Main The Compound Effect

The Compound Effect

5.0 / 5.0
How much do you like this book?
What’s the quality of the file?
Download the book for quality assessment
What’s the quality of the downloaded files?

No gimmicks. No Hyperbole. No Magic Bullet. The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default. Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine, presents The Compound Effect, a distillation of the fundamental principles that have guided the most phenomenal achievements in business, relationships, and beyond. This easy-to-use, step-by-step operating system allows you to multiply your success, chart your progress, and achieve any desire. If you’re serious about living an extraordinary life, use the power of The Compound Effect to create the success you want.

Vanguard Press
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
EPUB, 3.12 MB
Download (epub, 3.12 MB)

You may be interested in Powered by Rec2Me


Most frequently terms

Very slef-motivating ...
11 December 2016 (09:01) 
Malik Ahsan
How to download this book am so interested to download.
18 November 2017 (22:52) 
I loved reading this book. Very motivational
01 August 2018 (15:34) 
such a great library
28 June 2020 (13:28) 
Absolutely loved this book it the most inspiring book have ever read. I would like to repurchase this book as I nee to give it to a friend, how can I go about this?
22 September 2020 (11:58) 
An excellent book! So epic! Was a great read for me. Led to some life changing decisions
11 October 2020 (20:51) 
It is a really motivational book but it is not for those who like taking short cuts. It is book that supports hard and honest work.
14 December 2020 (19:21) 
I loved this book, it's AMAZING!!
22 January 2021 (16:37) 
Mariam Yakubu
I love the book ?

11 April 2021 (09:39) 
Nice book, thanks to this brilliant website
16 April 2021 (19:14) 

You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.

Living With Drugs

PDF, 2.04 MB
0 / 0
Table of Contents

Also by Darren Hardy


Title Page






You Haven’t Experienced the Payoff of the Compound Effect

The Magic Penny

Three Friends

The Ripple Effect

Success, Old School

Microwave Mentality

Put the Compound Effect to Work for You


Elephants Don’t Bite

Thanksgiving Year-Round

Owning 100 Percent

Getting Lucky

The (Complete) Formula for Getting Lucky:

The High Price of Tuition at UHK (University of Hard Knocks)

Your Secret Weapon—Your Scorecard

Money Trap

Keep It Slow and Easy

The Unsung, Unseen Hero

Take a Walk

Money Tree

Time Is of the Essence

Success Is a (Half-) Marathon

Put the Compound Effect to Work for You


Creatures of Habit

Start by Thinking Your Way Out of the Instant Gratification Trap

Finding Your Mojo—Your Why-Power

Why Everything’s Possible

Core Motivation

Find Your Fight


How Goal Setting Actually Works: The Mystery ‘Secret’ Revealed

Who You Have to Become

Behave Yourself

Game Changers: Five Strategies for Eliminating Bad Habits

Run a Vice Check

Game Changers: Six Techniques for Installing Good Habits

Change Is Hard: Yippee!

Be Patient

Put the Compound Effect to Work for You


Harnessing the Power of Big Mo

Routine Power

Bookend Your Days

Rise & Shine

Sweet Dreams

Shake It Up

Getting into a Rhythm: Finding Your New Groove

Registering Your Rhythm

The Rhythms of Life

The Power of Consistency

The Pump Well

Put the Compound Effect to Work for You


I. Input: Garbage In, Garbage Out

II. Associations: Who’s Influencing You?

III. Environment: Changing Your View Changes Your Perspective


Moments of Truth

Multiplying Your Results

Beat the Expectations

Do the Unexpected

Do Better Than Expected

Put the Compound Effect to Work for You




Copyright Page

Also by Darren Hardy

Design Your Best Year Ever: A Proven Formula

for Achieving BIG GOALS

Living Your Best Year Ever: A Proven System

for Achieving BIG GOALS

Praise for The Compound Effect

“This powerful, practical book, based on years of proven and profitable experience, shows you how to leverage your special talents to maximize the opportunities surrounding you. The Compound Effect is a treasure chest of ideas for achieving greater success than you ever thought possible!”

—Brian Tracy, speaker and author of The Way to Wealth

“A brilliant formula for living an extraordinary life. Read it, and most important, take action upon it!”

—Jack Canfield, co-author of The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

“Darren Hardy has written a new bible for the self-improvement space. If you are looking for the real deal—a real program, with real tools that can change your life and make your dreams a reality—The Compound Effect is it! I plan to use this book to go back and look at what I need to again work on in my own life! Buy ten copies, one for yourself and nine more for those you love, and pass them out now—those who get it will thank you!

—David Bach, founder of and author of eight New York Times best-sellers, including The Automatic Millionaire

“This book will enable you to climb the ladder of success two steps at a time. Buy it, read it, and bank it.”

—Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible and The Little Red Book of Selling

“Darren Hardy is in a unique position to aggregate the brainpower of the most successful people in the world and boil it down to what really matters. Simple, direct, and to the point—these are the principles that have guided my life and every top business leader I know. This book will show you the way to your own greater success, happiness, and fulfillment.”

—Donny Deutsch, television host and chairman of Deutsch, Inc.

“The Compound Effect is a brilliant formula for achieving the life of your dreams. Step by step, let it be your guide. Read and study it, but most important, put it into action!”

—Chris Widener, speaker and author of The Art of Influence: Persuading Others Begins with You and The Twelve Pillars

“Darren Hardy proves with The Compound Effect that common sense—when applied—yields amazingly uncommon results. Follow these simple steps and become who you were meant to be!”

—Denis Waitley, speaker and author of The Psychology of Winning

“The Compound Effect will help you beat the competition, rise above your challenges, and create the life you deserve!”

—T. Harv Eker, author of the No. 1 New York Times best-seller Secrets of the Millionaire Mind

“Einstein said, ‘Compounding is the eighth wonder of the world.’ To compound your successes, read, apprehend, comprehend, and fully use my friend Darren Hardy’s brilliance to realize all your dreams, hopes, and desires.”

—Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of the No. 1 New York Times best-selling series Chicken Soup for the Soul and co-author of The One Minute Millionaire

“People who talk about ‘success’ but don’t find ways to translate it into their personal lives—into their relationships and their marriages and their families—do not win my respect or my admiration. In fact, their words ring hollow. As long as we have known Darren Hardy, we have never had a conversation where we have not talked about our kids, about our wives, and about how our families are doing. We think Darren knows a lot about achieving success, and even more important, he wants people to achieve it for the right reasons!”

—Richard and Linda Eyre, authors of the New York Times No. 1 best-selling Teaching Your Children Values

“Daren Hardy’s The Compound Effect is a culmination of success principles that is relevant to anyone who needs it! As a thought leader, he is making a significant contribution to our industry. A wonderful book!”

—Stedman Graham, author, speaker, entrepreneur

“From time to time, you get the opportunity to make the leap from where you now are to where you’ve always wanted to be. This book is that opportunity. And now is your time. A superb work from a leading light.”

—Robin Sharma, author of the No. 1 best-sellers The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The Leader Who Had No Title

“I have spent a lifetime helping people get to the bottom line so that they can be successful and achieve instant results, which is why I absolutely love this book and recommend it to all of my clients. Darren has an amazing gift for sharing powerful techniques and telling it like it is so that you can save valuable time and get right to work putting his formula for success into action immediately.”

—Connie Podesta, keynote speaker, author and executive coach

“If anyone knows the fundamentals of success, it’s Darren Hardy, publisher and editorial director of SUCCESS magazine! This book is about a return and focus on the basics, what it really takes to earn success. Make The Compound Effect your operations manual for life—one simple step at a time!”

—Dr. Tony Alessandra, author of The Platinum Rule and Charisma

“With The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy has joined the ranks of the great self-improvement authors! If you are serious about success and living your true potential, reading this book is a must. It will serve as your operations manual for success.”

—Vic Conant, chairman of Nightingale-Conant

“Life is fast with lots of distractions. If you want to advance effectively, don’t just read this book—study it with a highlighter.”

—Tony Jeary, coach to the world’s top CEOs and high-achievers

“SUCCESS magazine has been a fountain of powerful ideas since the day it was launched over a century ago. Now, Darren Hardy, the journal’s 21st-century steward, has distilled the essential fundamentals you’ll need to create the life you’ve always imagined. You shouldn’t read this book—you should devour it from cover to cover.”

—Steve Farber, author of the best-sellers The Radical Leap and Greater Than Yourself

“This is a must-read book for success seekers. You want to know what it takes? You want to know what to do? It’s all here. This is your operation manual for success.

—Keith Ferrazzi, No. 1 New York Times best-selling author of Who’s Got Your Back and Never Eat Alone

“The Compound Effect is a powerful, comprehensive guide to success. It gives a complete strategy to get you from where you are to where you want to be. The name Darren Hardy means success! My advice is read the book, do the work, and achieve success.”

—Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of The Mirror Test and CMO of Kodak

“You can take the rest of your life and try to figure out how to achieve success, or you can follow the proven and tested principals and methods found in this book. It’s your choice, do it the hard way… or do it the smart way!”

—John Assaraf, author of The Answer and Having It All

“Finally! Darren Hardy has done it with this book. It’s a terrific distillation of the essential fundamentals needed to achieve the life you’ve always imagined. Master these basics, and you will be the master of your future!”

—Don Hutson, speaker, co-author of the No. 1 New York Times best-selling The One Minute Entrepreneur, and CEO of U.S. Learning

“Your life will be the net result of each step you take. Let this powerful guide show you how to make better choices, develop better habits, and think better thoughts. Your success is truly in your hands... in this book.”

—Jim Cathcart, speaker and author of The Acorn Principle

“At Zappos, one of our core values is to Pursue Growth and Learning. In the lobby of our headquarters, we have a giving library where we give away books to employees and visitors that we think will help with their growth, both personally and professionally. I can’t wait to add The Compound Effect to our library.”

—Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of Zappos

“If there were ever a person who has his finger on the pulse of success, it’s Darren Hardy, publisher and editorial director of SUCCESS magazine. I always look forward to reading what he has to say. He is a great synthesizer of great ideas.”

—Larry Benet, chairman of the Speakers and Authors Networking Group

This book is dedicated to:

Jerry Hardy, my best man, my dad: the man who taught me the principles of the Compound Effect through his example.

And, to Jim Rohn, my mentor: the man who taught me, amongst many things, to talk about things that matter to people who care.

WARNING! These chapter headings look simple. Success strategies are no longer a secret, but most people ignore them. You think you already know the secret to success? So does everyone else. But the six strategies within this book, when applied in sequence, will launch your income, your life—your success—like nothing before.

As the publisher of SUCCESS magazine, I’ve seen it all. Nothing works like the power of the Compound Effect of simple actions done right over time.

This is it, the real deal on what it takes to achieve massive success in your life. Whatever your dream, desire, or goal in life, the plan to achieve it all is found in the book you’re holding. Read on, and let it rock your world.


I extend my appreciation and thanks to my team at SUCCESS Media and SUCCESS magazine, who have supported me through this labor of blood, sweat, and almost tears, particularly my good friends and colleagues Reed Bilbray and Stuart Johnson…

To my writing muse and collaborator, Linda Sivertsen, who helped pull out the stories and references from my past and give my process order and coherence…

To the editing wizardry of Erin Casey, the always-genius touch of our SUCCESS magazine editor Lisa Ocker, and to our editor in chief, Deborah Heisz…

To the many brilliant personal-development experts I have worked with and learned from over the past two decades—all the CEOs, revolutionary entrepreneurs, and extraordinary achievers I have had the chance to interview and glean new insights, ideas, and wisdom from…

To all the readers of SUCCESS magazine, my blog, and my other works, and whose enthusiastic and appreciative feedback inspires me to want to continue to pursue the zenith of my potential, so I can better assist others to find theirs…

And finally, and most important, to my beautiful and wonderful wife, Georgia, who sacrificed many late nights and weekends without me while I worked to complete this manuscript.

No matter what you learn,

what strategy or tactic you employ,

success comes as the result of

the Compound Effect.


During the past three decades, I’ve had the privilege of helping more than 4 million people create breakthroughs in their lives. I’ve worked with an immensely diverse group of people—from presidents of countries to prisoners, Olympic athletes, and Oscar-winning entertainers, from billionaire entrepreneurs to those just struggling to start their own business. Whether working with a couple fighting to keep their family together or a person in prison searching for a way to change their life from the inside out, my focus has always been on helping people achieve real and sustainable results. You can’t do that through a magic pill or secret formula, but only through understanding the real tools, strategies, and science behind what it takes to break through the patterns that defeat so many and achieve a meaningful life.

Darren and I both made the decision to take control of our lives at an early age. We searched for answers by seeking out people who were living the kind of life we wanted to live. Then we applied what we learned. It’s not really all that surprising that we both cite Jim Rohn as a mentor. Jim was a master at helping people understand the truths, the laws, and the practices that lead to real, lasting success. Jim taught us that achievement is not about luck; it’s really a science. Sure, everyone is different, but the same laws of success always apply. You reap what you sow; you can’t get out of life what you’re not willing to put into it. If you want more love, give more love. If you want greater success, help others achieve more. And when you study and master the science of achievement, you will find the success you desire.

Darren Hardy is living proof of this philosophy. He walks the talk. What he shares in his book is based on what has worked in his life—and mine as well.

This is a guy who has taken simple but profound fundamentals of what it takes to be successful and used them to earn more than a million dollars a year by age twenty-four, and build a company to more than $50 million by age twenty-seven. For the past twenty years, his life has been a personal laboratory of study and research on the topic of success. He’s used himself as a guinea pig, testing thousands of different ideas, resources, and tools, and through his failings and his triumphs, he’s figured out which ideas and strategies have merit, and which ones are just plain BS.

For sixteen years, I have crossed paths with Darren, who as a leader in the personal-development industry, has worked closely with hundreds of top writers, speakers, and thought leaders. He has trained tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, advised many large companies, and personally mentored dozens of top CEOs and high-performance achievers, extracting from them what really matters and really works, and what doesn’t. In his role as publisher of SUCCESS magazine, Darren sits at the center of the personal development industry. He’s interviewed top leaders, from Richard Branson to General Colin Powell to Lance Armstrong, on a multitude of success topics, and drilled down to their best ideas, compiling them all—even a few of mine. He is an all-consuming, sorting, filtering, digesting, analyzing, summarizing, categorizing, itemizing, personal-achievement encyclopedia of information. He has culled the clutter, and focused on the core fundamentals that matter—fundamentals that you can immediately implement in your life to produce measurable and sustainable results.

The Compound Effect is the operator’s manual that teaches you how to own the system, how to control it, master it, and shape it to your needs and desires. Once you do, there is nothing you can’t obtain or achieve.

The Compound Effect is based on a principle I’ve used in my own life and training; that is, your decisions shape your destiny. The future is what you make of it. Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default. In fact, it’s the littlest decisions that shape our lives. Stray off course by just two millimeters, and your trajectory changes; what seemed like a tiny, inconsequential decision then can become a mammoth miscalculation now. From what to eat and where to work, to the people you spend your time with, to how you spend your afternoon, every choice shapes how you live today, but more important, how you live the rest of your life. But the good news is, change is within you. In the same way a two-millimeter miscalculation can send you veering wildly off your life’s course, a mere two-millimeter readjustment can also bring you right back home. The trick is finding the plan, the guide, the map that shows you where that home is. How you get there. How you stay on the path.

This book is that detailed, tangible plan of action. Let it shake up your expectations, eliminate your assumptions, ignite your curiosity, and bring value to your life—starting right now. Take advantage of this tool. Use it as a guide to create the life and the success you want. If you do this, and if you do all the other right things—and keep doing them day in and day out—I know you will experience the best life has to offer.

Live with passion!

Anthony Robbins

Entrepreneur, author and peak-performance strategist


This book is about success and what it really takes to earn it. It’s time someone told it to you straight. You’ve been bamboozled for too long. There is no magic bullet, secret formula, or quick fix. You don’t make $200,000 a year spending two hours a day on the Internet, lose 30 pounds in a week, rub 20 years off your face with a cream, fix your love life with a pill, or find lasting success with any other scheme that is too good to be true. It would be great if you could buy your success, fame, self-esteem, good relationships, and health and well-being in a nicely clam-shelled package at the local Walmart. But, that’s not how it works.

We are constantly bombarded with increasingly sensational claims to get rich, get fit, get younger, get sexier… all overnight with little effort for only three easy payments of $39.95. These repetitive marketing messages have distorted our sense of what it really takes to succeed. We’ve lost sight of the simple but profound fundamentals of what it takes to be successful.

I’m tired of it. I won’t sit back and watch these reckless messages derail people any longer. I wrote this book to take you back to basics. I’m going to help you clear the clutter and bring focus to the core fundamentals that matter. You can immediately implement in your life the exercises and time-tested success principles this book contains to produce measurable and sustainable results. I’m going to teach you to harness the power of the Compound Effect, the operating system that has been running your life, for better or worse. Use this system to your advantage and you truly can revolutionize your life. You have heard you can achieve anything you set your mind to, right? Well, only if you know how. The Compound Effect is the operator’s manual that teaches you how to master the system. When you do, there is nothing you can’t obtain or achieve.

How do I know that the Compound Effect is the only process you need for ultimate success? Firstly, I have applied these principles to my own life. Now I hate it when authors beat their chests about their fame and fortune, but it’s important you know I speak from personal experience—I’m offering you living proof, not regurgitated theory. As Anthony Robbins mentioned, I’ve enjoyed significant success in my business endeavors because I’ve made it a point to live by the principles you’ll read in this book. For the past twenty years I’ve been intensely studying success and human achievement. I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars testing thousands of different ideas, resources, and philosophies. My personal experience has proven that, no matter what you learn or what strategy or tactic you employ, success comes as the result of the operating system of the Compound Effect.

Secondly, for the past sixteen years I have been a leader in the personal-development industry. I’ve worked with respected thought leaders, speakers and authors. As a speaker and consultant, I’ve trained tens of thousands of entrepreneurs. I’ve mentored business leaders, corporate executives and countless high-achievers. From thousands of case studies I have extracted what works—and what doesn’t.

Thirdly, as publisher of SUCCESS magazine, I sift through thousands of article submissions and books, help choose the experts we feature in the magazine, and review all of their material. Each month I interview a half-dozen top experts on a multitude of success topics and drill down to their best ideas. All day, every day, I read and filter through an ocean of personal-achievement information.

Here’s my point. When you have such an exhaustive view of this industry, and wisdom gained through studying the teachings and best practices of some the world’s most successful people, an amazing clarity emerges—the underlying fundamental truths become crystal clear. Having seen it, read it, and heard most all of it, I can no longer be fooled by the latest gambit or self-proclaimed prophet with the newest “scientific breakthrough.” Nobody can sell me on gimmicks. I have too many reference points. I’ve gone down too many roads and learned the truth the hard way. As my mentor, the great business philosopher Jim Rohn, said, “There are no new fundamentals. Truth is not new; it’s old. You’ve got to be a little suspicious of the guy who says, ‘Come over here, I want to show you my manufactured antiques!’ No, you can’t manufacture antiques.”

What this book is about, with all the unnecessary noise, fat, and fluff removed, is what really matters. What really works? What half-dozen basics, when focused on and mastered, constitute the operating system that can take you to any goal you desire and help you live the life you were meant to live? This book contains those half-dozen fundamentals; they comprise the operating system called the Compound Effect.

Before we dig in, I have one warning: Earning success is hard. The process is laborious, tedious, sometimes even boring. Becoming wealthy, influential, and world-class in your field is slow and arduous. Don’t get me wrong; you’ll see results in your life from following these steps almost immediately. But if you have an aversion to work, discipline, and commitment, you’re welcome to turn the TV back on and put your hope in the next infomercial—the one touting promises of overnight success, if you have access to a major credit card.

Here’s the bottom line: You already know all that you need to succeed. You don’t need to learn anything more. If all we needed was more information, everyone with an Internet connection would live in a mansion, have abs of steel, and be blissfully happy. New or more information is not what you need—a new plan of action is. It’s time to create new behaviors and habits that are oriented away from sabotage and toward success. It’s that simple.

Throughout the book I mention resources I’ve made available at Please, go there! Use them! This book and the tools I’ve provided to support you offer the best of everything I’ve heard, seen, studied, and tried. It’s the best of what we bring you every month in SUCCESS magazine, all in one life-changing little book. And it is simple!

Let’s get started!



You know that expression, “Slow and steady wins the race”? Ever heard the story of the tortoise and the hare? Ladies and gentlemen, I’m the tortoise. Give me enough time, and I will beat virtually anybody, anytime, in any competition. Why? Not because I’m the best or the smartest or the fastest. I’ll win because of the positive habits I’ve developed, and because of the consistency I use in applying those habits. I’m the world’s biggest believer in consistency. I’m living proof that it’s the ultimate key to success, yet it’s one of the biggest pitfalls for people struggling to achieve. Most people don’t know how to sustain it. I do. I have my father to thank for that. In essence, he was my first coach for igniting the power of the Compound Effect.

My parents divorced when I was eighteen months old, and my dad raised me as a single father. He wasn’t exactly the soft, nurturing type. He was a former university football coach, and he hard-wired me for achievement.

Thanks to Dad, wake-up calls were at six o’clock every morning. Not by a loving tap on the shoulder or even the sound of a radio alarm. No, I was awakened each morning by the repetitious pile-driving sound of iron pounding on the concrete floor of our garage, situated next to my bedroom. It was like waking up twelve feet from a construction zone. He’d painted a huge “No pain, no gain” sign on the wall of the garage, which he stared at while he did countless old-school strongman dead lifts, power cleans, lunges, and squats. Rain, sleet, or shine, Dad was out there in his shorts and tattered sweatshirt. He never missed a day. You could set your watch by his routine.

I had more chores than a housekeeper and gardener put together. Upon returning from school, there was always a list of instructions to greet me: pull weeds, rake leaves, sweep the garage, dust, vacuum, do the dishes—you name it. And getting behind in school wasn’t tolerated. That’s just the way it was.

Dad was the original “no excuses” guy. We weren’t ever allowed to stay home from school sick, unless we were actually puking, bleeding, or “showing bone.” The term “showing bone” came from his coaching days; his players knew they weren’t allowed to come out of the game unless they were seriously injured. One time his quarterback asked to be pulled out of the game. Dad said, “Not unless you’re showing bone.” The quarterback pulled back his shoulder pads, and sure enough, his collarbone was showing. Only then was he allowed to come off the field.

One of Dad’s core philosophies was, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are or aren’t, you need to make up in hard work what you lack in experience, skill, intelligence, or innate ability. If your competitor is smarter, more talented, or experienced, you just need to work three or four times as hard. You can still beat them!” No matter what the challenge, he taught me to make up in hard work for wherever I might be disadvantaged. Miss free throws at the game? Do one thousand free throws every day for a month. Not good at dribbling with your left hand? Tie your right hand behind your back and dribble three hours a day. Behind in your math? Hunker down, hire a tutor, and work like hell all summer until you get it. No excuses. If you aren’t good at something, work harder, work smarter. He walked his talk, too. Dad went from being a football coach to a top salesperson. From there he became the boss, and ultimately, went on to own his own company.

But I wasn’t given loads of instruction. From the beginning, Dad let us figure it out. He was all about taking personal responsibility. He didn’t hammer on us every night about homework; we just had to show up with the results. And, when you did, you were celebrated. If we got good grades, Dad took us to Prings, an ice cream parlor where you could get these king banana splits—six scoops of ice cream and all the fixings! Many times my siblings didn’t fare as well in school, so they didn’t get to go. Getting to go was a big deal, so you worked your butt off to win the trip.

Dad’s discipline served as an example for me. Dad was my idol, and I wanted him to be proud of me. I also lived in fear of disappointing him. One of his philosophies is, “Be the guy who says ‘no.’ It’s no great achievement to go along with the crowd. Be the unusual guy, the extraordinary guy.” That’s why I never did drugs—he never harped on me about it, but I didn’t want to be that guy who just went along because everyone else was doing it. And I didn’t want to let Dad down.

Thanks to Dad, by age 12, I’d mastered a schedule worthy of the most efficient CEO. Sometimes I griped and moaned (I was a kid!), but even then I secretly liked knowing that I had an edge over my classmates. Dad gave me a serious head start on the discipline and mentality it takes to be dedicated and responsible, to achieve whatever I set out to achieve. (It’s no accident that the tagline of SUCCESS magazine is “What Achievers Read.”)

Today, Dad and I joke about what an addictive overachiever he trained me to be. At eighteen, I was making a six-figure income in my own business. By age twenty, I owned my own home in an upscale neighborhood. By age twenty-four, my income grew to more than $1 million a year, and by age twenty-seven, I was officially a self-made millionaire with a business that brought in more than $50 million in revenue. That just about brings us to the present day, because I’m not yet forty, but I have enough money and assets to last my family the rest of my life.

“There are lots of ways to screw up a kid,” Dad says. “At least my way was a pretty good one! You seemed to have done pretty well.”

So, while I admit that I’ve had to practice sitting on my hands and being present in the moment, or chilling out peacefully in a beach chair from time to time (without taking a pile of business books or self-improvement CDs with me), I’m grateful for the success skills I learned from my dad, and my other mentors along the way.

The Compound Effect reveals the “secret” behind my success. I’m a true believer in the Compound Effect because Dad made sure that I lived it, each and every day, until I couldn’t live any other way if I tried.

But if you’re like most people, you’re not a true believer. There are lots of perfectly understandable reasons why. You haven’t had the same coaching and example showing you what to do. You haven’t experienced the payoff of the Compound Effect. As a society, we have been deceived. We’ve been hypnotized by commercial marketing, which convinces you of problems you don’t have and sells you on the idea of insta-fixes to “cure” them. We’ve been socialized to believe in the fairy-tale endings found in movies and novels. We’ve lost sight of the good, old-fashioned value of hard and consistent work.

Let’s examine these hurdles one by one.

You Haven’t Experienced the Payoff of the Compound Effect

The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. What’s most interesting about this process to me is that, even though the results are massive, the steps, in the moment, don’t feel significant. Whether you’re using this strategy for improving your health, relationships, finances, or anything else for that matter, the changes are so subtle, they’re almost imperceptible. These small changes offer little or no immediate result, no big win, no obvious I-told-you-so payoff. So why bother?

Most people get tripped up by the simplicity of the Compound Effect. For instance, they quit after the eighth day of running because they’re still overweight. Or, they stop practicing the piano after six months because they haven’t mastered anything other than “Chopsticks.” Or, they stop making contributions to their IRA after a few years because they could use the cash—and it doesn’t seem to be adding up to much anyway.

What they don’t realize is that these small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference. Let me give you a few detailed examples.

Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE

The Magic Penny

If you were given a choice between taking $3 million in cash this very instant and a single penny that doubles in value every day for 31 days, which would you choose? If you’ve heard this before, you know the penny gambit is the choice you should make—you know it’s the course that will lead to greater wealth. Yet why is it so hard to believe choosing the penny will result in more money in the end? Because it takes so much longer to see the payoff. Let’s take a closer look.

Let’s say you take the cold, hard cash and your friend goes the penny route. On Day Five, your friend has sixteen cents. You, however, have $3 million. On Day Ten, it’s $5.12 versus your big bucks. How do you think your friend is feeling about her decision? You’re spending your millions, enjoying the heck out of it, and loving your choice.

After 20 full days, with only 11 days left, Penny Lane has only $5,243. How is she feeling about herself at this point? For all her sacrifice and positive behavior, she has barely more than $5,000. You, however, have $3 million. Then the invisible magic of the Compound Effect starts to become visible. The same small mathematical growth improvement each day makes the compounded penny worth $10,737,418.24 on Day Thirty-one, more than three times your $3 million.

In this example we see why consistency over time is so important. On Day Twenty-nine, you’ve got your $3 million; Penny Lane has around $2.7 million. It isn’t until Day Thirty of this 31-day race that she pulls ahead, with $5.3 million. And it isn’t until the very last day of this monthlong ultramarathon that your friend blows you out of the water; she ends up with $10,737,418.24 to your $3 million.

Very few things are as impressive as the “magic” of compounding pennies. Amazingly, this “force” is equally powerful in every area of your life.

Here’s another example…

Three Friends

Let’s take three buddies who all grew up together. They live in the same neighborhood, with very similar sensibilities. Each makes around $50,000 a year. They’re all married and have average health and body weight, plus a little bit of that dreaded “marriage flab.”

Friend number one, let’s call him Larry, plods along doing as he’s always done. He’s happy, or so he thinks, but complains occasionally that nothing ever changes.

Friend number two, Scott, starts making some small, seemingly inconsequential, positive changes. He begins reading 10 pages of a good book per day and listening to 30 minutes of something instructional or inspirational on his commute to work. Scott wants to see changes in his life, but doesn’t want to make a fuss over it. He recently read an interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz in SUCCESS magazine and chose one idea from the article to implement in his life: He’s going to cut 125 calories from his diet every day. No big deal. We’re talking maybe a cup of cereal less, trading that can of soda for a bottle of seltzer, switching from mayo to mustard on his sandwich. Doable. He’s also started walking a couple thousand extra steps per day (less than a mile). No grand acts of bravery or effort. Stuff anyone could do. But Scott is determined to stick with these choices, knowing that even though they’re simple, he could also easily be tempted to abandon them.

Friend number three, Brad, makes a few poor choices. He recently bought a new big-screen TV so he can watch more of his favorite programs. He’s been trying out the recipes he’s seen on the Food Channel—the cheesy casseroles and desserts are his favorites. Oh, and he installed a bar in his family room and added one alcoholic drink per week to his diet. Nothing crazy; Brad just wants to have a little more fun.

At the end of five months, no perceivable differences exist among Larry, Scott, or Brad. Scott continues to read a little bit every night and listen to audios during his commute; Brad is “enjoying” life and doing less. Larry keeps doing as he always has. Even though each man has his own pattern of behavior, five months isn’t long enough to see any real decline or improvement in their situations. In fact, if you charted the three men’s weights, you’d see a rounding error of zero. They’d look exactly equal.

At the end of ten months, we still can’t see noticeable changes in any of their lives. It’s not until we get to the end of the eighteenth month that the slightest differences are measurable in these three friends’ appearances.

But at about month twenty-five, we start seeing really measurable, visible differences. At month twenty-seven, we see an expansive difference. And, by month thirty-one, the change is startling. Brad is now fat while Scott is trim. By simply cutting 125 calories a day, in thirty-one months, Scott has lost thirty-three pounds!

31 months = 940 days

940 days x 125 calories/day = 117,500 calories

117,500 calories divided by 3500 calories per pound = 33.5 pounds!

Brad ate only 125 more calories more a day in that same time frame, and gained 33.5 pounds. Now he weighs 67 pounds more than Scott! But the differences are more significant than weight. Scott’s invested almost one thousand hours reading good books and listening to self-improvement audios; by putting his newly gained knowledge into practice, he’s earned a promotion and a raise. Best of all, his marriage is thriving. Brad? He’s unhappy at work, and his marriage is on the rocks. And Larry? Larry is pretty much exactly where he was two and half years ago, except now he’s a little more bitter about it.

The phenomenal power of the Compound Effect is that simple. The difference between people who employ the Compound Effect for their benefit compared to their peers who allow the same effect to work against them is almost inconceivable. It looks miraculous! Like magic or quantum leaps. After thirty-one months (or thirty-one years), the person who uses the positive nature of the Compound Effect appears to be an “overnight success.” In reality, his or her profound success was the result of small, smart choices, completed consistently over time.

The Ripple Effect

The results in the above example seem dramatic, I know. But it goes even deeper than that. The reality is that even one small change can have a significant impact that causes an unexpected and unintended ripple effect. Let’s put one of Brad’s bad habits under the microscope—eating rich food more frequently—to better understand how the Compound Effect can also work in a negative way and can create a ripple effect that impacts your entire life.

Brad makes some muffins from a recipe he learned from the Food Channel. He’s proud and his family loves it, and it seems to add value all around. He starts making them (and other sweets) frequently. He loves his own cooking and eats more than his share—but not so much that anyone notices. However, the extra food makes Brad sluggish at night. He wakes up a little groggy, which makes him cranky. The crankiness and sleep-deprivation begin to impact his work performance. He’s less productive, and as a result, gets discouraging feedback from his boss. By the end of the day, he feel dissatisfied with his job and his energy level is way down. The commute home seems longer and more stressful than ever. All of this makes him reach for more comfort food—stress has a way of doing that.

The overall lack of energy makes Brad less likely to take walks with his wife, like he used to. He just doesn’t feel like it. She misses their time together and takes his withdrawal personally. With fewer shared activities with his wife and an absence of fresh air and exercise, Brad’s not getting the endorphin release that had helped make him feel upbeat and enthusiastic. Because he’s not as happy, he starts finding fault with himself and others, and stops complimenting his wife. As his own body starts to feel flabby, he feels less self-confident, less attractive and becomes less romantic.

Brad doesn’t realize how his lack of energy and affection toward his wife affects her. He just knows that he feels funky. He starts losing himself in late-night TV because it’s easy and distracting. Feeling his distance, Brad’s wife starts to complain, then becomes needy. When that doesn’t work, she emotionally withdraws to protect herself. She’s lonely. She pours her energy into her work and spends more time with her girlfriends to fulfill her need for companionship. Men start flirting with her, which makes her feel desirable again. She would never cheat on Brad, but he has a feeling something’s wrong. Instead of seeing that his poor choices and behaviors are at the root of their problems, he finds fault with his wife.

Believing that the other person is wrong rather than looking inside and doing the work necessary to clean up your mess is basic Psychology 101 stuff. In Brad’s case, he doesn’t know to look inside—they don’t offer self-improvement or relationship advice on Top Chef or his favorite crime shows. However, the thought may have occurred to him that, if he had read the personal-development books his buddy Scott read, he might have learned about ways to change negative habits. Unfortunately for Brad, the small choices he made on a daily basis created a ripple that wreaked havoc on every area of his life.

Of course, all that calorie-counting and intellectual stimulation has had the opposite effect with Scott, who’s now reaping the bounty of positive results. In The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson (another Jim Rohn protege) describes this as the repeating of simple daily disciplines versus the simple errors in judgement. It’s that simple. With enough time and consistency, the outcomes become visible. Better yet, they’re totally predictable.

The Compound Effect is predictable and measurable—that’s great news! Isn’t it comforting to know you only need to take a series of tiny steps, consistently, over time, to radically improve your life? Doesn’t that sound easier than mustering up some grand show of bravery and heroic strength, only to wear yourself out and have to drum up all that energy again at a later date for another try (which will likely be unsuccessful)? I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But that’s what people do. We’ve been conditioned by society to believe in the effectiveness of a great display of massive effort. Heck, it’s downright all-American! See Figure 1.

Fig. 1

The beauty of the Compound Effect is in its simplicity. Notice how, on the left side of the diagram, the results are intangible, but how powerfully they differ later on. The behaviors all along the way are exactly the same, but the magic of the Compound Effect eventually kicks in to bring massive differences in results.

Success, Old School

The most challenging aspect of the Compound Effect is that we have to keep working away for a while, consistently and efficiently, before we can begin to see the payoff. Our grandparents knew this, though they didn’t spend their evenings glued to the TV watching infomercials about how to have thin thighs in thirty days or a real estate kingdom in six months. I bet your grandparents worked six days a week, from sunup to sundown, using the skills they learned in their youth and repeatedly throughout their entire life. They knew the secret was hard work, discipline, and good habits.

It’s interesting that wealth tends to skip a generation. Overwhelming abundance often leads to a lackadaisical mentality, which brings about a sedentary lifestyle. Children of the wealthy are especially susceptible. They weren’t the ones who developed the discipline and character to create the wealth in the first place, so it makes sense that they may not have the same sense of value for wealth or understand what’s necessary to keep it. We frequently see this entitlement mentality in children of royalty, movie stars, and corporate executives—and to a lesser degree, in children and adults everywhere.

As a nation, our entire populace seems to have lost appreciation for the value of a strong work ethic. We’ve had two, if not three, generations of Americans who have known great prosperity, wealth, and ease. Our expectations of what it really takes to create lasting success—things like grit, hard work, and fortitude—aren’t alluring, and thus have been mostly forgotten. We’ve lost respect for the strife and struggle of our forefathers. The massive effort they put forth instilled discipline, chiseled their character, and stoked the spirit to brave new frontiers.

The truth is, complacency has impacted all great empires, including, but not limited to, the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English. Why? Because nothing fails like success. Once-dominant empires have failed for this very reason. People get to a certain level of success and get too comfortable.

Having experienced extended periods of prosperity, health, and wealth, we become complacent. We stop doing what we did to get us there. We become like the frog in the boiling water that doesn’t jump to his freedom because the warming is so incremental and insidious that he doesn’t notice he’s getting cooked!

If we want to succeed, we need to recover our grandparents’ work ethic.

It’s time to restore our character, if not for the sake of saving America, at least for your own greater success and achievement. Don’t buy into the genie in a lamp idea. You can sit on your couch waiting to attract checks in your mailbox, rub crystals together, walk on fire, channel that 2,000-year-old guru, or chant affirmations if you want to, but much of that is hocus-pocus commercialism manipulating you by appealing to your weaknesses. Real and lasting success requires work—and lots of it!

I have a quick, real-time story to illustrate this nothing-fails-like success concept: A great new restaurant opened up close to my home on the beach in San Diego. In the beginning, the place was always immaculate, the hostess had a big, welcoming smile for everyone, the service was impeccable (the manager came over and assured it), and the food was sensational. Soon, people started lining up to eat there and would often wait more than an hour to be seated.

Then, unfortunately, the restaurant’s staff began to take its success for granted. The hostess became snooty, the service staff disheveled and curt, and the food quality hit-or-miss. The place was out of business within eighteen months. They failed because of their success. Or rather, because they stopped doing what made them successful to begin with. Their success clouded their perspective and they slacked off.

Microwave Mentality

Understanding the Compound Effect will rid you of “insta-results” expectation—the belief success should be as fast as your fast food, your one-hour glasses, your thirty-minute photo processing, your overnight mail, your microwave eggs, your instant hot water and text messaging. Enough, okay?

Promise yourself that you’re going to let go once and for all of your lottery-winner expectations because, let’s face it, you only hear stories about the one winner, not the millions of losers. That person you see jumping up and down in front of the Vegas slot machine or at the Santa Anita horse track doesn’t reveal the hundreds of times that same person lost. If we go back to our mathematical chance of a positive result, again, we have a rounding error of zero—as in, you have about zero chance of winning. Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, says that if we gave lottery losers each thirty seconds on TV to announce not, “I won!” but “I lost,” it would take almost nine years to get through the losers of a single drawing!

When you understand how the Compound Effect works, you won’t pine for quick fixes or silver bullets. Don’t try to fool yourself into believing that a mega-successful athlete didn’t live through regular bone-crushing drills and thousands of hours of practice. He got up early to practice—and kept practicing long after all others had stopped. He faced the sheer agony and frustration of the failure, loneliness, hard work, and disappointment it took to become No. 1.

By the end of this book, or even before, I want you to know in your bones that your only path to success is through a continuum of mundane, unsexy, unexciting, and sometimes difficult daily disciplines compounded over time. Know, too, that the results, the life, and the lifestyle of your dreams can be yours when you put the Compound Effect to work for you. If you use the principles outlined in The Compound Effect, you will create your fairy-tale ending! See Figure 2.

Fig. 2

The Compound Effect is always working. You can choose to make it work for you, or you can ignore it and experience the negative effects of this powerful principle. It doesn’t matter where you are on this graph. Starting today, you can decide to make simple, positive changes and allow the Compound Effect to take you where you want to go.

Have I made my point? Good. Join me in the next chapter, where we will focus on the one thing that controls your life. Every victory or defeat, triumph, or failure has started with this. Everything you have or don’t have in your life right now has been because of this. Learn to change this, and you can change your life. Let’s discover what this is…

Put the Compound Effect to Work for You

Summary Action Steps

Write out a few excuses you might be clinging to (e.g., not smart enough, no experience, wrong upbringing, don’t have the education, etc.). Decide to make up in hard work and personal development to outcompete anyone—including your old self.

Be Scott—Write out the half-dozen small, seemingly inconsequential steps you can take every day that can take your life in a completely new and positive direction.

Don’t be Brad—Write down the small, seemingly inconsequential actions you can stop doing that might be compounding your results downward.

List a few areas, skills, or outcomes where you have you been most successful in the past. Consider whether you could be taking those for granted and are not continuing to improve, and are therefore in jeopardy of having that complacency lead to future failure.



We all come into this world the same: naked, scared, and ignorant. After that grand entrance, the life we end up with is simply an accumulation of all the choices we make. Our choices can be our best friend or our worst enemy. They can deliver us to our goals or send us orbiting into a galaxy far, far away.

Think about it. Everything in your life exists because you first made a choice about something. Choices are at the root of every one of your results. Each choice starts a behavior that over time becomes a habit. Choose poorly, and you just might find yourself back at the drawing board, forced to make new, often harder choices. Don’t choose at all, and you’ve made the choice to be the passive receiver of whatever comes your way.

In essence, you make your choices, and then your choices make you. Every decision, no matter how slight, alters the trajectory of your life—whether or not to go to college, whom to marry, to have that last drink before you drive, to indulge in gossip or stay silent, to make one more prospecting call or call it a day, to say I love you or not. Every choice has an impact on the Compound Effect of your life.

This chapter is about becoming aware of and making choices that support the expansion of your life. Sounds complicated, but you’ll be amazed by its simplicity. No longer will 99 percent of your choices be unconscious. No more will most of your daily routines and traditions come as a reaction to your programming. You’ll ask yourself (and be able to answer), “How many of my behaviors have I not ‘voted on’? What am I doing that I didn’t consciously choose to do, yet continue to do every day?”

By employing the same idiot-proof strategies I’ve used to catapult my own life and career, strengthened by the Compound Effect, you’ll be able to loosen the mysterious grip of the things that are unwinding your life and pulling you in the wrong direction. You’ll be able to hit the Pause button before stumbling into idiot territory. You’ll experience the ease of making decisions that lead to behaviors and habits that support you, every time.

Your biggest challenge isn’t that you’ve intentionally been making bad choices. Heck, that would be easy to fix. Your biggest challenge is that you’ve been sleepwalking through your choices. Half the time, you’re not even aware you’re making them! Our choices are often shaped by our culture and upbringing. They can be so entwined in our routine behaviors and habits that they seem beyond our control. For instance, have you ever been going about your business, enjoying your life, when all of sudden you made a stupid choice or series of small choices that ultimately sabotaged your hard work and momentum, all for no apparent reason? You didn’t intend to sabotage yourself, but by not thinking about your decisions—weighing the risks and potential outcomes—you found yourself facing unintended consequences. Nobody intends to become obese, go through bankruptcy, or get a divorce, but often (if not always) those consequences are the result of a series of small, poor choices.

Elephants Don’t Bite

Have you ever been bitten by an elephant? How about a mosquito? It’s the little things in life that will bite you. Occasionally, we see big mistakes threaten to destroy a career or reputation in an instant—the famous comedian who rants racial slurs during a stand-up routine, the drunken anti-Semitic antics of a once-celebrated humanitarian, the anti-gay-rights senator caught soliciting gay sex in a restroom, the admired female tennis player who uncharacteristically threatens an official with a tirade of expletives. Clearly, these types of poor choices have major repercussions. But even if you’ve pulled such a whopper in your past, it’s not extraordinary massive steps backward or the tragic single moments that we’re concerned with here.

For most of us, it’s the frequent, small, and seemingly inconsequential choices that are of grave concern. I’m talking about the decisions you think don’t make any difference at all. It’s the little things that inevitably and predictably derail your success. Whether they’re bone-headed maneuvers, no-biggie behaviors, or are disguised as positive choices (those are especially insidious), these seemingly insignificant decisions can completely throw you off course because you’re not mindful of them. You get overwhelmed, space out, and are unaware of the little actions that take you way off course. The Compound Effect works, all right. It always works, remember? But in this case it works against you because you’re doing… you’re sleepwalking.

For instance, you inhale a soda and bag of potato chips and suddenly realize only after you polished off the last chip that you blew an entire day of healthy eating—and you weren’t even hungry. You get caught up and lose two hours watching mindless TV—scratch that, let’s give you some credit and make it an educational documentary—before realizing you spaced on preparing for an important presentation to land a valuable client. You blurt out a knee-jerk lie to a loved one for no good reason, when the truth would have worked just fine. What’s going on?

You’ve allowed yourself to make a choice without thinking. And as long as you’re making choices unconsciously, you can’t consciously choose to change that ineffective behavior and turn it into productive habits. It’s time to WAKE UP and make empowering choices.

Thanksgiving Year-Round

It’s easy to point fingers at others, isn’t it? “I’m not getting ahead because of my lame boss.” “I would have gotten that promotion if it hadn’t been for that backstabbing co-worker.” “I’m always in a bad mood because my kids are driving me crazy.” We’re particularly gifted in the finger-pointing department when it comes to our romantic relationships—you know, where the other person is the one who needs to change.

A few years back, a friend of mine was complaining about his wife. From my observation, she was a terrific lady, and he was lucky to have her. I told him as much, but he continued to point out all the ways she was responsible for his unhappiness. That’s when I shared an experience that had literally changed my marriage. One Thanksgiving, I decided to keep a Thanks Giving journal for my wife. Every day for an entire year I logged at least one thing I appreciated about her—the way she interacted with her friends, how she cared for our dogs, the fresh bed she prepared, a succulent meal she whipped up, or the beautiful way she styled her hair that day—whatever. I looked for the things my wife was doing that touched me, or revealed attributes, characteristics, or qualities I appreciated. I wrote them all down secretly for the entire year. By the end of that year, I’d filled an entire journal.

When I gave it to her the following Thanksgiving, she cried, calling it the best gift she’d ever received. (Even better than the BMW I’d given her for her birthday!) The funny thing was that the person most affected by this gift was me. All that journaling forced me to focus on my wife’s positive aspects. I was consciously looking for all the things she was doing “right.” That heartfelt focus overwhelmed anything I might have otherwise complained about. I fell deeply in love with her all over again (maybe even more than ever, as I was seeing subtleties in her nature and behavior instead of her more obvious qualities). My appreciation, gratitude, and intention to find the best in her was something I held in my heart and eyes each day. This caused me to show up differently in my marriage, which, of course, made her respond differently to me. Soon, I had even more things to write in my Thanks Giving journal! As a result of choosing to take a mere five minutes every day or so to document all the reasons why I was grateful for her, we experienced one of the best years of our marriage, and it’s only gotten better.

After I shared my experience, my friend decided to keep a Thanks Giving journal about his wife. Within the first few months, he completely turned around his marriage. Choosing to look for and focus on his wife’s positive qualities changed his view of her, which changed how he interacted with her. As a result, she made different choices about the way she responded to him. The cycle perpetuated. Or, shall we say, compounded.

Use the Gratitude Assessment sheet on page 166 to bolster your abundant mindset, or download at

Owning 100 Percent

We are all self-made men and women, but only the successful take credit for it. I was eighteen when I was introduced to the idea of personal responsibility at a seminar, and the concept completely transformed my life. If you threw out the rest of this book and only practiced this one concept, within two to three years the changes in your life would be so great, your friends and family would have difficulty remembering the “old you.”

In that seminar I attended at eighteen, the speaker asked, “What percentage of shared responsibility do you have in making a relationship work?” I was a teenager, so wise in the ways of true love. Of course I had all the answers.

“Fifty/fifty!” I blurted out. It was so obvious; both people must be willing to share the responsibility evenly or someone’s getting ripped off.

“Fifty-one/forty-nine,” yelled someone else, arguing that you’d have to be willing to do more than the other person. Aren’t relationships built on self-sacrifice and generosity?

“Eighty/twenty,” yelled another.

The instructor turned to the easel and wrote 100/0 on the paper in big black letters. “You have to be willing to give 100 percent with zero expectation of receiving anything in return,” he said. “Only when you’re willing to take 100 percent responsibility for making the relationship work will it work. Otherwise, a relationship left to chance will always be vulnerable to disaster.”

Whoa. This wasn’t what I was expecting! But I quickly understood how this concept could transform every area of my life. If I always took 100 percent responsibility for everything I experienced—completely owning all of my choices and all the ways I responded to whatever happened to me—I held the power. Everything was up to me. I was responsible for everything I did, didn’t do, or how I responded to what was done to me.

I know you think you take responsibility for your life. I’ve yet to ask anybody who doesn’t say, “Of course, I take responsibility for my life.” But then you look at how most people operate in the world; there’s a lot of finger pointing, victimhood, blaming, and expecting someone else or the government to solve their problems. If you’ve ever blamed traffic for being late, or decided you are in a bad mood because of something your kid, spouse, or co-worker did, you’re not taking 100 percent personal responsibility. You arrived late because the printer was busy? Maybe you shouldn’t have waited until the last minute? Co-worker messed up the presentation? Shouldn’t you have double-checked it yourself before delivering it? Not getting along with your unreasonable teen? There are a countless fantastic books and classes to help you learn how to deal.

You alone are responsible for what you do, don’t do, or how you respond to what’s done to you. This empowering mindset revolutionized my life. Luck, circumstances, or the right situation wasn’t what mattered. If it was to be, it was up to me. I was free to fly. No matter who was elected president, how badly the economy tanked, or what anybody said, did, or didn’t do, I was still 100 percent in control of me. Through choosing to be officially liberated from past, present, and future victimhood, I’d hit the jackpot. I had the unlimited power to control my destiny.

Getting Lucky

Maybe you believe you’re simply unlucky. But really, that’s just another excuse. The difference between becoming fabulously rich, happy, and healthy, or broke, depressed, and unhealthy, is the choices you make throughout life. Nothing else will make the difference. Here’s the thing about luck: We’re all lucky. If you are on the right side of the dirt, have your health, and a little food in your cupboard, you are incredibly lucky. Everyone has the opportunity to be “lucky,” because beyond having the basics of health and sustenance, luck simply comes down to a series of choices.

When I asked Richard Branson if he felt luck played a part in his success, he answered, “Yes, of course, we are all lucky. If you live in a free society, you are lucky. Luck surrounds us every day; we are constantly having lucky things happen to us, whether you recognize it or not. I have not been any more lucky or unlucky than anyone else. The difference is when luck came my way, I took advantage of it.”

Ah, spoken like a man knighted with wisdom. While we’re on the topic, it’s my belief that the old adage we often hear—“Luck is when opportunity meets preparation”—isn’t enough. I believe there are two other critical components to “luck.”

The (Complete) Formula for Getting Lucky:

Preparation (personal growth) +

Attitude (belief/mindset) +

Opportunity (a good thing coming your way) +

Action (doing something about it) =


Preparation: By consistently improving and preparing yourself—your skills, knowledge, expertise, relationships, and resources—you have the wherewithal to take advantage of great opportunities when they arise (when luck “strikes”). Then, you can be like Arnold Palmer, who told SUCCESS magazine in February of 2009, “It’s a funny thing; the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

Attitude: This is where luck evades most people, and where Sir Richard is spot-on with his belief that luck is all around us. It’s simply a matter of seeing situations, conversations, and circumstances as fortuitous. You cannot see what you don’t look for, and you cannot look for what you don’t believe in.

Opportunity: It’s possible to make your own luck, but the luck I’m talking about here isn’t planned for, or it comes faster or differently than expected. In this stage of the formula, luck isn’t forced. It’s a natural occurrence, and it often shows up seemingly of its own accord.

Action: This is where you come in. However this luck was delivered to you—from the universe, God, the Lucky Charms leprechaun, or whomever or whatever you associate delivering your good fortune—it’s now your job to act on it. This is what separates the Richard Bransons from the Joseph Wallingtons. Joseph who? Exactly. You’ve never heard of him. That’s because he failed to take action on all the lucky things that happened to him.

So no more whining about the cards you were dealt, the great defeats you suffered, or any other circumstances. Countless people have more disadvantages and greater obstacles than you, and yet they’re wealthier and more fulfilled. Luck is an equal-opportunity distributor. Lady luck shines on all, but rather than having your umbrella overhead, you’ve got to have your face to the sky. When it comes down to it, it’s all you, baby. There’s no other way around it.

The High Price of Tuition at UHK (University of Hard Knocks)

Nearly a decade ago I was asked to be a partner in a new startup venture. I invested a considerable sum of money into the deal and worked tirelessly on it for nearly two years before finding out that my partner had mismanaged and squandered all the cash. I lost more than $330,000. I didn’t try to sue him; in fact, I lent him more money later for a personal situation. The bottom line was the loss was my fault. I had agreed to be his partner without doing enough due diligence on his background and personal character. During our time in business, I wasn’t inspecting what I was expecting. I could justify it by saying I trusted him, but the truth was I was guilty of being lazy by not watching the finances more diligently. Not only had I made the choice to start this relationship and business, but I’d also made many choices to ignore obvious red flags and warning signs. Because I chose to not be completely responsible for the business, in the end, I was responsible for the results. When I learned of the wrongdoings, I chose not to lose any more time fighting it. Instead, I licked my wounds, learned my lesson, and moved on. In hindsight, I’d make the same choice to pick up and move on again today.

I now challenge you to do the same. No matter what has happened to you, take complete responsibility for it—good or bad, victory or defeat. Own it. My mentor Jim Rohn said, “The day you graduate from childhood to adulthood is the day you take full responsibility for your life.”

Today is graduation day! From this day forward, choose to be 100 percent responsible for your life. Eliminate all of your excuses. Embrace the fact that you are freed by your choices, as long as you assume personal responsibility for them.

It’s time to make the choice to take control.

Your Secret Weapon—Your Scorecard

I’m about to walk you through one of the single greatest strategies I’ve ever used in my personal development. This strategy helps me take control of the choices I make throughout the day, causing everything else to fall into place, and leading to behaviors and actions that shepherd my habits into line like dutiful, loyal minions.

Right this moment: Pick an area of your life where you most want to be successful. Do you want more money in the bank? A trimmer waistline? The strength to compete in an Iron Man event? A better relationship with your spouse or kids? Picture where you are in that area, right now. Now picture where you want to be: richer, thinner, happier, you name it. The first step toward change is awareness. If you want to get from where you are to where you want to be, you have to start by becoming aware of the choices that lead you away from your desired destination. Become very conscious of every choice you make today so you can begin to make smarter choices moving forward.

To help you become aware of your choices, I want you to track every action that relates to the area of your life you want to improve. If you’ve decided you want get out of debt, you’re going to track every penny you pull from your pocket. If you’ve decided you want to lose weight, you’re going to track everything you put into your mouth. If you’ve decided to train for an athletic event, you’re going to track every step you take, every workout you do. Simply carry around a small notebook, something you’ll keep in your pocket or purse at all times, and a writing instrument. You’re going to write it all down. Every day. Without fail. No excuses, no exceptions. As if Big Brother’s watching you. As if my dad and I will come and make you do a hundred pushups every time you miss.

Doesn’t sound like much, I know—writing things down on a little piece of paper. But tracking my progress and missteps is the one of the reasons I’ve accumulated the success I have. The process forces you to be conscious of your decisions. But as Jim Rohn would say, “What’s simple to do is also simple not to do.” The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in the doing of simple things repeatedly and long enough to ignite the miracle of the Compound Effect. So, beware of neglecting the simple things that make the big things in your life possible. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not. Remember that; it will come in handy many times throughout life when faced with a difficult, tedious, or tough choice.

Money Trap

I learned the power of tracking the hard way, after I’d acted like a colossal idiot about my finances. Back in my early twenties, when I was making a lot of money selling real estate, I met with my accountant.

“You owe well over $100,000 in taxes,” he said.

“What?!” I said. “I don’t have that kind of cash just lying around.”

“Why not?” he asked. “You collected several times that; certainly you set aside the taxes that would be due on that money.”

“Evidently I didn’t,” I said.

“Where did the money go?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, a sobering confession, for sure. The money had passed through my hands like water, and I hadn’t even noticed!

Then my accountant did me a great favor.

“Son,” he said, looking me dead in the eyes, “you’ve got to get a grip. I’ve seen this a hundred times before. You’re spending money like a drunken fool, and you don’t even know how to account for it. That’s stupid. Stop it. You are now seriously in the hole. You have to earn more money that you’ll owe additional taxes on just to pay for your back taxes. Continue this, and you’ll dig your financial grave with your own wallet.”

I immediately got the message.

Here’s what my accountant had me do: carry a small notepad in my back pocket, and write down every single cent I spent for thirty days. Whether it was a thousand dollars for a new suit or fifty cents for air to fill up my tires, it all had to go down on the notepad. Wow. This brought an instantaneous awareness of the many unconscious choices I was making that resulted in money pouring out of my pockets. Because I had to log everything, I resisted buying some things, just so I didn’t have to take out the notepad and write it in the dang book!

Keeping a money log for thirty days straight cemented a new awareness in me, and created a completely new set of choices and disciplines around my spending. And, since awareness and positive behaviors compound, I found myself being more proactive with money in general, putting away more for retirement, finding areas to save where there was clear waste, and enjoying the fun quotient of money—“play money”—all the more. When I did consider shelling out for entertainment, I did so only after a long pause.

This tracking exercise changed my awareness of how I related to my money. It worked so well, in fact, that I’ve used it many times to change other behaviors. Tracking is my go-to transformation model for everything that ails me. Over the years I’ve tracked what I eat and drink, how much I exercise, how much time I spend improving a skill, my number of sales calls, even the improvement of my relationships with family, friends, or my spouse. The results have been no less profound than my money-tracking wake-up call.

In buying this book, you’re basically paying me for my opinion, my guidance. This is where I’m going to become a hard-ass and insist you track your behaviors for at least one whole week. This book isn’t designed to entertain you; it is designed to help you get results. To get results, you have to take some action.

You may have heard about tracking before. In fact, you’ve probably done your own version of this exercise. But I also bet you aren’t doing it now, right? How do I know? Because your life isn’t working as successfully as you’d like. You’ve gotten derailed. Tracking is the way to get it back on track.

Do you know how the casinos make so much money in Vegas? Because they track every table, every winner, every hour. Why do Olympic trainers get paid top dollar? Because they track every workout, every calorie, and every micronutrient for their athletes. All winners are trackers. Right now I want you to track your life with the same intention: to bring your goals within sight.

Tracking is a simple exercise. It works because it brings moment-to-moment awareness to the actions you take in the area of your life you want to improve. You’ll be surprised at what you will observe about your behavior. You cannot manage or improve something until you measure it. Likewise, you can’t make the most of who you are—your talents and resources and capabilities—until you are aware of and accountable for your actions. Every professional athlete and his or her coach track each performance down to the smallest minutiae. Pitchers know their stats on every pitch in their repertoire. Golfers have even more metrics on their swings. Professional athletes know how to adjust their performances based on what they’ve tracked. They pay attention to what they record and make changes accordingly, because they know when their stats improve they win more games and earn more in endorsement deals.

At any given moment, I want you to know exactly how well you’re doing. I’m asking you to track yourself as if you’re a valuable commodity. Because you are. Want that idiot-proof system we talked about earlier? This is it. So, regardless of whether you think you’re aware of your habits or not (believe me, you’re not!), I’m asking you to start tracking. Doing so will revolutionize your life, and ultimately, your lifestyle.

Keep It Slow and Easy

Don’t panic. We’re starting off with an easy, breezy tempo. Just track one habit for one week. Pick the habit that has the greatest control over you; that’s where you’ll start. Once you begin reaping the rewards of the Compound Effect, you’ll naturally want to introduce this practice into other areas of your life. In other words, you’ll choose to choose tracking.

Let’s say the category you choose is getting your eating under control because you want to lose weight. Your task is to write down everything you put in your mouth, from the steak, potatoes, and salad you have at dinner, to those many tiny choices during the day—that handful of pretzels in the break room, that second slice of cheese on your sandwich, that “fun-sized” candy bar, that sample at Costco, those extra sips of wine after the host tops off your glass. Don’t forget the beverages. They all add up, but unless tracked, they’re easy to dismiss or forget because they seem so small. Again, merely writing these things down sounds simple—and it is—BUT ONLY WHEN YOU DO IT. That’s why I’m asking that you commit to choosing a category and a start date, now, before you turn this page.

I am going to start tracking _______________ on ____________.


What will the tracking look like? It will be thorough, as in organized. And relentless, as in constant. Each day you’ll start with the date at the top of a fresh page, and start keeping track.

What happens after the first week of tracking? You’ll probably be in shock. You’ll be astonished at how those calories, pennies, minutes have been escaping you. You never even knew that they were there, let alone that they’d vanished.

Now, keep going. You’re going to track in this one area for three weeks. Maybe you’re already groaning; you just don’t want to do it. But trust me: You’ll be so blown away by the results after one week you’ll sign yourself up for another two. I can practically guarantee it.

Why three weeks? You’ve heard psychologists say that something doesn’t become a habit until you practice it for three weeks. It’s not an exact science, but it’s a good benchmark, and it has worked for me. So, ideally, I want you to stick with your choice to track your behaviors for twenty-one days. If you refuse, I’m not going to lose anything (heck, it’s not my waistline, cardiovascular health, bank balance, or relationship you’re messing with!). But, seriously, you’re reading this book because you want to change your life, right? And I promised you it was going to take slow, steady work, didn’t I? This one action isn’t easy, but it’s simple and doable. So do it.

Promise yourself to start. Today. For the next three weeks, choose to carry around your own small notepad (or large one, if that’s more enticing), and write every single thing down in your category.

What happens in three weeks? You move from the shock that follows the first week to the happy surprise of seeing how merely becoming conscious of your actions begins to shape them. You’ll find yourself asking, “Do I really want that candy bar? I’m gonna have to haul out my notebook and write it down, and I’ll feel a little sheepish.” That’s two hundred calories saved right there. Turn down that candy bar every day, and in a little more than two weeks, you’ll have already lost a pound! You’ll start adding up that $4.00 coffee on the way to work and realize, Holy cow! I’ve just spent sixty bucks on coffee in three weeks! Hey, that’s a thousand bucks a year! Or, compounded, that’s $51,833.79 in twenty years! How much do you really need to stop for coffee? See Figure 3.

Fig. 3

The real cost of a four-dollar-a-day coffee habit over 20 years is $51,833.79. That’s the power of the Compound Effect.

Come again? Am I saying that your four-dollar-a-day coffee habit is going to cost you $51,833.79 in twenty years? Yes, I am. Did you know that every dollar you spend today, no matter where you spend it, is costing you nearly five dollars in only twenty years (and ten dollars in thirty years)? That’s because if you took a dollar and invested it at 8 percent, in twenty years, that dollar would be worth almost five. Every time you spend a buck today, it’s like taking five dollars out of your future pocket.

I used to make the mistake of looking at a price tag and thinking that if an item was listed at fifty dollars, it cost me fifty dollars. Well, yes, in today’s dollars. But if you consider the potential value of that same fifty dollars after it has been invested for twenty years the cost (what you lose by spending that money rather than investing it) is four or five times greater! In other words, every time you look at an item that costs fifty dollars you have to ask, “Is this item worth $250?” If it’s worth $250 to you today, then it’s worth buying. Keep that in mind next time you go to a place like Costco, with all sorts of amazing things that you didn’t know you had to have. You go in to buy twenty-five dollars’ worth of necessities and walk out with $400 of stuff instead. My garage looks like a Costco graveyard. Next time you walk into one of those bargain basement stores, assess things from this future-value standpoint. Chances are you’ll put down that fifty-dollar crepe maker so Future You will have $250 more in the bank. Make the correct choice every day, every week for many years, and you can quickly see how you can become financially abundant.

When you track with this awareness, you’ll find yourself showing up in your life very differently. You’ll be able to ask yourself, “Is having a coffee once every workday worth the eventual price of a Mercedes-Benz?” Because that’s what it’s costing you. Even more than that, you’re not sleepwalking anymore. You’re aware and conscious and making better choices. All from a little notebook and pen. Simply amazing, isn’t it?

The Unsung, Unseen Hero

Once you start tracking your life, your attention will be focused on the smallest things you’re doing right, as well as the smallest things you’re doing wrong. And when you choose to make even the smallest course corrections consistently, over time, you’ll begin to see amazing results. But don’t expect immediate fanfare. When I say “small” course corrections, I’m talking truly invisible. Chances are no one’s going to notice them anytime soon. There will be no applause. No one’s going to send you a congratulations card or a trophy for these disciplines. And yet, eventually, their compounding effect will result in an exceptional payoff. It’s the littlest disciplines that pay off over time, the effort and preparation for the great triumph that happened when no one was looking. And yet the results are exceptional. A horse wins by a nose, but gets 10 times the prize money. Is the horse 10 times faster? No, just a little bit better. But it was those extra laps around the track, the extra discipline in the horse’s nutrition, or the extra work by the jockey that made the results a slight bit better with compounded rewards.

After hundreds of tournaments played and thousands of strokes tallied, the difference between the No. 1 ranked golfer and the No. 10 golfer is an average of only 1.9 strokes, but the difference in prize money is five times (over $10 million versus $2 million)! The No. 1 golfer isn’t five times better, not even 50 percent or even 10 percent better. In fact, the difference between his average score is only 2.7 percent better. Yet, the results are five times greater! See Figure 4.

Fig. 4

The difference between the No. 1 ranked golfer and the No. 10 golfer is an average of only 1.9 strokes, but the difference in prize money is five times. That’s the power of the Compound Effect.

[Source: FedEx Cup Ranking as of mid-December 2009]

That’s the power of little things adding up. It’s not the big things that add up in the end; it’s the hundreds, thousands, or millions of little things that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary. To be one stroke better requires countless little things that don’t get accounted for when you’re putting on the green jacket.

Let me give you a few more ways tracking small changes can result in huge payoffs.

Take a Walk

I was mentoring a CEO of a sizeable company doing more than $100 million in sales annually. Phil was an entrepreneur and founder of the company. The company was doing fine, but I detected a lack of engagement, trust, and enthusiasm in the culture of his organization. I wasn’t too surprised; it turns out that Phil hadn’t been in parts of his own building for more than five years! He’d never spoken personally to more than 80 percent of his staff! He basically lived in a bubble with his management team. I asked Phil to track just one change: three times a week, he had to step outside of his office and walk around the building. His goal was to seek out at least three people whom he saw doing things right or had heard good things about and give them some personal acknowledgment of his appreciation. This one small change in his behavior took less than an hour a week, but had massive effects over time. The employees Phil took the time to recognize began to go the extra mile and work harder to earn his greater appreciation. Other employees started to perform better, observing that great effort was recognized and appreciated. The ripple effect of their new attitude transferred to their customer interactions, improving the customers’ experience with the company, increasing repeat and referral business, which increased everyone’s pride. That simple change over the period of eighteen months did a complete 180 on the company culture. Net profits grew by more than 30 percent during that time, utilizing the same staff and zero additional investment in marketing. All because Phil committed to one small, seemingly insignificant step done consistently over time.

Money Tree

Twelve years ago I had a wonderful assistant, Kathleen. She earned $40,000 a year at the time. She was tasked to manage the registration table situated at the back of the room during one of my lectures on entrepreneurship and wealth building. The next week she came into my office. “I heard you talk about saving 10 percent of everything you earn,” she told me. “That sounds nice, but there is no way I could do that. It’s totally unrealistic!” She proceeded to tell me about all her bills and financial obligations. After she wrote them all out, it was obvious there really wasn’t any money left over at the end of the month. “I need a raise,” she said.

“I’ll do better than that,” I told her. “I’m going to teach you how to become wealthy.” It wasn’t the answer she was looking for, but she agreed.

I taught Kathleen how to track her spending, and she began to carry her notebook. I told her to open a separate savings account with only $33—just 1 percent of her existing monthly income. I then showed her how to live on $33 less the next month—bring in her own lunch just one day a week instead of going downstairs to the deli and ordering a sandwich, chips, and a drink. The next month I had her save only 2 percent ($67). She saved the additional $33 by changing her cable subscription service. The next month we went up to 3 percent. We canceled her subscription to People magazine (it was time to study her own life), and instead of going to Starbucks twice a week, I told Kathleen to buy the Starbucks beans and other fancy fixings and make her own coffee in the office (she grew to like that even better—me too!).

By the end of the year, Kathleen was saving 10 percent of every dollar she earned without noticing a significant impact on her lifestyle. She was amazed! That one discipline also had a ripple effect on many other disciplines in her life. She calculated what she spent on mind-numbing entertainment and began investing that money on personal growth instead. After feeding her mind with several hundred hours of inspirational and instructional content, her creativity started to soar. She brought me several ideas on how we could make and save more money in our organization. She presented me with a plan that she would implement in her spare time, if I promised to reward her with 10 percent of all the money-saving strategies and 15 percent of all the new revenue strategies that proved profitable. By the end of the second year, she was earning more than $100,000 a year—on the same $40,000 base salary. Kathleen eventually started her own independent contract service business that took off. I ran into Kathleen at an airport two years ago. She now earns more than a quarter of a million dollars a year and has saved and created more than $1 million in assets—she’s a millionaire! All starting from the choice to take one small step and start saving $33 a month!

Time Is of the Essence

The earlier you start making small changes, the more powerfully the Compound Effect works in your favor. Suppose your friend listened to Dave Ramsey’s advice and began putting $250 a month into an IRA when she got her first job after graduating from college at age twenty-three. You, on the other hand, don’t start saving until you’re forty. (Or maybe you started saving a little earlier but cleaned out your retirement account because you didn’t notice any great gains.) By the time your friend is forty, she never has to invest another dollar and will have more than a $1 million by the age of sixty-seven, growing at 8 percent interest compounded monthly. You continue to invest $250 every month until you reach sixty-seven, the normal retirement age for Social Security for those born after 1960. (That means you’re saving for twenty-seven years in contrast to her seventeen years.) When you’re ready to retire, you’ll have less than $300,000 and will have invested $27,000 more than your friend. Even though you saved for many more years and invested much more cash, you still ended up with less than a third of the money you could have had. That’s what happens when we procrastinate and neglect necessary behaviors, habits, and disciplines. Don’t wait another day to start the small disciplines that will lead you in the direction of your goals! See Figure 5.

Fig. 5

Are you telling yourself that you’re starting so late that you’re already way behind the eight ball and can never catch up? That’s just another tired tape in your head; it’s time to turn it off. It’s never too late to reap the benefits of the Compound Effect. Suppose you’ve always wanted to play the piano, but feel it’s too late because you’re about to turn forty. If you start now, by the time you’re retirement age, you could be a master, as you’ll have been playing for twenty-five years! The key is to start NOW. Every great act, every fantastic adventure, starts with small steps. The first step always looks harder than it actually is.

But what if twenty-five years is too long? What if you’ve only got time or patience for ten years? In Brian Tracy’s book Focal Point (Amacom, 2002), he models how to improve any area of your life by 1,000 percent. Not 10 percent or even 100 percent, but 1,000 percent! Let me outline it for you.

All you have to do is improve yourself, your performance, and your output and earnings by 1/10 of 1 percent each workday (you even get to slack off on weekends). That is 1/1,000. Do you think you could do that? Of course, anyone could do that. Simple. Do it each day of the week, and you’ll improve by ½ percent each week (translation: not much), equaling 2 percent each month, which, compounded, adds up to 26 percent each year. Your income now doubles each 2.9 years. By Year Ten, you can be performing and earning 1,000 percent what you are now. Isn’t that amazing? You don’t have to put in 1,000 percent more effort or work 1,000 percent more hours. Just 1/10 of 1 percent improvement each day. That’s it.

Success Is a (Half-) Marathon

Beverly was a salesperson for an educational software company for which I was doing a turnaround. One day she told me about her friend who was running a half-marathon the upcoming weekend. “I could never do such a thing,” Beverly, who was significantly overweight, assured me. “I get winded going up a single flight of stairs!”

“If you want to, you can choose to do what your friend is doing,” I told her. She balked, saying, “There’s absolutely no way.”

My first step was to help Beverly find her motivation. “So, Beverly, why would you want to run the half-marathon?”

“Well, my twenty-year high-school reunion is coming up next summer, and I want to look fabulous. But I’ve gained so much weight since I had my second child five years ago. I don’t know how I can do it.”

Bingo! Now we had a motivating goal. But I proceeded with caution. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you probably know the drill: Buy an expensive gym membership, drop a fortune on personal trainers, new equipment, spiffy new workout clothes, and great athletic footwear. Work out vigorously for a week or so and then turn your elliptical machine into a clothes-drying rack, ditch the gym, and let your sneakers mold in the corner. I wanted to try a better way with Beverly. I knew that if I could get her to choose just one new habit, she’d get hooked, and all the other behaviors would naturally fall into line.

I asked Beverly to drive her car around the block and map out a one-mile loop from her house. Then, I told her to walk the loop three times over a period of two weeks. Notice that I didn’t ask her to start by running the mile. Instead, I started with something—a small, easy task that required no major stretch. Then I had her walk the loop three times in one week for an additional two weeks. Each day she made the choice to continue on.

Next I told Beverly to start a slow jog, only as far as she felt comfortable. As soon as she started feeling breathless, she was to stop and continue walking. I asked her to do this until she could run one-fourth, then one-half, and then three-quarters of that mile. It took three more weeks—nine outings—before she could jog a full mile. After a total of seven weeks, she was jogging the whole loop. That might seem like a long time for such a short victory, right? After all, half of a marathon is 13.1 miles. One mile is nothing. What was something, however, was that Beverly was beginning to see how her choice to get fit for the reunion—her why-power (as I’ll soon explain)—was fueling her new health habits. The Compound Effect had been set in motion and was starting its miraculous process.

I then asked Beverly to increase her distance an eighth of a mile each outing (an almost unnoticeable length, maybe only 300 steps further). Within six months, she was running nine miles without any discomfort at all. In nine months, she was running 13.5 miles regularly (more than the distance of a half-marathon) as part of her running routine. More exciting, though, was what happened in other areas of her life. Beverly lost her cravings for chocolate (a lifelong obsession) and heavy, fatty foods. Gone. The increased energy she felt from the cardiovascular exercise and better eating choices helped her bring more enthusiasm to her work. Her sales performance doubled during the same period (which was great for me!).

As we saw in the previous chapter, the ripple effects of all this momentum raised her self-esteem which made her more affectionate toward her husband. Their relationship became more passionate than it had been since college. Because she had renewed energy, her interaction with her children became more active and animated. She noticed she no longer had time to hang out with her “Debbie Downer” friends, who still gathered together after work for greasy appetizers and drinks. She made new “healthy” friends in a running club she joined—which led to a whole host of additional positive choices, behaviors, and habits.

Following that first conversation in my office and Beverly’s decision to find her why-power and commit to a series of small steps, she lost more than forty pounds, becoming a walking (and running) billboard for fit and empowered women. Today, Beverly runs full marathons!

Your life is the product of your moment-to-moment choices. In our SUCCESS CD (May 2010), TV’s Biggest Loser fitness trainer Jillian Michaels shared with me a powerful childhood story: “When I was a kid, my mom would have these elaborate Easter egg hunts for me. I would run around the house, and when I would get close to a hidden egg, she’d say, ‘Oh you’re warm.’ You know, you get closer to it, ‘Oh, you’re on fire.’ And then you move away from the egg and she’d go, ‘Oh, you’re cold, you’re freezing.’ I teach contestants that, on a moment-to-moment basis, I need them to think about their happiness and their ultimate goal as being warm—how every choice and every decision they make in the moment is getting them closer to that ultimate goal.”

Since your outcomes are all a result of your moment-to-moment choices, you have incredible power to change your life by changing those choices. Step by step, day by day, your choices will shape your actions until they become habits, where practice makes them permanent.

Losing is a habit. So is winning. Now let’s work on permanently instilling winning habits into your life. Eliminate sabotaging habits and instill the needed positive habits, and you can take your life in any direction you desire, to the heights of your greatest imagination. Let me show you how…

Put the Compound Effect to Work for You

Summary Action Steps

What area, person, or circumstance in your life do you struggle with the most? Start journaling all the aspects of that situation that you are grateful for. Keep a record of everything that reinforces and expands your gratitude in that area.

Where in your life are you not taking 100 percent responsibility for the success or failure of your present condition? Write down three things you have done in the past that have messed things up. List three things you should have done but didn’t. Write out three things that happened to you but you responded poorly. Write down three things you can start doing right now to take back responsibility for the outcomes of your life.

Start tracking at least one behavior in one area of your life you’d like to change and improve (e.g., money, nutrition, fitness, recognizing others, parenting… any area).



A wise teacher was taking a stroll through the forest with a young pupil and stopped before a tiny tree.

“Pull up that sapling,” the teacher instructed his pupil, pointing to a sprout just coming up from the earth. The youngster pulled it up easily with his fingers. “Now pull up that one,” said the teacher, indicating a more established sapling that had grown to about knee high to the boy. With little effort, the lad yanked and the tree came up, roots and all. “And now, this one,” said the teacher, nodding toward a more well-developed evergreen that was as tall as the young pupil. With great effort, throwing all his weight and strength into the task, using sticks and stone he found to pry up the stubborn roots, the boy finally got the tree loose.

“Now,” the wise one said, “I’d like you to pull this one up.” The young boy followed the teacher’s gaze, which fell upon a mighty oak so tall the boy could scarcely see the top. Knowing the great struggle he’d just had pulling up the much smaller tree, he simply told his teacher, “I am sorry, but I can’t.”

“My son, you have just demonstrated the power that habits will have over your life!” the teacher exclaimed. “The older they are, the bigger they get, the deeper the roots grow, and the harder they are to uproot. Some get so big, with roots so deep, you might hesitate to even try.”

Creatures of Habit

Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Merriam-Webster defines habit this way: “An acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.”

There’s a story about a man riding a horse, galloping quickly. It appears that he’s going somewhere very important. A man standing along the roadside shouts, “Where are you going?” The rider replies, “I don’t know. Ask the horse!” This is the story of most people’s lives; they’re riding the horse of their habits, with no idea where they’re headed. It’s time to take control of the reins, and move your life in the direction of where you really want to go.

If you’ve been living on autopilot and allowing your habits to run you, I want you to understand why. And I want you to let yourself off the hook. After all, you’re in good company. Psychological studies reveal that 95 percent of everything we feel, think, do, and achieve is a result of a learned habit! We’re born with instincts, of course, but no habits at all. We develop them over time. Beginning in childhood, we learned a series of conditioned responses that led us to react automatically (as in, without thinking) to most situations.

In your day-to-day life, living “automatically” has its definite positives. If you had to consciously think about every step of each ordinary task—making breakfast, driving the kids to school, getting to work, and so on—your life would grind to a halt. You probably brush your teeth twice a day on autopilot. There’s no big philosophical debate; you just do it. You strap on your seatbelt the minute your butt hits the seat. No second thoughts. Our habits and routines allow us to use minimal conscious energy for everyday tasks. They help keep us sane and enable us to handle most situations reasonably well. And because we don’t have to think about the mundane, we can focus our mental energy on more creative and enriching thoughts. Habits can be helpful—as long as they’re good habits, that is.

If you eat healthfully, you’ve likely built healthy habits around the food you buy and what you order at restaurants. If you’re fit, it’s probably because you work out regularly. If you’re successful in a sales job, it’s probably because your habits of mental preparation and positive self-talk enable you to stay optimistic in the face of rejection.

I’ve met and worked with many great achievers, CEOs, and “superstars,” and I can tell you they all share one common trait—they all have good habits. That’s not to say they don’t have bad habits; they do. But not many. A daily routine built on good habits is the difference that separates the most successful amongst us from everyone else. And doesn’t that make sense? From what we’ve already discussed, you know successful people aren’t necessarily more intelligent or more talented than anyone else. But their habits take them in the direction of becoming more informed, more knowledgeable, more competent, better skilled, and better prepared.

My dad used Larry Bird as an example to teach me about habits when I was a kid. “Larry Legend” is known as one of the greatest professional basketball players. But he wasn’t known for being the most athletically talented player. Nobody would have described Larry as “graceful” on the basketball court. Yet, despite his limited natural athletic ability, he led the Boston Celtics to th