Summary of “The Compound Effect”: This book is a reminder that small daily choices, and the smallest changes are what allow us to achieve our long-term goals, whether in terms of weight loss, financial success, or otherwise.
By Darren Hardy (Publisher of “SUCCESS” magazine), 2010, 162 pages.
Note : this review is written by guest Nelly from the blog, Maigrir sans Stress (“Losing Weight without the Stress”)
Review and Summary of “The Compound Effect”:
If you prefer video to text, I have prepared an illustrative review of The Compound Effect in video 🙂:
Chapter 1: The Compound Effect in Action
This chapter begins with the well-known story of The Tortoise and the Hare to illustrate that you don’t have to be the best, or the smartest, or the quickest to accomplish your goals and beat others in a competition. You come out ahead because you use time to your advantage and because you consistently apply good habits/practices that lead you to success. In short, The Compound Effect is a guide that gives you the keys to success.
Darren Hardy then illustrates his point with the example of his father, his role model, who, during Darren’s childhood, had a steady routine of working out every day at 6 a.m. He raised Darren with this philosophy: no tolerance for excuses when it came to being disciplined in order to accomplish a goal. This contributed to Darren Hardy’s earning at least $1 million/year from the age of 24.
This chapter could be summed up in the equation: Small/Smart Actions (or Changes) + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference.
In this chapter, we also have the example of 3 friends, Larry, Scott and Brad, who make different choices at a point in time. Larry decides nothing and leads his life as usual. Scott decides not only to spend 30 minutes a day learning about something but also to eat 125 calories less per day. Brad makes poor choices and, on the contrary, eats 125 additional calories per day. After 10 months, there is no noticeable difference between the 3. However, gradually the difference is visible, and after 31 months, Brad is fat (gained 15kgs) while Scott has lost weight (lost 15kgs). In addition, Scott has received a promotion in the meantime and has a more meaningful relationship with his wife, just the opposite of Brad!
This illustrates another aspect of the compound effect, which is the “ripple effect”. The choices we make in one area (for example eating badly) have effects on other areas of our life (sluggishness caused by junk food => less energy => less effort, etc.)
The difficulty of the compound effect for many people is that it is necessary to make efforts, over a long period, in an efficient and consistent manner before hoping to see the results. It requires forgetting the “microwave” mentality where we want to get everything right away.
The compound effect is an immutable reality, and it’s always in action. It is up to us to take control of it or ignore it and suffer the negative consequences.
Chapter 2: Choices
We all come into this world the same way: naked, scared and ignorant. The life we lead next is the accumulation of the choices we make. So, how do you become aware and make choices that improve your life?
First of all, you have to realize that it is the little things in life that cause us the most harm, those things that we do without thinking about it (for example, mindlessly eating that bag of chips without being hungry in front of the TV, only before realizing that up until that moment, we had the perfect day in terms of healthy eating).
You have to learn to be grateful and avoid blaming others. If you accept 100% responsibility for everything that happens to you in life, you have the power, and it is only up to you to change yourself in order to change the situation.
Darren Hardy doesn’t believe in being lucky. For him, the difference between becoming rich, happy and healthy vs poor, depressed and unhealthy comes only from the choices you make throughout your life. Here’s his complete formula for luck:
Luck = Preparation (personal development) + Attitude (beliefs /mindset) + Opportunity (a good thing coming your way) + Action (seizing the opportunity)
You must then choose an aspect of your life that you want to change and note each action relating to this aspect of your life that you want to improve (for example, to lose weight, keep a food diary where you write down everything you eat). By using this system, you become more aware of the good little things, and of the not so good things, that you do. In fact, you can self-correct (even very slightly) and if you do it with consistency, you will eventually notice extraordinary results (for example, the difference in golf between player No. 1 and player No. 10 is 2.7% in terms of score but is 5 times greater in terms of gain: $10M vs $2M)
In order to reap the benefits of the compound effect, it’s necessary to begin immediately the implementation of these small actions, because the first step always seems more difficult than it is. Just aim to improve by one tenth of 1% each day, which yields a compound effect of 26% over a year!
Chapter 3: Habits
We are all creatures of habit. Most people do not control their lives but rather let their habits control them.
In daily life, it’s true that certain unconscious habits and routines have positive aspects, such as having breakfast, going to work, brushing your teeth, etc. This is what Darren Hardy calls good habits, those that move us in the right direction.
Moreover, the fundamental difference between those who are most successful in life and others is found in daily routines rooted in good habits. With practice and repetition, all behaviors, good or bad, become automatic over time. It is therefore up to us to consciously decide to change the habits that harm us and to adopt those that propel us forward.
It starts with learning how to get out of the trap of immediate pleasure and instant gratification. If as soon as we ate a Big Mac, we suffered a cardiac arrest, we would probably not eat a second one. This is why it is so complicated to escape this trap of instant gratification; the immediate pleasure that you get out of it outweighs by far the conscious thoughts going on in your mind concerning the long-term consequences of these bad habits.
To get rid of these bad habits, willpower is not enough.
What works is using the “Why-Power”; connect your choices to your desires and dreams. If you want to adopt new habits, you must then find yourself a phenomenally motivating “Why”, which will ignite your passion and fuel your persistence over time. Finding this type of “Why”, accessing your “Why-Power” requires identifying your core values.
People are motivated either by something they want or by something they no longer want. Love and hate are powerful motivators. You have to identify what makes you tick and connect it to one or the other feeling (example on hatred: hating injustice, hating disease, etc.)
Next, you need to clearly define your goals so that the compound effect works in your favor to help you achieve them. Defining your goals works because it brings a new focus to your mind, changes your perception of your environment and allows you to identify all the opportunities related to your goal. Once these goals are set, the question is not what you need to do to achieve them, but rather who you need to become, how you need to transform yourself. You must therefore identify and list all the attitudes that prevent you from achieving your goals, as well as the list of those that would allow you to achieve them. Your Life comes down to the formula:
CHOICE (your decisions) + ATTITUDE (your actions) + HABIT (your repeated actions) + COMPOUNDED (over time) = GOAL
In order to eliminate your bad habits, you must:
- Identify the triggers for each of these habits.
- Clean up your environment (if you have an alcohol addiction, you must systematically remove all alcohol bottles from your home, for example).
- Replace these habits with others that are less harmful (instead of ice cream at the end of a meal to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can eat a piece of dark chocolate).
- Make incremental changes, take it slowly.
- Or make these changes drastically. In fact, we are all wired differently, and some people will prefer this latter approach.
Learn to control your “vices” to make sure you are always in control. If you drink coffee daily, for example, Darren Hardy suggests trying to do without coffee for 30 consecutive days and to find out if you can function without this vice. Every 3 months, you must choose a new vice and refrain from it for 30 days.
In order to install your new good habits, you must:
- Arrange your environment for success: if you join a gym located 50 km from your home and work, you will never go.
- Think addition and not subtraction: rather than telling yourself, if you are on a diet, “I can’t eat a hamburger”, you have to repeat to yourself “I can eat good steaming vegetables with fresh figs”.
- Display publicly your responsibility: let your friends, colleagues, family know what new habits you want to adopt so that their gaze encourages you to be more disciplined.
- Find someone who shares the same goal.
- Set up a challenge concerning your new habits with your friends/colleagues/etc.
- Celebrate: give yourself little pleasures to savor the fruits of your hard work towards acquiring these new habits.
Change is difficult for everyone, and that is why most people don’t do it. At the same time, it’s also exciting because you know that very few people are going to do it, that is, few ordinary people, and you want to be part of the extraordinary people. So, even if it’s difficult, do it and the magic of the Compound Effect will reward you.
Finally, be patient because it took time for bad habits to settle in and the related neural connections are strong. Creating new habits will therefore take time but be patient and forgiving with yourself. Even if you stumble, pull yourself together, be persistent, and you will be rewarded.
Chapter 4: Momentum
Darren Hardy explains that momentum (“Big Mo” in the book) is the friend of all the successful people we’re familiar with (Bill Gates, Michael Phelps, Steve Jobs, etc.). Indeed, adopting change is far from easy, because we always start by taking the first small step, then it’s one action at a time. Progress is slow but once these small compounded actions have allowed us to form a new habit, Big Mo is there to help us: our success and our results become exponential.
This also explains why successful people tend to succeed even more, the rich get richer, etc. However, this momentum can conversely do a disservice to us if we are on a path paved with negative habits.
What is the recipe for Big Mo to become your friend as well?
- Making choices based on your goals and core values.
- Adopting positive behaviors in order to make these choices a reality.
- Repeating these actions over a long period of time in order to establish new habits.
- Setting up routines and rhythms with discipline in your daily life.
- Staying consistent for a long time.
Many of our good resolutions fail because we have no system of execution. You need to incorporate your new attitudes and actions into your daily, monthly, yearly routines so that they can deliver positive change. A routine is an action that we repeat every day, with discipline, whether we want to or not until it becomes anchored in our subconscious like brushing our teeth or putting on our seat belts.
Likewise, in order to achieve new goals and adopt new habits, it is necessary to create new routines related to your goals.
Darren Hardy advises us to have routines rather when you wake up and when you go to bed because, between the two, unusual circumstances can arise preventing us from doing our midday routines, for example. However, once we have defined our routines, we must execute them without exception. If at some point, you have the impression that one of your routines does not give you as much energy as before, you shouldn’t hesitate to change it and adapt it.
Also, create your rhythm by planning some short, medium and long-term routine actions. Use some sort of calendar to check off the actions in your routine as you go about doing them. However, be careful not to demand too much of yourself (i.e., creating a routine that requires you to work out 2 hours/day 5 times a week when you’re starting from an initial situation where you do no physical activity!), otherwise you will eventually break your rhythm and completely abandon your routine. But consistency remains as the most important thing because starting then stopping then starting again requires tremendous energy and moves you further and further from your goals. Once you’ve started, don’t stop for anything in the world, be like the tortoise who, with time and momentum, finishes ahead of the hare.
Chapter 5: Influences
The previous chapters have helped you to realize the importance of each of your choices, because even the most insignificant ones, once compounded, can have a radical effect in your life. In addition, you have understood that you are 100% responsible for your life, your choices and the actions resulting from them.
However, you should also keep in mind that these choices, attitudes and habits are influenced by very powerful external forces. Many of us are unaware of the subtle power of these forces. If you want to maintain your positive trajectory towards your goals, you must understand and learn to govern these forces so that they help you, rather than knock you off your track towards success.
We are all influenced by 3 types of forces:
- Input (what feeds your mind)
- Associations (the people you spend your time with)
If you want your brain to perform best, you have to be extremely careful about what goes in there. This is all the more difficult since most of the information that our brain absorbs is unconscious. Our brain is not intended to make us happy; its only agenda is our survival. In fact, it is constantly on the lookout for the slightest sign of lack and/or attack, and when, for example, we listen to bad news on TV or on the radio, our brain will navigate through that ocean of negativity, of fear, of worry all day and night. So, we need to be disciplined and proactive about the information we want to absorb. To do this, you must drastically limit your exposure to the media and increase your exposure to positive, inspiring information that makes you grow.
Ask yourself whom you spend most of your time with, because they determine which conversations control your attention and which attitudes and opinions you are regularly exposed to. Research from Dr. David McClelland (social psychology) of Harvard College has shown that your “reference group” determines up to 95% of your success and failure in life. You are basically the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most. Who are they? Do they have a positive or negative influence on you? According to your answers to these questions, you must then put these people in the following boxes:
Identify in the people in your group who refuse to evolve and to live positively, those who bring you down, and make the decision to part with them and stop seeing them.
These are the people with whom you can spend 3 hours straight, but not 3 days; others you can spend 3 mins with, but not 3 hours! Make sure you don’t spend 3 hours with your 3-minute friends at the risk of being negatively influenced.
You also want to identify people who already personify the positive habits you want to acquire and spend as much time as possible with them.
Another way to reinforce positive influences in your life is to find a partner as motivated as you to make similar changes in his/her life. Also, try to find a mentor who will use this advice to guide you and help you achieve your goals faster, or even create around you a kind of board of advisors with your loved ones who have achieved in their lives what you aspire to.
As far as the influence of your environment is concerned, make sure you clarify the disorder around you, both external and internal (psychic disorder). Create an environment that supports your goals and remember that “you will get in life what you think you are worthy of”.
Chapter 6: Acceleration
This chapter highlights the moments of truth that we all face, and how the compound effect can help break through obstacles to lead us to greater success. When you are confronted with these situations where your course seems even more insurmountable, tell yourself that all the others on this same course face the same challenges and that if you show persistence, you will outrun them. It is in these moments that you progress the most!
In fact, when conditions are optimal and things are easy, there are no distractions or temptations, you naturally perform at best and easily follow your goals, but so do the others. It is precisely when the situation becomes complicated that you should rejoice because you finally have the opportunity to prove your worth, to get away from the old “you” in order to get a little closer to the future “you”.
Applying with discipline the new habits you have decided to adopt will undoubtedly result in the compound effect of achieving your goals. But if you want to speed up your results, go further than the maximum you set for yourself. Be your own opponent, do more than necessary and surprise others by surprising yourself.
If you do exactly what everyone else does, you will have the results that everyone gets. Be surprising and daring! One of the ways to do this is to know in advance what is expected/required and to go beyond even with the seemingly insignificant things (for example, you are invited somewhere and the dress code is rather casual, make the effort to dress yourself better than others).
Book critique of “The Compound Effect”
The book, The Compound Effect, is short and easy to read. It contains very useful lessons and ideas on what to do to be successful, all while excluding quick fixes.
Darren Hardy’s father, a figure of discipline and hard work, left his mark on Darren from a very young age, and it is reflected in this book. For me, the ultimate lesson to be learned from The Compound Effect is that, when it’s all said and done, it is the small actions repeated with consistency that determine the quality of our life.
And boy how it applies perfectly to weight loss success! In fact, often, just changing a meal/ doing even 5 mins of meditation and/or working-out per day, on a regular basis will be enough to start getting results beyond your wildest dreams! In short, The Compound Effect offers as much a program to lose weight (if that’s your objective) as it does a program to succeed in any other field. It allowed me to identify and apply some very simply keys to success for results that are so far spectacular: lost 20kgs in 4 months, etc.
The main principal of The Compound Effect is therefore that success does not happen overnight. Almost anyone can achieve a high degree of success if their goals are clear and if they are disciplined in achieving those goals. It’s not the great breakthroughs that are the hallmarks of successful people but rather the continuous, relentless effort towards their goals; it is their ability to persist when others have given up that brings them ultimate success.
If you’ve read a lot of self-help books, you wouldn’t find anything new in this book, were it not for the focus on the compound effect of your small efforts.
- The Compound Effect is a short and easy to understand book
- Darren Hardy applied the principles himself and his success shows that it works
- The principle of the compound effect is easily understandable
- Illustrative examples are relevant and impactful
- Printed sheets available at the end of the book or downloadable free online http://thecompoundeffect.com/resources.php
- Too many references to Darren Hardy’s personal life, which are not especially relevant for us readers
- Lacks a bit of originality
- The transition to the last two chapters leaves something to be desired
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