The 1% difference

The 1% Difference: Sustainable success

You might be thinking how 1% could even make a difference? Where is the other 99%? Well, I am going to show you just how significant that 1% is to your success. The 1% that makes the difference is about the small change you make for the better in the long term. We will also see just how important the 1% is when debriefing after the completion of a task. What you do after the mission, is just as important as what you did in it!

The 1% Theory

There is power in small gains every day and here is how: if you get 1% better every day for a year, you will be 37x better at the end of the year than when you started. 1365 = 1. This equation is the equivalent of stagnancy. You’re not regressing, but you’re also not moving forward. Add in just 1% more and we get this equation: (1.01)365 = 37.8. This equation shows just how significant that 1% more makes in our daily life!

Making small changes every day that better your life may not sound ground-breaking, but it sounds better than making huge changes and becoming burnt out because of the exhaustion of keeping that change up! Meaningful change does not necessarily have to be big changes that alter the course of your life. Sustainable change is meaningful change, that in time makes a huge difference, while not putting a huge toll on you in the present. Meaningful and sustainable change = meaningful and sustainable success…which is deep performance!

We are fast approaching the start of 2022. People everywhere will be planning their new year’s resolutions. How many new year’s resolutions have you truly stuck with and seen all the way to the finish? Maybe a few, maybe none. New year’s resolutions are a good example of big goals and changes that people try to implement, but they often abandon them not long after they’ve embarked upon them! There have been lots of studies done on the percentage of people who stick to their resolutions and across the board, it is generally only about 7% of people that see their resolution to completion! There are many smarter ways of setting goals and seeing them through to completion, and new year’s resolutions may not be the one for you!

The British Story of Success!

In 2003, Dave Brailsford was hired as the new director of performance for the British cycling team, armed with nothing more than determination and the idea of marginal gains. Between 1908 and 2003 the British had only won one gold medal at the Olympics and in 110 years, hadn’t won a single Tour de France event. His idea behind the marginal gain’s philosophy was about looking for the tiny margin of improvement in everything the team did.

Brailsford and his team of coaches began making 1% changes in every area of cycling you could think of, and even those you couldn’t. Some of the changes included the seat type, rubbing alcohol on the tires before racing, finding the fastest acting massage gel to speed up recovery, teaching the cyclists how to properly wash their hands from a surgeon to best avoid catching a cold, finding the best pillow and mattress to get an optimised sleep at night and so much more. While these changes sound simple and some of them not even pertaining directly to cycling, the results say it all.

After just five years of Brailsford taking over the performance aspects of the British Cycling team, the team had won 60% of the gold medals possible for road and track cycling events in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Then in 2012 at the London Olympics, the British Cycling team set nine Olympic records and seven world records! That same year, a British rider won the Tour de France and in the next six years a British rider would go on to win five out of six Tours. How does a very average performing team transform into world champions in just a matter of a few years? A bunch of small 1% changes implemented into everyday life that radically transforms performance and brings about major success!

Sustainable Success and debrieifng

Debriefing is one of the key areas that make up deep performance. Debriefing is what occurs after you have planned your ‘mission’, briefed your ‘mission’, executed your ‘mission’. It is the time where you debrief what occurred during the execution of your task, see how it measured up against the plan and discuss what went wrong, and how to ensure it never happens again.

During any given task, there could be multiple things that go wrong. Debriefing is not about naming and shaming; it is a safe space where people can make an honest evaluation of the execution and find places of improvement for next time. The 1% lies in each of those places of improvement. Each of the small mistakes or plans that didn’t get carried out as you had imagined, are all places where you can improve just a little bit every day. If it was a communication error for example, then you should do something each day that creates stronger communication between yourself and your team.

Debriefing is not undertaken by all, but I can guarantee that those who do, create a debriefing space after a task has been executed, will find it easier to pinpoint what is going wrong and what measures can be put in place to ensure that every day they are getting 1% closer to perfect execution in that aspect.

How will you reach sustainable Success in 2022?

Success is not always bred amongst huge changes that shake the grounds you’re standing on. Success can be found in several small changes you implement into everyday life that gets you 1% closer to where you want to be. Just as Dave Brailsford did, inventory what is not working and find ways that change it ever so slightly in the direction you want to go! And debrief, debrief, debrief! Create safe spaces where honest evaluation is honoured, and change is encouraged! The size of the habit you are changing is not indicative of your success, it’s the sustainable and meaningful change in the long run that matters!


Clear, J. (n.d.). Continuous improvement: How it works and how to master it.

Clear, J. (n.d.). This coach improved every tiny thing by 1% and here is what happened. James Clear.

Gardener, C. (2018). The 1% principle. Chris Gardener.

Harrell, E. (2015). How 1% performance improvements led to Olympic gold. Harvard Business Review.

Kullar, P. (2016). 1% a day makes you 37 times better in a year. Medium.

Prossack, A. (2018). This year don’t set new year’s resolutions. Forbes.

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