“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”
– Vincent Van Gogh
“Let me share a little theory I have about optimism, and why progress is so easy to underestimate” is the beginning line of an excellent article by Morgan Housel titled, Compounding Optimism.
The 5-minute article is about how “a trivial thing can grow into a massive thing, and faster than most people realize.”
Mind-boggling results or remarkable progress are not the result of individual genius, she argues, but the result of compounding optimism and innovation… over a long period of time.
If you view progress as being driven by the genius of individuals, of course it’s hard to imagine a future where things are dramatically better, because no individual is orders of magnitudes smarter than average.
But when you view it as one person coming up with a small idea, another person copying that idea and tweaking it a little, another taking that insight and manipulating it a bit, another yet taking that product and combining it with something else – incremental, tiny bits, little ideas mixing, joining, blending, mutating, and compounding together – it’s suddenly much more conceivable.
This is true for multi-generation legacies. But it’s also true for our individual compounding progress and optimism over a lifetime.
Here are some ways we should rethink progress…
Progress is a collaborative process: As Housel indicates, the genius is not an isolated individual but a product of shared ideas and collective innovation. The greatest advancements have often resulted from the compound effect of multiple minds working together. The next time you engage in any project or idea, remember that collaboration is key to achieving a remarkable outcome.
Embrace incremental growth: Don’t be disheartened by seemingly small improvements or slow progress. Understand that every step you take, no matter how tiny, is contributing to a larger result. It’s these minute changes, incrementally implemented, that often yield the most astounding results in the long term.
Celebrate every improvement: It is crucial to appreciate and recognize every bit of progress, no matter how small. This not only motivates continued effort but also reinforces the compounding nature of optimism and growth. A spirit of acknowledgment and celebration fuels further innovation and expansion.
Encourage optimism and resilience: In the face of challenges and setbacks, remember that it is our attitude and optimism that can make the biggest difference. With the mindset of hope and resilience, we can continue to build, refine, and enhance, thus pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
Innovation is a constant process: Change and improvement are continuous. The concept of ‘finished’ rarely exists in the realm of progress. Encourage an environment of ongoing creativity, curiosity and adaptation to keep the momentum of progress alive.
Create a legacy of knowledge: Share your ideas, your experiences, and your insights. Each one of us carries a piece of the puzzle, and by contributing our piece, we’re helping to build a larger picture that can inspire and propel future innovation.