The history of creativity and innovation suggests that many
larger-scale transformations often start small. That's the theme of a book
published a decade ago, "Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from
Small Discoveries" by Peter Sims.
He writes that the Google co-founders didn't set out to
change the world, create one of the fastest-growing startups in history and
revolutionize the way we search for information. The collaborators on the
Stanford Digital Library Project wanted to figure out how best to prioritize
library searches online. "You start small and you learn through the
process," says author Peter Sims. "This is what creativity and
innovation is all about."
A parallel idea comes from the goal-setting literature.
Michael Kitces, publisher of the financial planning industry blog Nerd's Eye
View, notes that financial planning often focuses on reaching big, long-term
goals. The scale of our ambitions often means that we fall short.
The lesson, he writes, is to break down ambition into a
series of smaller bites that cumulatively build on a series of wins and course
Sims and Kitces are dealing with different issues, but their
insights share a similar framing or perspective to addressing a difficult
Take small bites and little bets. Both highlight the
importance of good data and measurements for their experimental approach.
In personal finance the data foundation is a household
budget. There are plenty of budget resources to tap into.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National
Endowment for Financial Education and Lutheran Social Service offer budget
worksheets. There are well-known apps like Mint and Pocketguard, while websites
like Nerd Wallet offer articles with links to resources. Customers of banks and
credit unions have access to online budget tools
The combination of small bets or small bites and a budget
can be powerful. Many people during the pandemic have found themselves asking
big questions about their lives and purpose for when the economy opens up
again. Is this the right career for me or is it time to explore another path?
What about that dream I've held for a long time? Let it go, or go for it?
Exploring big personal goals is critically important.
Transitions are typically hard. Breaking them down into smaller pieces to test
out ideas to see what works and what doesn't matter — fortified by a household
budget — can help turn ambitions into reality.
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