How to Find Success: Take the Penny Test

What would you do if I offered you one of the following two options?

  1. Take 3 million dollars right now.
  2. Take 1 penny on December 1, and double that amount every day for the month of December.

If you’re like most people, you probably did a little bit of math in your head, and took the first option. After all, on day 1, you only have 1 penny. On day 2, it’s 2 pennies. Then 4 (day 3), 8 (day 4), 16 (day 5), 32 (day 6), and 64 (day 7). Even at the end of 2 weeks, you would only have about 80 dollars. Taking 3 million right now seems like the safer bet.

If you follow the math all the way to day 31, however, you would realize that taking the penny option is better. Much better, in fact. By day 31, you would have over 10 million dollars. Here’s the tricky thing about the penny test: It takes a LONG time for you to see the return on your investment. You have to play the long game.

This is a silly example, but it highlights a principle that is very important for success in any area of your life: Small changes performed consistently over a long period of time lead to success.

This isn’t a sexy or popular idea. We want to get rich quick. We want rock-hard abs in 5 minutes per day. We want to get an A without studying for the exam. The problem with these strategies is that they don’t work. You might jump from one fad to the other, seeing little or no change in your life.

The alternative is less sexy, takes more time, and requires a lot more work. But it’s the only way to achieve lasting success.

If you want to make a lot of money, you have to learn a craft, work hard, and stick with it.

If you want to get in shape, you have to follow a diet and exercise plan, and stick with it.

If you want to get good grades, you have to develop good study skills and put in the time, consistently.

There’s no shortcut to success. Take the penny.


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