The Magic of Compound Effect

The British Cycling Kaizen

British Cycling changed its course in 2003.

When Dave Brailsford became the performance director of British Cycling in 2003, the team had almost no record of success, having won only a single gold medal in its 76-year history. Since then, it quickly changed as UK won golds at the Olympic events, and cycling largest event, the Tour de France.

Brailsford was noted for his innovative concept of ‘marginal gains’. A 1% improvement everywhere would aggregate the tiny gains into radical improvements over a period of time.

The Payoff of Compound Effect

The compound effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices.

In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. There is no noticeable difference. But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compounded, and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t.

This is why small choices don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.

Small, smart choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference

The Magical ROI Coin

If I give you a choice between a penny that will double in value everyday and $3 million in cash upfront. Which one will you choose? A penny or $3 million?

If you heard this before, which I did because I studied Actuarial Mathematics in university, and this is a large portion of the course, you will know that the penny gambit is the choice that will lead to greater wealth. Yet, why is it so hard to believe that choosing this penny will result in more money in the end? It’s because it takes so much longer to see the payoff.

Here’s how the math goes. If I take the cash upfront, woohoo, I got $3 million now. I’m a millionaire! While my friend took the penny route.

On Day 5, my friend has sixteen cents. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16. While I have $3 million.

On Day 10, it’s $5.12 versus my big lump sum. How do you think my friend is feeling at this time about his decision? I’m spending my millions and enjoying it all and his five dollars.

On Day 20, with only 11 days left. The penny route has only $5,243. How will he feel at this time? Despite all the sacrifice and positive feeling, it’s $5000 versus $3 million. I can tell you. It sucks, and I had been in these financial positions before, and often, unable to shoulder the regrets.

Then, on Day 31, compounding kicks in with a bang, and that penny is worth $10,737,418.24. More than three times my $3 million. Wow.

Here, consistency over time is so important because even at Day 29, I got my $3 million, with my friend has around $2.7 million. It isn’t until Day 30 that my friend pulled ahead with $5.3 million, and only on the very last day of this 31 day journey is the penny route worth $10.7 million.

The Three Friends

Let say we have three normal individuals. A, B, and C who are long-time friends but seldom meet each other. Each lead identical life. The same 9 to 5, wife, children and everything. Then, they meet up one time and are surprised by how similar the three of them look like each other. They cheered with their beers and made a promise to see each other again.

A returned and continued his life as usual. The same meal, the same routine. B returned and decided to cut some calories from his daily life Let say 100 calories. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just simple steps anyone can take. Maybe 1 less slice of bread for breakfast, or swapping his usual soda for iced water. Or even just a 15 minutes detour to stroll around the park on his way back from work.

C went back and installed a bar at the corner of the living room where his favorite alcoholic beverage is always in view. Because of this, each time he passed by the bar, he took a sip for himself. Just a tiny sip.

Half a year passed by, and the three friends gather again for a reunion. They cheered and returned to their homes. Everyone still looked similar to each other.

Another half a year passed and the three friends meet up again. There isn’t anything different now, except for maybe B had to pull his belt a notch tighter, while C is slightly plumper around the waist.

Then, another half a year, and this time, everyone looked different. A remained the same, while B has a slimmer waist a taunt jawline. At the same time, C is overweight with a beer belly protruding from his waist.

Nothing else is different. A continued his life as normal, while B cut off 100 calories from his daily life, and C had another sip of his favorite drink. Yet, this lead to drastic physical changes over a period of time.

The Ripple Effect

The example above may seemed dramatic, it goes deeper than that. In reality, one small change can have a significant impact that caused unexpected ripple. C’s frequent drinks makes him a bit sluggish at night. He wakes up a bit groggy, which makes him cranky. This grogginess soon affect his work performance as he’s less productive.

His manager noticed this, and as a result, gave C discouraging feedback. At the end of the day, he’s unhappy with work and his manager, and his stress level went up. He compensated for this by eating more.

He brings the negative thoughts back home, and choose to keep to himself, distancing himself from his wife. His wife received less affection, and their relationship became strained.

All these negative feedback has an ability to feed into each other and snowballed to something larger. That’s the ripple effect. Unfortunately for C, the small choices he made on a daily basis created a ripple that wreaked havoc on every area of his life.

This ripple effect can both be a positive or negative thing.

In high school, I scored 15A1 in my public examination, which is probably equivalent to As in 15 O level subjects. I was one of the highest achiever in the country, but I don’t think I was anything special compared to my peers.

I wasn’t the most hardworking student growing up. In fact, you can go to my report card and see what my teacher wrote for my parents about me. Smart, but lazy. Yeah, I wasn’t above doing the bare necessary. Others went for tutoring session while I spent my afternoon watching cartoons.

Yes, I like to move ahead at my own slow pace.

The only thing I held sacred was my homework. Regardless of anything, I have a compulsion to finish all my homework on the day I received them. And that’s it. Because I wanted to finish all my homework (while watching cartoon at the same time), I will park myself in front of the tv while filling in the exercise books with answers. If I am stumped, i will picked up the reference books and flipped through them.

I almost always managed to finish my homework before bed, and this build a confidence in me that I can study anything. And because I always handed in my homework on time, my teacher praised me that created a positive feedback loop that ticked my interest in certain subjects and I excelled in them.

You see, all these positive reinforcement simply because I choose to finish my homework on time everyday snowballed by the time I have to take the public examinations. Other choose at most ten subjects, or less, while I go for fifteen because I believed that i can do it.

And I did, which allowed me a full scholarship to study mathematics in US. There, I made connections and life decisions that impacted me good and bad to this day. If it wasn’t for my initial choice, I probably won’t be studying abroad, and my life path will be different.

  • Remove “insta-result” Choices => Behavior => Habits

Understanding compound effect should remove the expectation of “insta-result”. Many times, even I felt that I am spoiled by all the instant gratification all around me. Instant messaging, automatic hot water, Youtube.

It’s hard to wean off expectation of insta-result when I’m so used to it. But understanding compound effect means that I can also tell myself that it’s okay to choose the choices with less instant gratification but ultimately lead to a better outcome in the long run.

Choices => Behavior => Habit

My choice of always detouring to the bakery to pick up a donut after lunch, had me on a sugary high addiction, and lead me down habits that lead down towards an expanding waistline. My stomach will always squelch at the sight of donuts and my brain will send out a signal that its hungry even when I just had lunch to urge me to buy the sugary snack.

I realized about this when my pants felt a little tight. I realized the donuts were leading me down an unhealthy lapse. I had to do something and that was to kick off the trigger point of buying donuts by not heading to the bakery on the way back to work from lunch. Such simple measure is enough to stop this bad habit.

By not crossing path with the bakery, I will not see the donut and thus, don’t carve for it, which won’t lead me to a sugar crash and a more productive afternoon at work. It’s a simple daily choice but over time, my belly will thank me for it.

How to Put This Compound Effect to Work for You

  • Decide which areas you want to improve on. Are there any excuses that you are clinging on that is stopping you from getting ahead?
  • Write down a few small, seemingly inconsequential steps that you can take everyday that can take your life in a positive direction.
  • Write down a few small, seemingly inconsequential steps that you can stop doing everyday that might be compounding your results downward.
  • List a few areas, skills or outcomes that you had been successful in the past. Consider whether you had been taking them for granted, and is not continuing to improve, leading to complacency when you can instead pivot them for further success in the future.

Textjoin is a new handy formula in my frequent used list

In my line of work, I handled a lot of lines of data extracted from a database, and sometimes, I just wanted to filter the extraction criteria based on a smaller list.

While I used to save this criteria into a text list, and load the text into the filter, for some reason, that method stopped working because the macro used cannot open and recognize txt file anymore.

But filtering based on string is still working. I am not going to type in a few hundred characters each time I want to filter. Instead, I used TEXTJOIN, a new formula that came with the Excel 365, joining together everything in an area into a continuous string.

= TEXTJOIN(“,”,TRUE,A:A)

Here, I am using a “,” to separate each different data, ignoring black space, and joining all the data within column A.

I pasted the resulting string back into my extraction query. Simple as that.

Advanced Optimization Trick – Speeding WordPress Through Selective Activation

Loading redundant plugin globally can be a drag on website speed. Let’s say that I used Contact Form 7 plugin, and it unfortunately loads itself on every webpage when I truly only need it on the Contact Me page. If the webpage weighed about 1MB, and the plugin script weighed 0.1MB, what happened if I stopped the unwanted 0.1MB from being loaded? Now, the webpage is only 0.9MB. Lighter and faster to be downloaded.

This site is loading at 190ms the last time I ran it through Pingdom, and that’s faster than 99.9% of existing websites. Selective activation plays a role in pushing it to the limits.

Selective activation of plugins and scripts can shed unwanted excess weight off a webpage and makes it faster. Then, the issue now is how to do it. The Gonzales plugin can do it but it comes at a $29 price tag.

Plugin Logic – Old, Free and Light

For years, I used Plugin Logic as my main go to for this. It’s truly light, simple, and FREE. The downside of using this plugin is that it is old and lacked of support. But it doesn’t mean anything because this plugin continued to work as intended just the way it is. I specified where I want each plugin to work and that’s it.

But, with WordPress clamping down on “aged” plugins and hiding them from view, I couldn’t even find this plugin through the search tool anymore though it’s still there in the directory. And it’s usable, light and still FREE.

Plugin Load Filter – Next FREE Plugin

Which brings me to this next plugin, Plugin Load Filter, which I also find helpful and intuitive. It offers selective activation by url, and also by type. I am using this particular plugin on this site.

Right now, I have a table of content plugin which unfortunately also loads globally. mainly because I can set the TOC anywhere. However, all I wanted to use the TOC for was on my blog post. Through Plugin Load Filter, I can activate it only on my Post type posts. So, I wouldn’t see the TOC plugin running on my homepage where I don’t need it and thus, making that homepage load faster.

Plugin Organizer – Viable Alternative For Techies

A third free alternative. Plugin Organizer also offers to rearrange the loading order of the plugins, but I don’t like to change this around. I preferred the simpler layout of first two plugins.

Asset Queue Manager – Supercharged Selective Activation

The Asset Queue Manager plugin is a seldom used plugin with only 1000+ installs. It’s also another one of the “aged” plugins that WordPresss been keeping on the hush, but it’s a gem of a plugin because this plugin allowed selective activation of scripts in the front end. I will use this in tandem with another plugin from above to get the best synergy.

Assumed that my WordPress theme comes with FontAwesome. A lot of designers included them because it’s something of a design crutch for icons. But I don’t use it. I don’t need it. It adds about 80kb to all my webpages, and it comes in my WordPress theme. So, I can’t deselect my plugins to stop them from loading.

With AQM, I can dequeue FontAwesome from loading and cut of 80kb globally from my website.

Another way to use this is to be selective of functions. Let’s say a plugin offers a few functions but I am only interested in one of them because the rest slowed down my site. So, I can dequeue other scripts and keep only the one that I want.

If I want to go more extreme, I can also use it to dequeue style script. Mainly if I used a plugin for its function, I had no use for codes that determined the plugin appearance since no one will look at it anyway. Dequeue the style and I saved a few more kb.

Combining Custom Views and Macro to be a PPT Superstar

Custom View is a function of Excel that I sadly found that many didn’t know about, and even less used it. You can find it under View > Custom Views.

What it essentially do was to save a snapshot of your file outlook at that moment. Imagine, your files could have multiple hidden data not meant to be shown in a presentation. And instead of hiding it one by one, you select custom views and had it return to the preset you had save for this. Do this multiple times, and it will save you hours of getting the view right.

You might have different business unit that view the same data but in different format, or even focus on specific data only. Create multiple custom views for it.

Eg, Exec A Presentation, Exec B Presentation, Exec C Presentation

Save the time from formatting the file each time there a different presentation with your preset.

I coupled it together with macro to export the pictures to PPT to make my presentation life easier.

Reducing the Size of Excel File

Someone in the past asked me to help reduce the size of her excel file. It’s over 100mb and killing her storage space.

I did a few adjustments and it went down to 1mb. 100-fold decrease in size.

1. Remove Unused Spaces

Go to your Excel file, press Ctrl + End. How far did it reach? Do you need all these cell space?

Sometimes, you might selected a cell at the far end of the excel sheet. You realized the mistake and return to the original location. Easy right? No issue here?

Wrong. You selected a cell at the other end, and effectively turned the space between this cell and A1 as active sheet. Even if you didn’t do anything in these cells, the fact that they are active takes up memory size.

What you can do to remove this dead space is highlight the column after the last cell that you wanted to use, and click Ctrl + Shift + Right to reach the end of the active column. Right click and delete all these columns.

Do the same for the the rows. Highlight the row after the last cell that you wanted to use and click Ctrl + Shift + Down to reach the end of active row. Right click and delete all these rows.

Do the same for every sheet in the file and you removed the dead space inside.

2. Too Many Pivot Tables

No, I can’t remove my pivot tables. They are essential to my reporting. Sure, but that depends on how it’s created.

When you create a pivot table from raw data, it also creates a copy of the raw data in memory. So, each time you create a new pivot table from the raw data, it creates another copy of the raw data. Even if the raw data in question are both the same. See where I’m going with this?

With each pivot table you are creating, you making multiple copies of the raw data. However, if you copied the first pivot table and paste it, the new pivot table will refer to the source file of the first pivot table. You are not creating another copy of the raw data this way.

So, if you have multiple pivot tables that referred to the same raw data. Delete the rest and start over copy and pasting the first pivot table. You are preventing the raw data from being created over and over again.

3. Changing Excel format

The smallest excel format I used is a xlsb ending. The default excel format nowadays is xlsx and that compressed the size a lot over the previous xls format. So, if you are still using an xls format, or inherited a file from years ago, consider saving it in xlsx or xlsb for even more compression.

Use Lookup, Not Nested If

The IF formula is a useful function and often used. A simple binary outcome, TRUE or FALSE, 1 or 0. But because it’s so commonly used that most abused it in the form of NESTED IF.

You saw it before.

 IF(condition1, result1, IF(condition2, result2, IF(condition3, result3, result4)) 

Because the logic is simple here, most defaulted to using Nested IF. I do too, but at some point, enough is enough.

Things become cumbersome if the Nested IF became longer. Over time, more conditions could pop up and a remedy would be to add another enclosed IF to specify that condition.

Logic wise, there’s nothing wrong with nested if but it’s a headache to view at organization level. Imagined having to read a formula with a longer nested if than maybe 7? I encountered a 23 level Nested IF and that was a nightmare.

So, please. Use Lookup instead if there’s a long nested if. It’s simple and much easier to adjust than a long string of formula.

Macros from Beginners to Experts

One of the ways to truly maximize the power of the MS Office Suite is through macros.

A macro is basically a set of instructions to perform specific task. I set macros in Word, Powerpoint, but where it truly shines is in Excel. I saved hundred of hours of work just by automating a number of repeating task with macros.

Here’s how I would proceed with creating macros if I’m a

Beginner

The Record Macro button. It’s found from View > Macros > Record Macros.

Give the macro a name and OK to start. It’ll immediately record all the actions done until the Stop Recording square button is clicked at the bottom left to stop recording.

Attached the macro to a button by going to Insert > Shapes to put in a button. Right click the button and select Assign Macro to link the macro created to this button.

Now, each time the button is clicked, the macro is activated and the same steps will be repeated without any interventions.

The pro about this method is that it’s easy and simple. You just have to perform what you want to do, and the macro will repeat it each time.

The con on the other hand is that it is crude. I’m not kidding when I said that it will record everything action including superfluous ones like scrolling the screen etc. The code created are not the most efficient and sometimes, more complex sequences couldn’t be performed through this method.

Intermediate

This is the level is where most of my projects are at. It’s at a level where you are comfortable to look into the source code and modify it. There are tutorials for writing macros available in the internet and the goldmine of source codes.

To access the source code, right click on the tab and select View Code to enter the VBA sheet.

On the left hand side, search for the Modules or wherever you want the macro to be at and write the codes there.

At this level, there’s no need to recreate the wheel. A lot of suggestions and sample codes are available online. I usually start from there. Far easier to work from something existing than to restart from scratch. If I do need to start from nothing, I would actually use the Record Macro function in previous method to record the actions I wanted to do and continue modifying from there. It’s also here where you can realize why there’s a lot of redundant codes created if you used Record Macro function.

Don’t let the mind be limited by what a macro can do. Since I’m doing a finance focused job, I automated my data extraction, parameter refresh, chart refresh, and even copy paste the charts to ppt. Yup, preparing and transferring charts as pictures to specific ppt were all done through macros.

To get better at this stage, I put in the lessons I learned from computer programming in the past. I envisioned what I want the macro to achieve at the end. It might appear utterly complicated, but I break them down into the simplest part on what each function should achieve. At this point, it might be easier to create a flow chart of actions. You can see the relationship on how to create the macro and the flow of data.

I inserted many comments to provide clarify if I revisit the source code in the future to remind myself, or anyone else who inherited the file on what each function should do. In the VBA screen, creating Toggle Point between two line of codes allowed to see how the codes interacted and where did it break down. It’s often how I diagnosed the codes if they don’t work as needed. This is where breaking down the macro to the simplest form allow easy checking on each functions.

Expert

At this level, it involved more in depth knowledge of macro than I’m used to. I’m talking about changing the GUI and creating addins etc.

Something like above. Almost new environment created inside Excel itself. I don’t think most work with Excel will ever need to reach this level but it’s there. And that file above is something I used on a frequent basis.

The Art of Writing

I’m in the middle of tearing my hair out trying to put the completing touch on the first draft of my novel.

Hence, I went through some window shopping on Amazon to see if any title attracted my attention. I found several free books and guessed, why not. I’m listing them below just in case anyone wanted them as well.

Writing a Page Turner: Five Editing Maxims to Make Your Book Irresistible by Mark Dawson.

How to Work with an Editor: A Guide for (Nervous) Authors also by Mark Dawson.

Mark is famed as a thriller writer and his Facebook Ads course. He’s also part of the Self Publishing Formula podcast, and I’m guessing these are his funnels leading to his courses. I only selected these 2 out of the series of list cause I’m interested to have a more thrilling approach in my writing and I’m also working with an editor now. There’s a whole lot others in part of his self publishing series.

How to Write a Novel in 30 Days in Perrin Briar

A novel. 30 days? And it’s free? Sure, why not have a look at it.

Art & Craft of Writing: Secret Advice for Writers

Also part of a series. At this point, my library is a bit bloated with craft books, but secret advice, I’ll still take it.

Potato Diet for Weight Loss

Eating potatoes can solve all your problems… really!

Alright, that’s an exaggeration but I came across this post by Rusty Moore a couple of months ago and was intrigued.

The Potato Hack for Rapid Fat Loss | The All Potato Diet

So, the key idea here is just to have potatoes. Nothing else but potatoes for three days straight to lose weight.

You can have all the food you want, but it has to be boiled potatoes. With nothing else, perhaps a little salt to push the potato down the throat. Boiled a whole batch of potatoes the night before and put them into the fridge. Then, when the diet starts, as long as you are hungry, you can eat the potatoes.

Why potatoes? Well, it boils down to a research that claimed that potatoes are one of the most satiating food around. For the same amount of calories/nutrients, potatoes are much more satiating than other type of food. Your stomach can feel full even though it didn’t consume as much when compared to eating other type of foods.

It’s one of the main idea in limiting the calories intake without causing the hunger discomfort that often comes with dieting. Another factor is also because of the existence of resistant starch. For potatoes, if you cooked and then cooled the potatoes, the amount of resistant starch increase with each process of heating and cooling. So, the starch passed through the gut without being digested.

I went online for reviews. It looked like majority of people lost some weight on it. Even, Ireland went through a long period of just eating on potatoes alone and they survived. So, any nutritional imbalance wouldn’t be that bad since I’m going on it for just 3 days.

Here’s what I thought when I went through it. I pressure cooked a whole batch of potatoes.

Do I hate it? Yes, very much, especially by Day 2 of just eating plain boiled potatoes. I mean, I’m relatively fit, and by no means, requires dieting or anything. Why did I push myself to go through this when I could gouge on delicious meat (yeah, I was having food cravings since Day 1). I feel like I’m torturing myself with it, before I relented to using salt on the potatoes. Buy a large bag of potatoes. I under estimated how much potatoes I could consume and had to end this early because I ran out of potatoes the first time around.

Will I try it again? Possibly. It works. I lost some weight, and had one of the easiest experience in the toilet. With the amount of potatoes I ate, I had a lot of roughage in my system and it just make the stool pass faster. Yeah, I’ll try it again in the future since I have a wedding celebration to attend to in a couple more months. I want to be leaner by then.

Will I recommend it to others? Possibly. Do you want a mostly painless way of losing weight within just 3 days. If yes, try it out. After all, I survived it.

I’m back and ready for action

The break had been beneficial.

I’m testing my feet in a lot of different areas I never tried before – Amazon, Youtube etc.

Only time will tell if my efforts will bore any fruits.