Incremental Gains Change the World

Incremental Gains Change the World

And “He who sweats more in training bleeds less in war.”
~ Spartan Warriors Creed

spartan warrior

We continue our discussion on your own personal Ultimate Human Performance (UHP), what it takes, and what you must commit to for your life.

While the above quote may seem quite macho and filled with testosterone on some level, let me assure you that UHP is the furthest thing possible from either.

When you find your Magnificent Obsession…
you will work hard, but it’s hardly work.


Nowhere has illusion been more propagated than in the traditional personal and spiritual development arena, which maintains things should “come easy” to you.

Check your own life experience and tell me where that’s ever been true.

Go ahead, check. I’ll be waiting right here.

Rarely if ever.

I’ve invested over thirty years of my life in studying the science, the psychology, and the habits of UHP; and I can assure you that all those who reach it and live it, do so with tremendous commitment and continuous effort.

If true success, wealth and fulfillment
were easy, then everybody would have it.

woman with shopping bags holding a phone

Think about it.

Things that come easy in life have little to no value.

Let’s take the studies of children who inherit large sums of money from their parents as an example.

According to the Wall Street Journal over 90% of them end up flat broke in a short amount of time.

Likewise, those who win the lottery.

Research shows that a major percentage of them as well end up flat broke; and also severely depressed, in a short amount of time.

“The good news is that something came easily to you.”

“The bad news is that something came easily to you.”

The fact is that what you don’t know how to create, you won’t know how to keep. Please ponder that one deeply.

So let’s continue our exploration of deliberate practice that we began last week.

If you’ll recall, the Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson, conducted probably the most widely quoted and documented research on world-class performance. Ericsson found that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice to reach a high degree of mastery. But not just any practice, what he termed “deliberate practice.”

Deliberate practice is working with the sole focus of continuous improvement. You’ll remember the Kobe Bryant example we discussed last week gave us a prime example.

Kobe was not just shooting 800 jump shots between 7AM and 11AM in his Olympic preparation. He was shooting jump shots while focusing on every single nuance and every single movement to continuously improve. From a variety of angles and positions on the court.

Do you get the difference?

So let’s recap what we know:

  • Talent is not enough. But it certainly must be present.

Those with a growth mindset from Carol Dweck’s research see talent as the starting point of a continuous journey. This is the true beginning, and we must begin at the beginning.

Beginning at the beginning may seem elementary, but I submit to you it’s the most fundamental principle not practiced; not just a play on words.

Very infrequently if ever are we encouraged in society to begin with our unique talents and gifts as a starting point.

Consider how different society would be if each one of us had been encouraged at an early age to observe our unique genius. To consider our individual purpose.

What is Your Unique Genius? Read this helpful article to help you find the answers to that question.

How differently would your life have unfolded? Would you possibly be in a completely different career? Would you possibly be in a completely different place in life?

  • Talents must be developed and mastered.

This is what I call Innate Ability Development® and it’s a journey and a work that never ends. Ask Kobe. He’s at the top of his game and yet still climbing.

No matter how masterful you become, no matter what you achieve or accomplish, there’s always room for improvement and growth.

If you take the 10,000 hours of Ericsson and divide them over a ten-year period it equates to just under 3 hours per day of deliberate practice in your chosen field.


For those who think it takes too long to master their craft…
I ask: What else are you going to do with the rest of your life?

making a pot of clay

Some people automatically think that they’re “too old” to do something great. So, what else are you going to do with the rest of your days?

Some think it would take too much hard work. Let me ask you, isn’t it hard work to be miserable, disengaged, and just going through the motions in life?

Some say “I don’t know how.” To which I say, no one knew how to do anything until they did it! No exception.

Incremental gains change the world.

stackables squares

So let’s get even more specific. Because just saying go for deliberate practice, incremental gains, and continuous improvement is still somewhat nebulous.

What are the gains we should shoot for? What increments put us on the path of mastery and our own UHP?

For the answer, let’s go to the research of Stanford neurologist Robert Sapolsky, who studied actually how much we should continually stretch ourselves.

What is the most effective stretch for Superhuman performance?

According to Sapolsky, 4% better than current performance.

Four percent doesn’t seem like much. But please remember that the key factors to growth are consistency and time.

Think about this one: if you were to practice and attain just a 1% improvement per day in your chosen field. Just to be clear, that obviously leaves 99% at par, but you’re improving one percent.

A 1% improvement per day brings you a total of 30% total improvement in just a month! In a year that’s a full 360% improvement!

Forget the 4% of Sapolsky for a moment… even 4% improvement per week (which gives you 3 days off at a 1% daily climb), brings a whopping 192% improvement in a year!

Play with the math.

It’s staggering.

Again, incremental gains change the world.

Consistency and perseverance trump short-term enthusiasm every single time.

woman walking up the stairs

Sapolsky suggests that if you go beyond a 4% stretch, it’s too great and fear begins to swamp your psyche.

Conversely, if we don’t push the status quo enough, we stop paying attention; and become bored and complacent.

The final point we must consider regarding deliberate practice is the importance of feedback loops. In particular, tight feedback loops.

Forget the quick fix or the promise of overnight solutions or transformation…
Instead, choose the path with steady measurable gains.

person and a child walking on a dark night under the stars


If you’re not familiar with the concept of a feedback loop, it’s been written about and discussed in a variety of ways. The language and labels you choose are not what’s important.

What’s important, as always, is execution.

With my team at Harmonic Wealth Global, as well as with the clients I coached, we label it:

Act, Analyze, and Adjust.

Recognize that the first step is, and always must be, to take action. Far too many people get caught up in doing step two first and getting eternally pitched into the dark abyss of no results.

The paralysis of analysis is insidious.

The universe loves speed.
All high achievers make quick decisions and take immediate action.

star trails long exposure

The fact is that I can do something, completely screw it up, analyze the results, make adjustments, and then fix it… faster than you can attempt to analyze it to perfection before taking action.

mark cubanPerfection is the enemy of profitability. ~ Mark Cuban

Something to think about.

Companies like Nike understand the principle of a feedback loop and have created an entire market around it.

Experience proves that the tighter the feedback loop, the faster the adjustments and improvements that can be made.

Think of Kobe’s example: shoot, analyze, adjust, shoot.

Four hours straight.

Shoot, analyze, adjust, shoot.

Eight hundred times per day.

Shoot, analyze, adjust, shoot.

Every day of the week.

Shoot, analyze, adjust, shoot.


You bet!

Powerful and productive.

No question.

Incremental Gains Change the World

This is the foundation upon which mastery is built. This is the life of your Ultimate Human Performance irrespective of your chosen field.

Ten thousand hours of relentless and deliberate practice. Three hours per day. Three hundred and sixty five days per year.

The quality of your practice determines the quality of your performance.

James Arthur Ray

A Magnificent Obsession.

Your Magnificent Obsession!

Some play basketball…

While some surf.

Some build businesses…

And some build families and their children.

Some write,

Others sing.

Some entertain,

But we all serve.

We all bring our unique gifts, genius and greatness to the world.

And the journey continues…

Be a Leader. Live Your Purpose; and Take Your Power Back!

james arthur ray




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