I once heard this mathematic riddle and found the answer to be completely mind blowing. (And I loved math in high school!)
Let’s see if you have heard of this one before.
Riddle Question: Which is worth more? Someone giving you $1,000,000 (one million dollars) right up front OR someone giving you a penny on Day 1 and then you doubling the penny the second day and then repeating that process for a total of thirty days?
Answer: The penny is worth more. Actually, almost 11 times more. By Day 31, you would have over $10,700,000 (nearly 11 million dollars).
I don’t know about you, but when I first heard the answer, I simply scratched my head. I had a piggy bank when I was a kid and collected everything from pennies to dimes to nickels, and I never have accumulated that much money. Again, I scratched my head.
How could a little penny make such a big financial difference after such a short period of time?
However, when I did the math and truly doubled that seemingly “little” penny over a month’s time (see the math done online but note that you may find an error in his math, however, doesn’t change the outcome), it was true. Doubling every single day from the previous day’s amount did make that huge of a difference.
That riddle got me thinking about a lot of things. I realized how greedy I was initially in my answer of wanting the million dollars right away. I was looking for instant gratification versus delayed gratification. I wanted that financial solution right NOW. How silly was I?
How could this apply to my own life with the simple day to day things, not just financial matters?
If I doubled the amount of smiles I gave every day in a thirty-day time frame, I may have shared nearly 11 million smiles of joy and happiness.
If I doubled the amount of phone calls I gave every day to tell someone I cared about them, what difference would I make for those people? (And no, I realize that making 11 million calls is not really feasible in one day or thirty days.)
If I doubled the amount of referrals I gave to other business owners, where would their business (let alone mine) be after thirty days?
Just as in my hasty first choice of wanting the million dollars before the mightier penny, the flip side of that proverbial penny coin might also be what got us to where our economy is today … the little things really do add up and it doesn’t always get to feel or look good …
If we doubled the amount of foreclosures every day in thirty days, where would our housing market be? Given that we had roughly one out of 452 homes going to foreclosure in 2008, that is an interesting number to ponder.
If we doubled the amount of jobs lost every day in thirty days, where would our job market be and how many people would be out of jobs? In 2008, the answer was over 2.6 million jobs were ended.
If we doubled the amount of sicknesses/illness we have due to overstressed people due to our economy, where would our overall health as a nation be? Every doctor or holistic practitioner colleague I have in my sphere of influence has noted a large increase in the amount of illnesses—in mind, body and spirit—that have hit this past year. I don’t think any statistics have quantified this one yet.
My point here is not to focus on the negative, not at all. I personally don’t believe that dwelling on the good or bad of where I am or you are or are country is will get me or us anywhere. The penny story simply reminds me that it is the little things I do every single day (starting today!) that can make a difference in my future, as well as the future of every single person around me or even on the other side of the world. That ripple affect still applies. For if I smile at one person I meet on the street and it brightens their day, perhaps that phone call to their friend across the country later that day will be that much more inspired and happier because of the simple things that mean so much still do add up and make a difference.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes time to add things up, yet brick by brick or relationship by relationship, a difference truly can be made and wealth in our country (not just financial, rather mental, physical, spiritual, and so on) can be restored in our country and it all starts with you and me.
I encourage you to find something simple to do every day and repeat day after day. Just like that penny, it can be just one ordinary thing. You never know what kind of positive epidemic you can spread by going out of your way to share your “investment” of kindness, joy or support during these times and always.
Here’s to you!