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Mike Brodsky’s book Incremental Improvements
4th Down and Damn by Mike Brodsky
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(Download “Incremental Improvements: Change Your Life One Small Step At A Time” for free at this website above.)
In Episode 3 of the Mindful Wealth Podcast, we talk to Mike Brodsky – financial advisor, author, speaker and proponent of the power of small gains. Against the grain of overnight successes and get-rich-quick, Mike preaches for the importance of stacking up small wins over time.
Here are some high-points of the interview.
Mike wants us to see life as a series of minute-to-minute choices that add up over time. What you eat, what you save, what you spend, how you treat your body: these habits stack up.
In the sphere of wealth, this is especially true, and not necessarily in the way you might think. Financial abundance isn’t a question of getting rich quick in most cases. Most people who becomes rich do so through a lot of behaviours – trade offs in saving and spending and investing – carried out over many years.
“You don’t have to give up what you love,” he says. “Just be aware that choices have consequences. You don’t have to give up your favorite cookies, but maybe you only eat one. Maybe you only eat half a cookie.”
This is how meaningful change take place. Pick a small gain. And add to it every single day. When you multiply seemingly insignificant choices by time, they accrue into big wins or losses.
One of the keys to harnessing the power of incremental improvements is awareness. Because many of the micro-decisions we make are, one, small and, two, habits, we’re often blind to them. Often, we don’t even understand that the results we’re getting are a product of thousands of micro-decisions stacked up over time. We tend to see our finances or our health as a function of discreet big decisions, when in fact the reality is much more micro- than macro.
If our habits are so important, how can we become more aware, more mindful of the choices we make?
The key lies in the data. You gain power over your choices by tracking what you actually do. Mike uses spending as an example. Most people really don’t know where their money goes on a monthly basis. For this reason, if long-term wealth is your goal, it’s important to track your spending and saving, perhaps before you even try to modify your habits.
The first step on the road to change is to gain awareness. In this knowledge – that can be obtained by tracking – you acquire the power to alter your micro-habits, simply because you become aware of them.
THE 4TH DIMENSION
Mike suggests that the line between success and failure is the 4th dimension: time.
The mistake many of us make is that when we evaluate what is and isn’t working, we often forget to account for time as a variable. For example, Mike has many clients who wake up every morning hoping to be millionaires. They beat themselves up, he says, when they go to bed each day without a million dollars in the bank. This isn’t the right way of understanding what’s going on, though. With the right habits and enough time, you’ll get there. But it’s important to have the discipline and patience to maintain good habits for long enough.
Most people give up on successful and virtuous strategies results have enough time to compound. This is one of the big pitfalls people make with their retirement and investment plans: they give up too soon.
CYCLES OF VICE AND VIRTUE
Mike also notes the powerful effect of cycles of vice and virtue. Very often, when his clients start stacking up small wins in one aspect of their lives, the other aspects of the lives get better.
Focus on your health, and your relationships get better. Fix your relationships and you’ll have more energy at work. The incremental improvements you accrue in one facet of your life tend to have a virtuous effect on other aspects of life.
Be careful: the opposite is also true. When relationships suffer, you have less energy for work. When you eat poorly and make bad choices for your health, mood and relationships suffer. Everything is connected and habit-spirals can lead either up or down. That’s why we have to be so careful of the little things we do every day!