AKA, “the Aggregation of Marginal Gains”.  AKA, “the 1% Rule”. AKA, building a castle, one block at a time.

Call it what you will, it just works.

Albert Einstein purportedly said of the matter:

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it,earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it. Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.

Now maybe this is another case of retroactively placing a line of witty profundity into the mouth of a dead icon to give it more punch. Who knows.

Either way, though, compounding interest – whether we’re speaking finances, personal development or goal attainment – is a powerful force indeed.  Just ask Warren Buffett. Or Jimmy Buffett, for that matter. Or the British national cycling team.

Another example.

I’m currently attending the Holistic Visions Symposium, just outside of Barcelona, Spain.

The day prior to the conference, I had the opportunity to visit the most incredible monument to Christianity I’ve ever seen: Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.

Construction on the basilica began in 1882, and is still ongoing.  

You read that right – 1882!

Now, as I toured this spectacular building I couldn’t help but think what an incredible, real-world representation it is of the aggregation of marginal gains.

Just as Sagrada Familia is being built one block at a time, so YOU are being built one action at a time.

The trick, of course, is to pick the right actions.  Pick the wrong actions and you slide, slowly but surely, into fuckdom.

Ever hear someone say they “turned around and found themselves 50 pounds heavier”?  Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.

Using Sagrada Familia as an example, we can build a basilica of YOU.

First, there is the vision of what could be.  For Gaudi, it was an immense cathedral. For you, it may be “better health”, or an improved relationship with your wife.

Next, the vision has to be broken down to smaller pieces comprising the whole.  Visions (and vision boards, for that matter) are too vague. We have to establish concrete mile-markers along the path.

In the case of the basilica, money had to be gathered.  Land purchased. Architectural plans drawn. You will have to do the same, in the context of your day-to-day life. How can that vision be broken down into attainable steps?

And then there is the script.  The systems and processes that will guide you to each of those “mini goals”.  For Gaudi, it was the blueprint for the structure, as well as the entirety of construction project management.

For you, that’s going to be establishing a stupid-simple script.  Remember: this is not about intelligence, this is about wrangling both your emotion and subconscious.  

Nor is it about willpower.  Have one shitty day at work and, with your willpower zapped, you just hoovered 2 pints of Ben’s and Jerry’s down your blowhole.  The stupid-simple way? Just don’t keep that shit in your house. Why tempt fate?

You don’t have to win the war outright.  In fact, thinking that you must will only set you up for failure (and the follow-on self loathing).  You just have to establish systems and processes that drive you to be one percent better each day. Then sit back and leverage the compounding effect.

One more hour of not smoking.  Another heroin-free day.  Another 5 pounds on the bar or 5 pounds off the scale.  

Another block in the basilica.

Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world –



  1. Keith,

    Enjoy Barcelona! Gaudi also used the principles of Fractal geometry and extensive use of the Fibonacci series in his architecture. It is likely why his structures look so…physiologic. When I stood inside the Sagrada Familia, I was struck by how much the arches resembled the cordi tendonae in the left ventricle of the heart. In any case, it is a remarkable monument to the power of repeating simple patterns over and over again over a span of time can accomplish.

    Great Post!

    • Thanks, brother. Excellent insight. Harmonics, fractal geometry, light, etc. When one really takes time to contemplate the majestic beauty of them and their interaction with one another, well… “awe” just doesn’t do the feeling justice.


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