Personal Improvement and the Principle of Induction


Have you noticed this simple principle; the runner who is ahead of all of the others in the marathon is also the one running the fastest?

It seems like an incredibly trivial principle, and it is, but it is also the secret of greatness. It lies at the very heart of self-improvement and the building of positive habits.

For the purposes of my blog I’ve decided to call it “the principle of induction” — based on Mathematics.

What is Induction?

‘Induction’ is a noun which comes from the verb to ‘induce’, ‘induce’ means ‘Cause to arise’ similar words include ‘elicit’, ‘bring on’, ’cause’, ‘evoke’, or ‘stimulate’, or ‘engender’. Etymologically it means “to lead into”

In mathematics, induction is a powerful method which can be used to prove that something is true for an infinite number of cases. Conceptually it’s quite simple, even if it’s really difficult to perform the calculation! In order to explain it in an easier way to understand, I will drawn an analogy. Imagine you had an infinite set of dominoes, and you want to prove that they will all fall down. All you need to do is show that:

  1. We are sure that one particular domino will fall.
  2. We can show that when that one domino falls, it will, with 100% certainty, bump the next domino.

If you can prove those two statements, then you can be sure that all of the dominoes will fall. That’s how induction works in Mathematics.

How great people become greater people

In my life I’ve been privileged to meet some incredible people. Their level of knowledge and insight has really blown me away. Earlier on I was surprised: how could someone come so far in knowledge, wisdom or talent?

Until I understood. The people who have run the furthest in the marathon are also the ones running the fastest.

When we were babies, we all started off with nothing. We were completely dependant and unaware, all of us, including every person you have ever met, regardless of how beautiful, talented or smart. They were, one day, babies. But gradually we learned, line upon line, word for word, until we became who we are today.

What you don’t see when you meet an incredible person is the hours and hours, years and years of effort and diligence which led to that person being who they are today. All you see is the result, you see a person who is far from the starting line of the race. All it was is a single domino each day, a single piece of progression each hour, be it a question they asked and found the answer to, a word they looked up in the dictionary, a fact they learned, or some effort they put into their talents. Each moment added up to the previous moments to create this amazing person, each domino nicking the one next to it on its way down. And this process consummated into greatness.

About you, and about today

The way to be a fit person is to exercise today. The way to be a smart person is to strain your brain today. The way to be a talented person is to practice your talent today. How do we gain a great relationship with our spouse? By spending time with them today. How do we get more money? By working effectively today.

This is the principle of induction, each molecule engendering and inducing the next, each step preceding the next step. Every instant being a single link in an infinite chain of your positive habits and personal diligence.

A conversation about induction

I have thought about the principle of induction many times over many years. Over time I’ve come up with the following fictional story, in the form of a fun, creative conversation between a master and a student whose knowledge of this principle is being tested, I give this as a conclusion:

Master: “A single domino silently falls, a mere one, in the midst of the infinite series, the series that is perfection. Its falling was not free, yet it involved a finite effort.”

Student: “Finite? That sounds … surmountable?”

Master: “Correct”

Master: “Tell me, do you know why the earth keeps spinning?”

Student: “Because it keeps spinning.”

Master: “How can the concept of eternity be circumscribed by the finite mind?”

Student: “Through realising that one moment leads to another, and that this process never ceases, and never started.”

Master: “How can the concept of infinity be circumscribed by the finite mind?”

Student: “By understanding that one thing leads to another.”

Master: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Student: “It doesn’t really matter, all we need to know is that chickens hatch from eggs, and eggs are laid by chickens”

Master: “Here is a picture of a beautiful model walking down the catwalk. Is it her beauty that gives her such confidence, or her confidence that gives her such beauty?”

Student: “Both, and neither. The root of both properties, beauty and confidence, lie in their relationship with each other and their own mere existence.”

Master: “What then, is induction?”

Student: “An understanding that, in many instances, the distinction between cause and effect is not clear. Induction describes a self-propagating reality, a habit, a circumstance, a situation, a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Master: “That being the case, is anything then, changeable?”

Student: “The momentum of an object is always changeable, it merely requires force

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