#1760 Accumulation Theory

Improve Each Day!

In our last few +1s (here and here), we’ve been spending time with Chess Grandmaster Maurice Ashley and exploring some Big Ideas from his great new book, Move by Move: Life Lessons On and Off the Chessboard.

Today we’re going to continue our exploration.

We’re going to talk about something called “Accumulation Theory.”

Let’s get straight to work.

Maurice tells us: “We can use the two concepts of Accumulation Theory and kaizen in our everyday lives. While many people go overboard with strenuous workouts or employ crash diets in the hope of seeing immediate changes to their body, experts note that consistently exercising a little every day along with gradual shifts to healthy food choices will result in more lasting results. In finance, get-rich-quick schemes usually lose out to more patient strategies.”

He continues by saying: “In his bestselling book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear coins his own terms, the aggregation of marginal gains, to describe these common sense approaches: ‘Improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.’”

And, he says: "Accumulation Theory and its sister ideas are so obviously powerful that one has to wonder why everyone doesn’t follow their core principles of slow but steady improvement. The truth is we live in an age of instant gratification, when building lifelong habits of hard work, patience, and consistency don’t seem to be as appealing. While we may sometimes be able to see amazing results with flashier methods, the gains that do not come through diligence, sacrifice, and determination are often less personally impactful. As Clear writes, ‘It is . . . easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.’ Getting the benefits without the effort can actually be counterproductive in the long run.”

That’s from a great micro-chapter called “Improve Every Day.”

The idea of “Accumulation Theory” is from an Austrian chess player named Wilhelm Steinitz.

Here’s a little chess history with a little more practical wisdom...

Back in the 1800’s, elite competitors played chess super-aggressively. Everyone was always going for an all-out attack as quickly as possible. It was known as the “Romantic Style.”

Then Steinitz came along, studied the games, and saw that a much more effective strategy would be to systematically build up your forces patiently “so that once the final battle was eventually waged, one had as many pieces and pawns as possible to overwhelm the enemy’s resistance.”

This was known as the “Theory of the Accumulation of Small Advantages” or “Accumulation Theory” for short.

Steinitz started playing with this style.

Everyone mocked him.

Then he started consistently beating them.

Then they all copied him.


That’s Today’s +1.

It’s time to shine a spotlight on YOU...

How can YOU apply some more of this “Accumulation Theory”/ “Kaizen” / “Aggregation of Marginal Gains” wisdom to YOUR LIFE?

Here’s to aggregating and compounding tiny little +1 gains all day, every day over an extended period of time as we dominate the game of life.


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