Dr. Thomas Seager in his article Exponential Growth Starts Like Zero Progress explains what exponential growth looks like and how it is hard to distinguish it from zero progress in its early days. I took the opportunity to explain the concept further using the infographic above with one of the interesting examples of the power of exponential growth that I had come across. Notice in the graphic above how the weight of rice starts off from less than a gram and how with constant persistent increments there comes a point where the barriers get broken and it starts making meaningful impact.
What is exponential growth?
An exponential growth follows what is called an exponential curve. The infographic above has visual of the exponential curve in the context of our chess boxes and weight of rice example. Dr. Thomas explains it further in the following video:
Why is it important to know this?
Any learning, any successful venture or any meaningful experience in life mostly follows this kind of exponential curve. Say you are learning a new skill, your progress would first be flat, as that is the period where you are accumulating different components of the skills which may or may not get joined together to show you any instant result in the bigger picture. That phase will look flat and, on the surface, will look like you are putting in effort but nothing is coming out (just like in our chess box and rice example it took 6 boxes for the weight to reach 1g). Depending on what you are doing, this period of flatness may be long or short. Say, for example, if you are planning to learn to drive the period of flatness might be shorter compared to setting up your startup business from scratch.
There comes a point where the efforts you have put together start coming together and this is where you start seeing results and many times the growth suddenly becomes faster. This is called exponential growth. The period of flatness is the one where most people give up and this is where you need a bit of naivety or denial or faith to keep pushing despite what you see from your eyes in front of you is telling you otherwise.
Dr. Thomas explains it very well in the following video:
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