You probably know what dominoes are. A very interesting fact about dominoes is that a domino can knock down a domino of about 150 % its size. The compounding effect in this phenomenon is enormous. If the first domino is just two inches tall with every domino being 1.5x bigger, the 57th one is almost as big as the distance to the moon. But in order to knock down a really big domino, you have to start with a small one.
You could knock down the entire Empire State Building with just 29 dominoes.
If we apply this concept to real life, we can describe it with the mantra “Think big, but start small”. That’s how overnight success is build. You make the first step and then you constantly improve yourself until with the compounding effect, you finally achieve your big goals and dreams.
Why does the domino strategy work?
The domino strategy works because of the carefully orchestrated process (strategy or sequence, in other words) and huge momentum. Momentum gives the process special speed and acceleration. To achieve the domino effect in real life, you have to meet a special set of criteria. Here’s the formula:
- Start with the smallest possible action. You have to start with small steps.
- Add just a little bit more effort every single time you perform the action.
- Make sure you put actions in the right sequence so each action enables a bigger one. As we said, the sequence (the right strategy) is very important.
- Gain momentum with regular intervals and discipline. Plan sprints and make sure nothing gets between you and your planned action. There must be the right distance between the dominoes – in real life, that means the right frequency of iterations.
- Make actions part of your new lifestyle and life design so you keep momentum.
- You have to stay patient and follow the process. The big success usually comes after several years. Many people unfortunately give up just before the compounding effect gets serious. So never give up and enjoy the compounding effects.
The importance of a sequence
Let’s first focus on the sequence. The sequence is your strategy. As I mentioned, you have to start small and every small action must be an enabler for a bigger one. That’s how you should orchestrate the process that leads you to your desired final outcome step by step. With the first small steps, you start building strong foundations and then you level up your game based on that.
By building the right sequence, you are just the right distance away from your comfort zone in the learning zone. You don’t enter the panic zone. By undertaking just the right amount of challenges, you can also create in the flow without being anxious or bored. You can really learn and progress at the fastest speed possible.
The right sequence enables you to improve your competence level and your abilities bit by bit. By setting the right sequence, you also have to make sure that you’re performing the right actions at the right time.
You have to set the sequence smartly. It must be part of your superior life strategy. You should know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing. Feedback from life metrics and your environment can be a great source of information on how to regularly adjust your strategy. An example would be strategically developing T-shaped skills in combination with the right market trends.
The importance of momentum
The second important force in the domino strategy is momentum. Nobody has really succeeded massively in anything in life without momentum. Momentum leads to a positive spiral. Momentum is accumulated positive energy, determination and support from the environment and key relationships. In momentum, people can see and feel your decisiveness, persistence and single-minded actions, and want to support it and join it. People are drawn to success.
Momentum also gives your self-confidence a boost. A small success gives you additional self-esteem and zeal to go after the next, bigger challenge. Succeeding at a bigger challenge leads to another. You absolutely fail from time to time, but momentum gives additional strength to your life mission, so nothing can dampen your spirits. No failure can stop you.
The right sequence is a superior strategy and smart work. Momentum gives additional power to your mission and to go through small failures.
The only thing you have to be careful is to not become cocky and lose yourself in momentum. You might start thinking that you can’t fail at anything, and if you’re too sure of yourself you may not see the changes in your environment that also require changes in your strategy. That happens to many people and then they fail big.
So always stay humble and never lose your sharpness, no matter how successful you are.
Practical applications of the domino strategy
You can apply the domino strategy to basically any area of life. You can use it to increase your wealth, build up your competence level or your shiny career, you can use it to improve your fitness performance or your happiness levels.
Here’s an example. If you save only 360 $ per month since you are 20, you can become a millionaire at 65, if you achieve 8 % annual yield on your investments. Good returns are the right strategy, saving money each month and computing effects are your momentum. Does a million dollars sound good? Well, exploit the domino effect.
The key is to start early. The earlier you start the better, because the compounding effect is so much bigger in the long term. The best moment to start was when you were yet small, the second best moment to do it is now.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. – Chinese proverb
Pick one life area and do one small thing right now. Go for a run. Read one page of a book. Transfer some money to your savings account. Just do one small thing. Every journey starts with a single step. If you can’t do it right now, timebox the first step in your calendar. But it’s better to do it now.
Then do it again tomorrow with a mild progression or whatever the ideal frequency is (there must be the right distance between the dominoes). Then do it again and again. Then madly educate yourself and outline the right strategy, the right sequence of events and actions you do. In the last step, gain momentum and don’t let go of it with the philosophy “never retreat, never surrender”.
Now knock down your first domino in a sequence and let the games begin.