Kaizen: Achieving Anything Through Continuous Improvement

Kurt Vonnegut was a complete failure. He had been writing for 25-years and had nothing to show of it other than some magazine publishings and 5 novels riddled with mediocre reviews, destined for the dusty back shelves. He had written every day for those 25 years – perfecting his craft, refining his ideas, adapting his approaches – and it had led him nowhere.

He progressed each day for that 25-year span though, maybe by 1%, maybe even just .5%, but it was progression all the same. Kurt needed those 25-years of progression in order to produce his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, an international bestseller that would send him across the globe giving book-talks, lectures, and speeches. He had finally found himself atop the literary world.

It was an overnight success that took 9,125 nights of preparation and failure.

Enter: Kaizen.

Kaizen is a Japanese approach to success, in which one seeks to achieve small, almost invisible positive changes that greatly increase efficiency and quality over time. It is an idea that slates 1% improvements each day as being the most important contributor to your eventual success. A continuous quest for improvement, paired with patience and an understanding of the effort truly involved, being its essence.

A 1% improvement each day means that it’ll take a mere 72-days before you’re 100% better than when you began. As days & years pass, that number will grow at an unimaginably quick rate.

As Karen Lamb once said, “A year from now, you’ll have wished you’d started today.”

Kaizen can apply to any domain, whether it be business, sport, education, or health. Everyone has experienced the inevitable wall-hit that comes from starting something new, the time at which progression comes to a stand-still and stagnation takes over. It is during those times that you must focus on your 1% each day, understanding that development takes time and the rewards to be reaped are earned accordingly.

Heck, I’ve been writing Ernest Mind pieces for over half a year now and I can say first hand that growth occurs far slower, and far more painstakingly, than anyone willingly wants to accept.

But I suppose that’s that exact reason we choose to pursue such things. The understanding that small (almost invisible) growth will actually lead us somewhere desirable is what makes it tolerable.

It is often said that not every diet works in a day, but every diet works. Similarly, not every attempt at growing or bettering yourself is viewable in a week, but every attempt is viewable. And I mean every.

James Altucher said it best: Practice makes habits. Pay attention to the small things that are often invisible in the grand scheme, they have far more weight on your future that you give them credit for.

Wake up early, get in some exercise, read a few pages a day, catch up on whatever it is that’s valuable in your life. These are things that can be forgotten about with minimal effort, and unfortunately, without any short-term consequences.

Everything meaningful takes time, don’t underestimate the power of small progression. Productivity is a process, not an achievement.


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