A Tale of Two Growth Patterns

bar-chart-7I've adopted a new mantra: "Cada día, más palabras."

It's my strategy for learning Spanish. Every day, more words. It means exactly what you think, add a little bit every day, end up with a lot. That is classic linear thinking and it is how we tend to believe the world works:  Put more in ==> Get more out.

Except for the most part, that's not how the world works. It's why during the first months of learning a new language there's tremendous growth and then BOOM... you're stuck in the present tense for what seems a lifetime. (But I'm not bitter.)

Having a better understanding of growth patterns will help you manage your frustration when the linear gods are working against you. Most growth follows one of two patterns. (H/T to James Clear and Scott Young for the source material.)

The more common growth pattern is logarithmic growth. This is growth that increases quickly, but over time gains become increasingly smaller and more difficult. In addition to language learning, this is generally the growth pattern for fitness training, weight loss,  musical skill, programming, etc. It looks something like this:



The second type of growth pattern is exponential growth. If you remember the old shampoo commercial, "I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on..." then you know what exponential growth is. It starts off slowly and then make significant gains rapidly. This is the foundation of social media. It might take a month to get your first 100 likes but only a week to get to 1000. It looks something like this:




Logarithmic growth requires focused determination to get to the next stage. It is about having the discipline to do the work and maintain consistency. It's about enjoying the satisfaction of precision and expertise.

Exponential growth is about doing the early work with not much to show for it. It's about being patient and diligent, with little encouragement or reward. It's about believing in yourself and always putting your best self out there, even when it seems no one cares.

Understanding the growth pattern you're in will help you decide how to manage the experience. It will also help you refrain from beating yourself up when you're in a valley.

Whatever pattern you're in, stop right now and congratulate yourself for having the tenacity and the will to try something new. Then, get back to work.

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