Compound Interest and the Spiritual Experience, Part 3

Bringing together the thoughts from my last two posts concerning Compound Interest. Here is Part I, and here is Part II.

“Those guys that can do amazing things didn’t start like that…”

This is Greg.

Greg Manchess painting away

Greg Manchess. He’s an amazing painter, and an even more amazingly nice guy. I’m lucky enough to be able to call him a friend.

He’s received just about every award there is at The New York Society of Illustrators, and I don’t want to jinx him…but…let’s just say…there are many of us who will be surprised if he doesn’t wind up in the Hall of Fame, someday.

For two years I lived in New York, hanging around Greg weekly while working as an assistant to his agent.

Greg was kind enough to pass on a lot of little bits of wisdom to me, and one in particular fixed in my mind.

The topic?

Well, you can probably guess, but I’ll give you a chance to figure it out.

We were talking about the young guys who are so talented. I think I was expressing my frustration with how Jason Chan–who is my same age–grew so fast with art, while I had to struggle a lot more for technical progress.

Greg’s response stuck with me.

Quick bit of background: about ten or twenty years before this conversation, Greg flew out to Japan to study martial arts from true ninja masters. While he didn’t seek to become a martial artist, he did seek to understand the underlying principles.

As I was complaining this day, Greg stopped me and said, “You know, a lot of these young guys; they come out strong, and then they just fade away. When you spend time with these guys in Japan that are in their sixties and seventies and can do these amazing things, the thing they always tell you is that they couldn’t do it in their thirties, or even in their forties. Nuh uh. They didn’t grow like this…”

…and with his fingers, Greg drew a straight line going up at a steep angle.

A linear rate of increase

A linear rate of increase

“No,” Greg continued, and then he drew a line that looked like this:

Exponential Equation

An exponential rate of increase.

Using his thumb and his pointer finger, he drew this exponential line.

Does that look familiar?

The conversation quickly moved on to other topics, but my mind grabbed hold on this thought, and has been mulling over it ever since.

Only now, after years of it percolating at the back of my mind, would I recognize that hand-motion Greg made with a name…

You should know it by now.

Compound Interest: The Eighth Wonder of the World

In the last month, my mind hit a tipping point.

I’ve called old friends, wrote emails to former teachers, and just searched like a beggar to find anyone who might want to talk about Compound Interest.

I’ve had insights from so many sources, such as:

“Of course! Haven’t you heard that Warren Buffet says that his use of Compound Interest on the money that was in holding on insurance claims is how he got rich?” (Finance)

Or, “Of course, Compound Interest is why the technocracy of Silicon Valley is so concerned about the method by which automation affects jobs.” (Robotics)

Or, “Yes, we have to pay great attention to Compound Interest when we’re fighting a bacterial infection. The general public just has no idea of the dangers of a bacteria’s anti-biotic resistance.” (Medicine)

And now, we just had an example with Greg. ‘Becoming an amazing old artist isn’t a linear process. It’s exponential. [i.e. Compound Interest.](Art)

Suddenly finding a new principle that nearly every process in the world can have in common–from getting rich to becoming an amazing storyteller–felt a bit like Carry Grant at that climactic scene in the famous movie, Charade.

You know the scene, the one where he discovers the secret? That secret that I won’t give away, in case you haven’t seen it?

In fact, here, I can show you!

(P.S. The copyright on Charade is expired, due to a legal error, and so is in the public domain. Feel free to watch the whole movie from the beginning, to get the full effect! Or, if you’ve already seen it and just want to catch that one moment, scroll to time mark 1:29:52)

A conclusion, and yet a commencement

It’s just one new principle. And yes, there are so many others upon which the universe relies.

But oh, discovering this new principle is such a joy.

If Compound Interest is used by the likes of Warren Buffet to become rich, and by the ninjas in Japan to become physically powerful, and by Greg Manchess to become an amazing painter…what else is Compound Interest good for?

Can we use it in storytelling?

Can we use it in our life? With our children and our spouses? And our friends?

Can we use it to find answers about that ever pressing question, “Why does anything in the universe exist at all?”

If we truly understood the power and technique of Compound Interest, couldn’t this large and ever expanding universe suddenly become…small?

Food for thought.

Thank you for reading. See you next week!

P.P.S. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts! Tell me how Compound Interest affects you, and your thoughts on this miracle of nature.