Power of 1 percent

How much impact does 1 percent have on anybody?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The power of 1 percent is a golden rule which definitely goes along with this famous proverb. Let’s understand this through the example of the British cycling team

In the last 110 years, the British cycling team did not win a single competition. British rider’s performance was so underwhelming that many top cycle brands from Europe refused to sell their products to them. They were afraid that if other people see British riders using their cycles then it would lay a negative impact on their brand value and furthermore decrease their sales.

Seeing this condition, British cycling management decided to appoint Dave Brailsford as their new performance director. Dave Brailsford followed the methodology of the aggregation of marginal gains. The idea behind this strategy was to break everything into small modules that are essential for riding a bicycle and start working on those modules by showing tiny improvements regularly and you will be surprised to see a significant increase in the overall performance when you aggregate them together.

Brailsford and his team of coaches started their journey by making some small and common adjustments that are expected from a professional cycling team. Some of the major improvements include:

  1. Redesigning the cycle seats to make them more comfortable for the rider.
  2. Rubbing alcohol on tires to make them rough for better grip.
  3. They made riders wear electrically heated shorts to maintain ideal thigh muscle temperature while riding.

But he didn’t restrict this process of getting marginal gains in just the mechanical aspect. Brailsford and his team continued to find 1 percent improvements even in the unexpected areas which are commonly overlooked by the people:

  1. They hired a surgeon to teach the riders about the best way to wash hands to reduce the chances of getting the common cold or any other infection.
  2. They tried different types of massage gel on riders for identifying which one recovers the muscles faster.
  3. They even changed the pillows and mattresses for increasing the sleep quality of riders.

Along with these tiny improvements, 100s of small enhancements were also performed. After dedicated 5 years of getting marginal gains in every aspect, the British Cycling team dominated the road and they initiated their victorious journey by registering triumph and getting 60 percent of the gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

In the 10 years from 2007 to 2017, the British cycling team won 178 world championships, 66 Olympic and Paralympic gold medals and 5 Tour de France victories. Their winning pathway is widely regarded as the most successful run in cycling history. It was the power of 1 percent rule which transformed the British Cycling Team from rags to riches.

How this 1 percent of marginal shift can bring out the best in you?

This story left me spellbound. Even when we see entrepreneurs, world-class performers, business tycoons, and persuasive leaders we often convince ourselves by saying that they are born winners or they must have done a plethora of hard work to reach the top. It is quite easy to overestimate the vital importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making tiny improvements regularly.

Small improvements are not only restricted to winning the Tour de France or building Facebook. It applies to all the areas of our lives whether it is to shed extra 100 pounds, build a business, clear interview of your dream job, writing a book or to marry a prince/princess 😜. But sadly many a time we often put too much pressure on ourselves by thinking to achieve them as soon as possible. Always remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day

1 percent improvement journey can be sometimes quite frustrating because results are not very immediate and unnoticeable but these series of getting marginal improvements and their aggregation are meaningful and fruitful in the long run.

The science behind 1 percent rule

If you improve by 1 percent every day for a year you will end up becoming 37.78 percent better by the year-end. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for a year, you will be declined down to zero.

1% better everyday 1.01³⁶⁵ = 37.781% worse everyday 0.99³⁶⁵ = 0.03

Self-improvement process:

1. Habits

The best way to succeed in life is to form good habits. Today, we all live in a society where everybody is focused on the outcome rather than building good habits. Good habits are the process behind your success. If you want to reduce weight then you should form better eating and exercising habits, similarly, if you want to be a famous singer then you have to manifest singing habits.

2. Forget About Results, Focus on Systems Instead

James Clear wrote in one of his best selling books: Atomic Habits

“Prevailing wisdom claims that the best way to achieve what we want in life — getting into better shape, building a successful business, relaxing more and worrying less, spending more time with friends and family — is to set specific, actionable goals.”

For a plethora of years, this is exactly how I have been approaching my life too. I was so result-oriented that everything had become a goal for me from scoring a good percentage in my college to get placed in Google. Though I was able to achieve a good CGPA but failed to crack Google’s interview and missing my target just by a few inches. I realized that the fault is not in stars but the method.

Let me summarise this with the help of an example

  • If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur and your result is to build a million‐dollar business
    Your system should be to test innovative product ideas on regular intervals, hire employees, and run marketing campaigns
  • If you’re an aspiring gym enthusiast and your end goal is to increase the size of your bicep to 18 inches
    Your system should be how often you hit the gym and train your bicep muscle.

The goal in any sport is to finish with the best score, but it would be ridiculous to play the entire game staring at the scoreboard. The only method to win and be successful is to get better each day. In the words of three‐time Super Bowl winner Bill Walsh, “The score takes care of itself”.


We often say that we are bound with daily activities and crib about not having enough time. Most of the people spend their precious time doing not so important activities like procrastination, checkout out social media, etc. According to a survey, average people spend about 135 minutes a day on social media which is about 10% of your day. Can you imagine how much difference we can make in our lives by giving ourselves just 20 minutes a day? Out of 1440 minutes (24 * 60), can’t we spare 20 minutes, dedicated only for self-improvements? It could be either for reading books, meditation, exercising or listening to podcasts. These 20 minutes of 1 percent improvement will ultimately lead you to be 37.78% better you.

What’s Next?

There are many more topics we need to discuss in detail, follow me and keep an eye on this place. In the next few posts I will be writing in detail about the following topics:

  • The P — PC rule.
  • Are you correctly consuming fruits?
  • Learn about compound exercises.

Please share your thoughts about this article in the comment section or share it on twitter and don’t forget to follow me on Medium.

Thanks for reading 😊 Cheers, keep learning and sharing 😊

Excerpted from Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear.

Software Developer at Microsoft

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