1 Big idea to think about

  • It’s not about achieving a result once through intense effort but to effortlessly achieve a result again, and again, and again, in a way that flows to you.

2 ways you can apply this

  • Think of one area where you are getting a residual result you don’t want and evaluate what effort and resources you are currently putting in.
  • Design a system that will get you the results you want over time (create a cheat sheet, automate a process, etc.)  and record the results looking for slow growth. 

3 Questions to ask

  • What residual results am I getting in my life?
  • What nonessential results are you getting by default?
  • How can I build a system that will get me the results that I want over time?

Key Moments From The Show 

  • How Jessica Jackley and her team created residual results with kiva.org (5:06)
  • The difference between linear and residual results (8:27)
  • How leverage can help you produce residual results (14:00)
  • How to design a system that delivers residual results in your life (18:16)

Links and Resources You’ll Love from the Episode

Greg McKeown (00:04):

Welcome. I’m your host, Greg McKeown. I’m the author of two New York Times. Best sellers, thank you, Effortless and Essentialism. And I am here with you on this journey to learn how and why to understand each other. That includes you, understanding you. What residual results are you getting in your life? What results are you getting by default? Too many meetings, too many emails, too many calories, too much procrastination? What if you could make it easier to get the essential results and harder to get the non-essential results? That’s really the question behind the book Effortless. And the value is enormous because if you can learn how to make it easier to get the essential results and harder to get the non-essential results. That’s the equivalent of a 10 X return on your effort. Today, I will share an inspiring story, something counterintuitive I have learned, and some actionable advice. By the end of this episode, you will be able to put in modest effort and get remarkable results. Let’s get to it.

Remember to teach the ideas in this podcast episode to someone else, to your whole team, even within 24 to 48 hours of listening.

A friend of mine, Jessica Jackley, was once doing volunteer service in east Africa. When she met a local fish monger named Catherine. There was a great demand for fish in Catherine’s village. Each day, she purchased about a half dozen fish at a time from a middle man and then resold them at a roadside stand. But with seven children to feed, she wished she could buy directly from the fishermen and keep more profit. To do so, she would have to travel over 100 kilometers, but she couldn’t afford the bus fare or the time lost at the market to make it happen. She needed about $500 in funding. So what could Jessica and the people around her do? They thought at first that they could give a $500 gift to Catherine that would help her.

That would make a difference because if she could improve her business in that way, it would make a difference, not just for one day for her, but for weeks, months, years. And that could make a difference for her family, her children, and so on. So it was a contribution that they were eager to make, but they had been inspired by a talk from Mohamed Yunus about the Grameen Bank. And so they thought, well, what if we could create a loan for Catherine instead? That way, she would get the help she needed here, but she would also gain the satisfaction, the self-respect of knowing that she hadn’t achieved it just through a handout. And, of course, that $500 could be loaned again to somebody else. The result wouldn’t happen once but would happen twice or even perhaps 10 times. But then they thought, well, hold on.

What if we combined multiple levers of leverage? And we could automate the process on a website, and create a platform so that many people who want to make a difference, perhaps don’t have the time or inclination to spend the summer trying to make a difference in Africa, could also make this same kind of contribution. And that’s exactly how the platform Kiva came to be. Kiva is a crowdsourcing platform that allows anyone to loan money in any amount to entrepreneurs in developing countries. But the returns don’t stop there when the loan is paid back, and over 98% of them are; it’s repaid in the form of Kiva credit, allowing you to reloan that capital to another entrepreneur. This cycle can continue indefinitely. Your one-time investment becomes a perpetual fund that supports more and more entrepreneurs for years or even decades to come. Instead of simply giving Catherine a one-time gift of $500, instead of making it a one-time loan, Jessica and, of course, others have built a platform that has distributed more than 1.3 billion in loans. That is the difference between linear and residual results. And that’s what I mean when I talk about achieving effortless results in Effortless. It, it’s not about achieving a result once through intense effort but to effortlessly achieve a result again, and again, and again, in a way that flows to you. What do I really mean by this? Whenever your inputs create a one-time output, you’re getting a linear result every day. You start like Katherine did from zero.

If you don’t put in the effort today, then you don’t get the result today. It’s a one-to-one ratio. The amount of effort you put in equals the results received. Linear results like this exist in every area of endeavor. In fact, they exist so often in this way we don’t call them linear results, we just call them results. An employee who works an hour and gets paid for that has a linear income. A student who crams for a test, regurgitates facts and gets a grade is acquiring linear knowledge. A person who decides to exercise for an hour today, but tomorrow has to decide again whether to exercise has made a linear decision. An entrepreneur who makes money only when she is actively working to make it happen has a linear business model. A volunteer who serves once and makes an impact once has made a linear contribution. A person who exerts great effort to make herself do something today takes linear action.

A father who has to remind his children to do the same chore every day is practicing linear parenting. Like I said, those are so normal we would think of them as results. And again, we wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s the counterintuitive learning here. The difference between linear results and residual results linear results are limited. They can never exceed the amount of effort exerted. What many people don’t realize, however, is that there exists this far better alternative. Residual results are completely different. My goodness, I feel so passionate about this because, with residual results, you exert effort once and reap the benefits again and again. Results continue to flow to you whether you put in additional effort or not. Results flow to you while you’re sleeping. Results flow to you when you are taking the day off, residual results can be virtually infinite.

For example, an author who writes a book and is paid royalties for years is getting residual income. A student who learns first principles and can then apply that understanding at a variety of ways over time is acquiring residual knowledge. What a difference that is from just cramming and regurgitating. A person who makes the one-time decision to exercise every day has made a residual decision. An entrepreneur who sets up her business to work, even when she’s on vacation for six months, has a residual business. I know someone who did exactly that. A social entrepreneur who provides micro-loans that are repaid so they can be loaned out again and again is making a residual contribution, as, of course, we’ve just been discussing. A person who does something every day, habitually without thinking about it, without effort even, is benefiting from residual action. A mother who delegates a whole chore to her child and makes it fun, so it happens every day without prodding, is practicing residual parenting.

Does it sound like I’m exaggerating? I’m not. The thought of getting perpetual results might seem improbable if you are used to taking one action and getting one result, but there are tools we can use to turn our modest effort into effortless results again, and again, and again. This is the case for compounding results. It grows out of this particular ability. It’s the difference between powerless effort and effortless power. Okay, so let’s go back for a second here to the definition of a lever. A lever is a simple machine that makes work easier. It’s made up of a rigid beam that rests on top of a fulcrum. The longer the distance between the fulcrum and the spot on the beam where force is exerted, the less force is required to move a heavy object or a lift, a heavy load.

The lever, in other words, multiplies the impact of the effort we put in. So whenever you’ve played on a seesaw or used a bottle opener or a crowbar or rode a boat, you were using a lever. Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, and mechanical engineer is considered the first to have discovered the principle of leverage. No one really knows for sure. He is thought to have said that if he had a long enough lever and the right place to stand, he could move the world. And I am absolutely fascinated by how we can apply the principle of leverage in other areas. So here are a few examples of modest input that can produce residual results in learning,  especially if it’s done in a particular way. Personal capability compounds over time. You develop a reputation once, but then the opportunities flow to you for years. You understand first principles deeply and then can easily apply them again and again.

You establish a habit once, and then it serves you for a lifetime. What about teaching? I mean, why is it that I start every episode now with this reminder for you to be able to teach what you’ve heard within 24 to 48 hours? Why? Because sharing knowledge is so powerful. It’s a high-leverage activity. As you teach others to teach, you get an exponential impact. The more you teach, the more you will yourself learn. A third lever is automating. If you automate something once and then forget about it, it continues to work perpetually. Now you could do that with lines of code. You could hire someone to write them, and then they will perform the same actions thousands of times and without ever getting tired of it. A simpler technology is to write up a cheat sheet once and then use it every day afterward.

Trust is clearly a leverage. If you hire the right person once, they’ll produce results hundreds of times for you. Prevention is another lever solving a problem before it happens can save you endless time and aggravation later, endless time and aggravation later on. You strike a problem at its roots, and you can prevent it from resurfacing again and again. Now the plot thickens here because, of course, there can be drawbacks to levers too. Depending on which lever you push, an equally modest amount of effort can also produce amazingly bad residual results. A bad reputation can cost you opportunities for years. A bad habit can compromise your health for decades. Hire the wrong person; oh, you can negatively affect your business in a hundred ways, right? Bad code and users will be frustrated till kingdom come. The direction the force will flow is entirely up to you.

So there are two ways to approach getting things done. The hard way is with powerless effort, the easier way is with effortless power levers, which give us effortless power. So let’s get even more actionable with this advice. Step one, I want you to think of one area where you are getting a residual result you don’t want. That’s something that keeps happening to you that you wish was different. That’s different than a linear result, that you don’t want, a one-time thing, and then move on. This happens again and again and again. Think of something in your professional area, maybe disappointing results you’re getting in a key area of your business. Now week after week, month after month, it’s there nagging at you. It’s a problem. It’s a concern for you. It’s a stress for you. Or you could think in a personal setting. What is one area in your personal life that you’re getting a residual result you don’t want?

Something from a few months ago for me is I was weighing more than I wanted. It’s, you know, just exactly the wrong kind of residual result that the scale is going slowly up. You don’t want it to go slowly up. That’s a bad residual result. So step two is to evaluate what effort and resources you are currently putting in. It might be that all of your efforts is going into worrying about it rather than doing something about it. I have found that you’re putting in the effort, but not in a way that’s actually producing the results that you want. So evaluate, “What am I currently doing about this?” Step three, ask this question: “How can I build a system that will get me the results that I want over time?” Like in the professional environment, you could create a cheat sheet that breaks down the routine you would need to follow in order to turn that part of your business around. You know, what do you need to do on a daily basis, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually annually? If you do that as a cheat sheet, I’ve been doing that recently with a project that I’ve been frustrated with, and it starts to clear the mind. Instead of thinking about everything you could be doing, you just work on the daily thing today and then can, of course, use other levers together. You might also automate the process. I can hire somebody, as I have, to be able to automate something that I used to do myself every day. In fact, the combination of levers is exactly what Jessica Jackley did with Kiva. And it’s exactly where you can start over time to get exponential results in the things that really matter to you. You use one lever on another, and can multiply the results.

The effort is invested, in a sense, once, but the results flow to you. Now, what about on the personal side? Now I mentioned this idea of weighing more. I’m just giving an example. It’s only an illustration, but one of the levers we talked about was trust and finding the right person to work with. Well, the right person for me to partner with was Anna. And Anna and I started a 90-day experiment together with a, basically, whole food diet. Instead of just pushing myself harder on my own, which we know, or I know from personal experience, often just creates a boom and bust approach to execution. You try hard for two days. It’s way too hard. You’re out of energy, and then you just fall back to your previous ways. You get residual results again, but not the kind you want.

This was so much easier to do it together. And because we committed together to create this sort of system, I’ve noticed that I don’t obsess about the results now because I know the system is in place and is working. And what that looks like is course slow and lower. And, and that is working consistently over the last 45, 60 days now. We’ve lost between 10 to 15 pounds despite having been on holiday for several weeks through there travel. And those times, as you all know, it can feel much harder to be able to eat healthily. And so on. The system is working. Each week, it’s slow and down. That’s the power of residual results. Step four, record the results, looking for slow growth. You know, with business results, it’s slow enough. With what I’ve been talking about, it’s slowing down.

 If the results aren’t happening fast enough, then you don’t push harder. You tweak the system. It’s not direct effort. It’s to shift the ratio in your mind. And then in your behavior between, I’ll get better results by simply force of nature, brute force, entrepreneurship, brute force dieting. The examples that we are using here. From that to, how can I tweak the system? What residual results are you getting in your life? What non-essential results are you getting by default? Too many meetings? Too many calories? Too much procrastination? What would happen in your life if you could make it easier to get the essential results and harder to get the non-essential results? That could change everything. That would change everything. Now, speaking of residual results, I’m going to ask you to subscribe to this podcast right now so that you can receive the next episode automatically. Episodes come out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And invite somebody else to listen along with you so that you can together achieve effortless results in the things that really matter. Make progress personally, professionally, and in your relationships.

 Now a specific call to action is that if you haven’t got your copy of Effortless yet, now is the time to do it. As you’re getting back into the work experience after the summer, this is an asset that can help you start building systems to produce for you marvelous residual results. And I want to do this with you and help you. This is an asset to be able to help. If you have found value in this episode, please write a review on Apple Podcast. The first five people to write to a review of this episode will receive a year-long access to The Essentialism Academy. It’s a $300 value, and you get it for free for a whole year. Just send a photo of your review along with your name and address two info@gregmckeown.com. Let’s end on the question we began on. What residual results are you getting in your life? Thank you, really, thank you for listening.