Anything in Which You Invest Your Time Grows

When I was in 11th Standard in school, I had only one piece of activity on my mind. Studies.

I was appearing for the prestigious IIT JEE examination and the total variability in terms of the number of things I did on any given day could be counted on fingers. I used to focus on class and study hard in school, come back home, have my lunch, get to my room and study till evening, go out for a walk, come back and study till dinner, have dinner, go back to my room again and study some more before I slept off the day to fulfill my regular 6 hours sleep.

This went for almost the entire 11th standard and I ended up scoring the maximum marks in almost all the subjects and getting on to become the school topper.

Don’t take me wrong, I’m not a hyper intelligent 200 IQ fella. Neither am I an extraordinarily studious person (if I was, I would have been doing that since always and for always, not just in 11th standard).

It’s just that I was so engrossed in my studies that I began to enjoy it and to comprehend the concepts of Physics, Chemistry & Mathematics which then started getting into my range of understandability. That, combined with spending sufficient time on practicing the application of the concepts by solving questions and the problems of the textbooks, things became easier for me to apply when the right time came (a.k.a. the exams).

The point I’m trying to make is actually an obvious one.

Anything in Which You Invest Your Time Grows.

Let’s see how.

The Principle of ‘How Things Grow’

Let’s say you are an artist. Creation of art is your purpose of life. Creation of art is the whole and sole thing you do for 8-10 hours in a day (you can also be a sports player, a business owner, an employee, a lawyer or take up any profession of your choosing).

The more the number of hours that you spend in the direction of creation of your art the better you get. The better you get, the more you build the art in your own self. The more art you build in yourself, the more art you build in the outside world and consequently the more the returns you can expect in exchange for your labor.

Barring a few exceptions, this is the general trend in most of the things that we do, and for most of the people out there. After years of practice, hard work, effort and course correction, actors get better and in what they do and get paid more, so does artists, employees, entrepreneurs, lawyers, accountants, writers, government servants and all other professionals of our civilization.

The growth path of a human who spends time in one particular professional area follows the following trajectory:

Point of Optimum Returns

On the horizontal side we have Time as one of the parameters and on the vertical we have the Returns of one’s Labor.

In the beginning, when a man (or woman) enters in any particular area of learning, be it related to studies, work, sports, hobbies, relationships or any other area, a significant amount of time and effort is required to learn the tricks of the trade and it does not particularly lead to a lot of returns (financially, physically, mentally or otherwise). This is the Period of Sluggish Growth.

Later on however as one gets better in the trade and as the name of the person is established, the returns come steadily and at a faster pace.

There is a point till when if one puts in the consistent time and effort, one gets good enough in the trade and the name is established which enables steady returns. This point is the Point of Optimum Returns and is governed by the Time of Optimum Returns on the Time axis.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers proposed the idea of 10,000 hours rule which said that to become world-class performer in any area 10,000 is the optimum number of hours one must put for deliberate practice so as to get adept enough to become world-class. While the time period is not particularly relevant, the idea is clear that consistent time and effort is required to grow in any stream of life.

Why is this important?

A lot of people, particularly in their 20s (not excluding myself) get into the practice of ‘experimentation’. Mostly in our 20s, we ‘experiment’ with different areas of work, job, business, hobby, relationships and what not. While it is good to experiment in different areas and see where our strengths and weaknesses lie, it is also important to understand the Principle of ‘How Things Grow’ and its effect on life.

Every time we enter into a new job, we start the above graph afresh. There is a common believe that youngsters spend a few years at one job, then jump to another and then to another which is believed not be the best thing to do. Better is to stick to one thing for say five years at a stretch and then decide the course of action.

Let’s see what happens when one switches too many jobs (or areas of work) too often:

Point of Optimum Returns - Jump

As one joins one job or area of work, the graph of one’s progress and learning begins to increase. The initial hard phase comes, it passes away and the person begins to enjoy the fruits. And then something more ‘happening’ comes up and the person chooses to switch to another job. Every time a switch happens, we begin from the beginning.

We may join at the same or better profile than before, we may enter with experience and therefore may be promoted to a better position with a better pay than before. But every time a switch happens, we begin from the beginning.

Moral of the Story

All said and done, the moral of the story is, it is better to stay in one thing and stick to it for a significant period of time (I guess five years is a good number to start with) so as to be able to give that much time and effort into it to be able to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor by reaching to the Point of Optimum Returns.


Have you (like me) in the name of ‘experimentation’ (or something else) switched too many areas of work or other aspects of life and, in the process, have experienced what it is to begin from the beginning? Did you feel the void every time you quit something in the middle? Were you able to reach to the Point of Optimum Returns before you quit? If so, probably it was a right decision to get out of things. If not, well, you might just take it as a learning for the times to come.

All said and done, there is a power to stickiness. The time and effort that is dedicatedly given towards one area of service is bound to lead to consistent and regular returns.