Original question from Quora:

What are the highest compounding life habits?

By compounding, I mean similar to how $1 saved now can be worth $200 down the road, what are the best habits to start compounding in your life most effectively. I’m working on exercise, meditating, and reading. Any others that compound and pay off hugely down the road? Maybe waking up early?

My Answer:

There is one habit that any person can do and it compounds into a remarkably high value over time. Millions of people have done this and achieved amazing things, yet it is so obvious that it’s almost never mentioned.

Let me explain how it works…

Do you remember third grade math? For some reason I remember it. I can’t explain why.

Here is the part that I remember…

We were learning multiplication tables. You learn the 1’s the 2’s the 3’s the 4’s and so on and so forth. Each day you’d practice and learn 1 x 2 is 2, then 2 x 2 is 4 and so on and so forth.

But, our teacher had a twist on the standard teaching formula. She turned it into a race or contest of some kind, where we would have these quizzes where we would try and do them as fast as we possibly could.

It was fun, and I remember the friendly competition among classmates to be the fastest.

Along the way, I was learning and practicing my multiplication at home every day, just to get better. Over time, I got really good at it and if memory serves me, eventually I think I was the fastest in the class, or at least close to it.

I’m not sure why that stands out to me exactly right now, but it does.

Also growing up, I remember doing competitive swimming. I remember that we had these swim meets on weekends that my mom and dad would take us to. It was fun to try and race and win because I liked to swim.

At the same time, I remember how most nights there was swim practice. Swimming isn’t a popular youth sport like soccer or basketball, it’s more of a niche like gymnastics or ice skating, or even hockey.

Anyhow, there weren’t a lot of other kids my age who spent their evenings in a swimming pool, but I sure did. I practically grew up in the water it seems.

And it was a lot of fun. Seriously, I enjoyed those practices and swim meets a lot more than I thought I did at the time.

Years later, I’ve become an adult and I’ve noticed a funny pattern…

When I get excited about something I’m trying to do or something I want to be, I have no trouble practicing that thing almost every day. I look forward to the practice. I look forward to the competition (even if other people call that work).

And that’s the lesson in my life so far. The biggest compounding habit is the habit of practice. Repeating your effort so as to improve a skill every day.

You see, if I get a little better every day, I get a lot better every year. The results in my life and my career are rarely linear when I set my mind to achievement and practice, but I’ve never achieved in something I didn’t practice.

Even as you read this Quora answer, know that it is my daily practice of writing and thinking, which makes me a better author and communicator in everything else that I do. The mere fact that you’ve read this far proves that my daily practice of writing paid off and will keep paying off.

One of my favorite stories that illustrates this philosophy is of a man who had a friend who was an incredible artist. He asked his friend, “How do you make such beautiful art?” The artist replied, “I paint every day.”

And in that response, you have the compounding habit that will allow you to achieve almost anything.

I paint every day. Do you?

-Brian

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