it seemed like a completely trivial topic back then, I realize the importance of the mentality, the self-culture of incremental changes across all aspects of life.
What is interesting is that traces of this foundational principle can be found in so many other areas. For example, all-weather fund idea from investing reflects the mentality of designing for inevitable setbacks.
"An all-weather fund is a fund that tends to perform reasonably well during both favorable and unfavorable economic and market conditions."
It is a fund that is designed to perform well no matter what the outside conditions are. This is similar to how we want to design our systems: habits, progress, finances set up in this way by continuously building up by small increments to prevent fatal falls.
Instead of figuring out how to get 100k, it is asking "How can I first make 1k?", meaning "How can I make the very first small step?."
The idea is to always be doing things in small increments and stages. Improvement is seen not as a “next Monday” deal but an ongoing lifetime process.
This brings me to the parallel with evolution. Organisms and ecosystems gradually accumulate certain infinitesimally small changes that define the course of their existence.
The power of this concept lies in the fact that strengthening your mindset in just one area of life makes the mindset usable in others. In Kaizen, it is referred to as yokoten ("horizontal deployment"), meaning transferring stuff that works.
Mathematically, this concept can be explained by compound interest: even the smallest changes accumulate into unexpectedly large amounts over time.
Concept of "marginal gains" also comes in play here. There is a famous story about the British cycling team. The coach came up with the following:
“If you break down every little aspect of cycling and improve each by 1%, the final result would be significantly different.”
Starting with the very basics of quality of bikes, the team ventured into looking for incremental gains in other areas eventually bringing them to becoming the best in the world.
So, now that I know that all I need is a small first step continuously repeated again and again,
There is no excuse for not taking an embarrassingly small step every day.
Small questions, small steps, small habits leading to the "Olympic Gold" we all want.