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The Danger of Stagnation

time management skills, business success

In thermodynamics, entropy represents a system’s progression to what scientists call thermodynamic equilibrium. That’s a fancy word for saying “no energy”; or if you like, death. Entropy is a natural law of the universe. It means everything is in the slow process of breaking down. Stars, planets, plants, animals, those chicken leftovers you put in the refrigerator last night, and even you.

This law also extends to non-physical things, like money and businesses.

You could argue with my oversimplification of entropy, but my overall point is that if something in your life maintains at a certain level, it’s actually not maintaining at all. It’s degrading. Perhaps very slowly, but every year it’s less and less.

Here are some real life examples.

Your Income

If you make the exact same income over a period of many years, you’re actually making less money due to inflation. If you made $40,000 two years ago, $40,000 one year ago, and will make $40,000 this year, you should not be patting yourself on the back. That’s because your income is actually going down. Thanks to our government and Federal Reserve system, American dollars buy a little less every year.

It might look like you’re maintaining your income, but you’re actually getting poorer every year.

Your Body

At around age 25, your body starts to age. Every year thereafter your body naturally gets a little weaker, fatter, slower, and loses testosterone or estrogen. Your brain gets a little slower, and your reaction time decreases.

This means that if you eat the same exact foods and exercise the same amount every year starting at age 25, you’re going to get fatter, slower, and less healthy every year. If you’re over age 40, you know exactly what I’m talking about. (Could you eat exactly what you used to eat when you were 22?)

You think you’re maintaining, because you’re doing the same things with your diet and exercise, but you’re actually getting worse.

Your Business

As we’ve discussed recently, your business experiences natural customer attrition. If you have 100 customers this year, unless you get out there and get some new business, next year you’ll have 92 or 89 or 70, even if you’re doing everything right. Every year your business naturally degrades on its own.

You Have No Choice But To Improve

This all means something. It means that even if you have accomplished all of your goals in life, and your goal going forward is to maintain what you have (money, income, business, relationships, physical fitness, etc), you actually need to improve a little every year, just to fight off entropy.

I don’t know exactly what this percentage is, but the number I always have in my head is 3%. Every year of my life, I need to improve all of my key life areas, even the ones I’m not interested in or excited about, at least 3%. Otherwise I’m going backwards. I sure as hell don’t want to go backwards, so I make very sure everything in my life improves at least 3% every year. Obviously, I want much more than 3% in my key improvement areas, but I consider 3% as a baseline for maintenance.

Because no improvement actually means losing ground every year…