% Better/Worse

This showed up in my Facebook memories this morning and I quickly shared it.

tiny-gainz

Then I thought about it for a minute and the scale on the chart seemed out of whack, so I deleted the post. I opened up a Google spreadsheet and started messing with numbers. Here’s what a real chart looks like if you improve by 1% each day.

1-percent-changes

What does this really show though? If the starting number 1 represents your current ability in some skill, the end result is your ability in that skill. So if you improved by 1% each day, at the end of a year your skill level would be over 37x what it currently is. Conversely if you got 1% worse each day, at the end of a year you’d be left with about 2.5% of your original ability. I can’t think of any skill where either that much of an improvement or decline is possible by any stretch of the imagination.

What about 0.1% changes though?

tenth-of-percent-changes

If you got 0.1% better each day for a year, your skill level would improve by 44% and if you got 0.1% worse each day you’d be left with just under 70% of your ability. Now we’re getting somewhere realistic!

It’s still hard to grasp what that means though, with 1 representing some ability or skill level. To put this in perspective, I’ll use the time it takes to run a mile. Starting with a 10 minute mile on day one makes it easy to understand.

If you run 1% faster each day, you’d have to run a 15.5 second mile at the end of the year. Good luck!

If you run 0.1% faster each day, you’d be running a mile in 6:56 at the end of the year. That’s seems possible doesn’t it?