(#131) One Penny at a Time

Whether it’s wealth-building or a weight-loss program
or writing your first book have a plan,
take specific steps each day, and remember that you will
realize your dreams one step at a time.

As cliché as it might sound, it is good to remind ourselves that slow and steady wins the race.  Perhaps you know folks (I know I do) who, rather than do things in a steady methodological manner, jump in with both feet and attempt to complete a big project all at once. Like the person who wants to lose weight and decides she will drop 50 pounds by the end of the month. Or the couch potato who swears he will start his exercise regimen today with a 2 hour workout five days a week.  Or the student who takes too many classes in one semester because he wants that degree NOW! Or the person who makes a resolution to write that book that has always been inside her. She will have it done within three months she says.  By the end of that time, she has come up with a title and nothing more. (But it is a killer title, right?)

The point is whatever our goals maybe we have to take action one step at a time. I am proponent of establishing huge outrageous goals. We need to stretch ourselves.  Otherwise we stand the chance of settling or short-changing ourselves with less than we are capable of attaining.  But we have to go about it in a smart way. At the very least, start slow and remain steady.


So how do you lose 50 pounds? One pound (one ounce) at a time.  How do you build an exercise routine?  Ten minutes at a time might be a good jumping off point.  How do you get out of debt?  One payment at a time. How about that book?  One page at a time.  Small victories can provide huge psychological advantages.

I used this premise with my students this week as we dove into the topic of financial literacy with a little exercise I first heard about back in my college days.  I start the class by walking around the room and ceremoniously placing one penny in front of each student.  As I move from student to student I tell them today is the day they begin building their wealth.  “How do you build wealth?” I ask them.  “One penny at a time.”

We then engage in a little arithmetic. Here is how I set it up with my students.

“Ok, scholars, you have a penny in front of you. I want you to envision your bedroom at home.  Picture a small plate or tray or jar where you will place this penny tonight.  You got that in your mind’s eye?  Now, tomorrow night go back to the container and double the penny. That is, you know have two pennies.  The following night, double it again to four cents.  And I want you to continue doing this for 30 days.  How much money will you have at the end of 30 days?”

The student responses this week ranged from 65 cents to “about $3,000.”  I then placed the following table on the screen.

As you can see the doubling exercise will yield more than $5,300,000!  And if you start the actual doubling on day one (just one day earlier) your final tally exceeds $10 million.  (See the video at the end of this post.)

I have added a twist that I believe delivers the real lesson. Yes, one penny can bring about great results, but we could become quickly overwhelmed and defeated if we look at the $5 million dollar figure and conclude, “There is no way I can have that much money in 30 days. Why even bother starting?” Just like the person who says, “There is no way I can lose fifty pounds in thirty days” and gives up on his diet. But think of what you can do if you break that larger goal down to manageable targets.

So, using the table above, I ask the students, to look at day seven on the table. “How many of you think you could find an extra 64 cents at the end of a week?” Every hand goes up.  “OK,” I continue, “Look at day number 10. How many of you think you could find an extra $5.12 in a week and a half?”  Again, hands shoot up.

The challenge I give them is to find a day on that table that they believe is doable.  Set that as a goal.  “By the time next Wednesday arrives I will have $5.12 in my penny plate. This will be extra money. This will be money with which I will start my wealth building program.”  Then once they get to the $5.12 I tell them to begin again for another 10 days and another $5.12.

And then I issue one more challenge.  “If you can do the 10-day goal, stretch to the 11-day goal.  Keep pushing your limits—slowly and steadily.”

Whether it’s wealth-building or a weight-loss program or writing your first book, or completing a college degree have a plan, take specific steady action each day, and remember that you will realize your dreams one step at a time.
Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B.as needed!

REGISTER NOW for my November 28, 2012 P.D.Q. Webinar “Year in Review: Get Ready for Your Best Year Ever!” Click here or paste this link into your web browser: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2425700017577251072

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. Please pass it (and any of the archived posts on this site) along to friends and colleagues. You can also follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page and join in–or start–a conversation (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli). Also, if you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment. Have a wonderful week!

©2012. Steve Piscitelli.

About stevepiscitelli

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9 Responses to (#131) One Penny at a Time

  1. SKI says:

    Hi, Steve.

    Thank you very much for your card and thoughtful message inside. I was touched by your thoughtfulness.

    Needless to say, I look forward to your weekly messages. I use them as meditations and pass the message onto many students and staff.

    Unfortunately, I am unable to view the video at the bottom on my iPhone?

    Be well and stay strong over the next few weeks.


    ***************************************** Sent from Ski’s iPhone. Please forgive brevity, abbreviations and possible errors for the keys are much smaller than my fingers and I am trying to respond to you in a timely manner. Thank you!


  2. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my website thus i came to “return the favor”.
    I am trying to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!



  3. Pingback: (#136) A Blogger’s Retrospective: 2012 in Review « Steve Piscitelli's Blog

  4. I think that what you posted made a ton of sense. But, consider this, what if you wrote
    a catchier post title? I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to run your blog, however suppose you added a post title that makes people desire more? I mean (#131) One Penny at a Time | Steve Piscitelli’s Blog is kinda vanilla.
    You could glance at Yahoo’s home page and note how they create post headlines to get people to open the links. You might add a related video or a related pic or two to grab people interested about what you’ve
    written. In my opinion, it could bring your blog a little bit more interesting.


  5. Agron Ala says:

    Hey I wanted to say I loved the penny at a time post you have here. I wish it was as easy as it sounds, to just double a penny every day…sooner or later, around day 15 or day 16 it becomes to some extent impossible to double that amount for the next day…

    Any tips then?…the real hard stuff lies in figuring how to double your hundred dollars, then few hundred, then few thousand and so on… 😦


    • Correct–and insightful on your part. The strategy I propose is to find the day that you could do easily. For instance if you (as you say above) can get to day #15, then that becomes your goal. Every 15 days you sock away that much. For many of my students it’s a question of discipline. Even if “their day” ends up be #7…then every 7 days that is what your goal is. The challenge is to create the habit. Another piece of this is to create awareness about the importance of regular attention to wealth building. Thanks for your response! 🙂


  6. Pingback: (#136) A Blogger’s Retrospective: 2012 in Review | Steve Piscitelli

  7. Pingback: (Issue #515) Marbles | The Growth and Resilience Network®

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