One of the blocks I had when first improving myself was understanding that improvement isn’t linear.
I come from an economics background, which means I used to run a lot of regression models.
There’s a problem with thinking in this model, especially when related to improvement. You’ll believe that if you’re not seeing a continuous increase in your performance, then you should quit.
I personally used to believe that if I didn’t see an up and to the right pattern for my performance, then the activity wasn’t worth pursuing anymore.
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It makes sense superficially.
Why continue something when there’s no noticeable pattern of improvement?
Improvement isn’t linear.
In my opinion, this is what improvement looks like:
As you can see – it operates like a sine wave with many dips or low periods.
You’re never going to experience positive improvement without significant time spent performing at or below average levels.
Why is this model important to understand?
Because the low periods are when most people quit.
They experience the high of the beginner gains, and think that kind of improvement is going to continue forever. In a sense, they think improvement is linear.
Having this mindset prevents you from obtaining mastery in a subject.
Because hitting Dip 1 affects your confidence like you’re hitting a brick wall.
When you think about it, the improvement graph isn’t pretty. It’s downright terrifying knowing you’re going to spend time being average when you’re trying to improve.
It’s definitely not sexy working your butt off at creating positive change, and going through the dips.
That’s how improvement just is.
Here’s an example to provide a little clarity:
Fitness: In the beginning of 2020 I weighed 245 pounds. I was overweight and I knew it. I made a decision to improve my fitness. During that period I started running to get cardio in. I could only do about 1 mile at a 10 minute pace. I noticed it was significantly easier to go from a 10 minute pace to an 8:30 minute pace, compared to going from an 8:30 pace to a 7 minute pace.
Even more, I’m personally going through dip 3. I’ve been running at least 4 times a week for about a year now. I’ve gone through the highs and lows of running, but I just got a stress fracture on my foot.
Now I’m out of commission for a full 6 weeks. Dip 3 for sure.
This is the point where most people quit. It’s really easy to give up and do no cardio and spiral downwards.
Why am I saying this? Because I know I’m going through Dip 3. By knowing this I can take conscious actions to learn from my mistakes to get into an improved pace when I’m back.
I know I’m going to suffer during this period. And by knowing I’m going to suffer, it’s easier to go through the low periods.
Not that it doesn’t suck. It really does. But at least I know what I’m going through.
In my opinion – this happens for every improvement process.
Trying to improve your career? Yea, you’re going to get passed up for a promotion. You’re going to perform poorly for a period of time. It’s going to suck.
Trying to improve social status? You’re going to get rejected a lot. It’s going to suck for a really long time figuring out how to pick up girls or find a good guy.
Improvement Means Becoming A Master
Your goal is to get to the point of mastery. The point where a 1% difference MEANS A LOT. Where you’re performing in the top 5% of your field.
It takes a lot of time (and suffering) to get to the mastery point. Because when you’re at that point, you start realizing the return on investment is 100x what you thought it would be when you were in the dips suffering.
You will suffer when trying to improve. Period.
Once you see the pattern you’ll embrace the suck for the 100x ROI.
It all starts by accepting that improvement isn’t linear.