The Power of Exponential Growth

My fifth grade teacher introduced the concept of exponential growth using terms her students would understand.

“Imagine a chessboard. Now imagine the squares on the board as days that you receive allowance. Suppose you are given two options for being paid. The first option, you receive $100 for every square on the board. The second option, you receive one penny for the first square, but your payment will double every day until the chessboard is filled.”

She waited a moment before asking “Who would choose option number one?”

Nearly every hand in the room shot towards the ceiling.

I say nearly every hand because mine was not among them. Before answering, I wanted to calculate the results of both options.

Option one was relatively simple: A chessboard has 8 rows and 8 columns, meaning 64 total squares. At the end of 64 days, when all of the squares were filled, there would be 64*($100), or $6,400 on the chessboard.

Option two was more difficult to calculate. Unaware of a more sophisticated way of figuring it out, I began to write out every day by hand:

  1. $0.01
  2. $0.02
  3. $0.04
  4. $0.08
  5. $0.16
  6. $0.32
  7. $0.64
  8. $1.28
  9. $2.56
  10. $5.12
  11. $10.24
  12. $20.48
  13. $40.96
  14. $81.92
  15. $163.84
  16. $327.68
  17. $655.36
  18. $1310.72
  19. $2621.44
  20. $5242.88

At that point, it was clear that option two was better. In my excitement, I practically jumped out of my seat to triumphantly announce my answer.

Option number two!, I cried out defiantly.

The entire class looked at me in disbelief. I had dared to disagree with the majority, and as a result, most of them giggled at my foolishness.

My teacher silenced them before asking me for confirmation. “So Shaun, you mean to say that you wouldn’t want $100 a day?”

I explained that option one was better only up to a certain point. Though it initially seems like option two is worth less, over time it’s worth more.

She moved to the blackboard, where she wrote the following:

Payment Option One
Earnings Day 1: $100
Earnings Day 2: $100
Earnings Day 3: $100
Earnings Day 4: $100
Earnings Day 5: $100
Earnings Day 64: $100
Total Earnings: $6400

She stepped away from the board and reminded the class how almost everyone immediately chose this option. The class nodded, still content with their answer, practically licking their lips at the thought of $100 a day.

She returned to the board while saying “Now let’s see how much Shaun will be paid.” The class remained silent as she wrote the following:

Payment Option Two
Earnings Day 1: $0.01
Earnings Day 2: $0.02
Earnings Day 3: $0.04
Earnings Day 4: $0.08
Earnings Day 5: $0.16
Earnings Day 64: $92,233,720,368,547,800
Total Earnings: $184,467,440,737,095,000

The class looked at the value, dumbfounded. So did I. We were at an age where one hundred dollars seemed like a lot of money, and our teacher expected us to comprehend 184 quadrillion dollars. The fact that the value was beyond comprehension further emphasized the power of exponential growth.

Her lesson that day took permanent residence inside my head. Now, fourteen years later, I’m applying the power of exponential growth to my income.

How It Works

Suppose that for every person that visits, I earn a penny. Though this is a gross simplification of how a blog truly earns money, it will suffice for this discussion.

Now let’s suppose that I’m meeting someone for the first time. During our conversation, I’m asked what I do for a living. I explain that I’m a writer for a website called I go on to describe how the site promotes articles pertaining to personal development, with a strong emphasis on reinventing yourself. The person I’m talking to tells me they’ll check it out.

Sometime later, the person visits, and I earn $0.01. There’s a chance that they won’t find anything of value and never visit the site again. There is also a chance that the person will enjoy the site so much they are compelled to share it with other people. This is where exponential growth comes into play.

From one visitor, I earn $0.01.
That one visitor tells 2 friends ($0.02),
and those 2 friends tell 4 others ($0.04),
and those 4 others tell 8 others ($0.08),
and those 8 others tell 16 others ($0.16),
and those 16 others tell 32 others ($0.32),
and those 32 others tell 64 others ($0.64),
and those 64 others tell 128 others ($1.28),
and those 128 others tell 256 others ($2.56)…

…and it continues in this manner as in the example above.

I’m not suggesting that I believe my site will eventually earn millions of dollars a day. I’m simply stating that more and more people are continuing to discover the articles on LifeReboot. New readers regularly leave comments on articles that I wrote months ago, and I think it’s fascinating.

It’s as if each time I publish an article, I create a permanent storyteller that tirelessly shares one story over and over again to whoever is reading at any particular moment. This storyteller is a part of me, frozen in time, that shares my ideas for me no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

In other words, this blog works for me, turning pennies into dollars on a daily basis whether I decide to work or not. I’ve written about this topic numerous times because I’m regularly surprised, excited, and anxious to share the latest results of my online experiment. As a result, I’ve gotten in the habit of publishing my blog’s earnings at the start of each month.

The thing is, some of my regular readers have indicated that they have grown tired of reading the same discussion month after month. So this will be the last time. In the future, if I want to provide an update the blog’s monthly earnings, I will just edit this article. (Updated 2-5-2008)

LifeReboot's Monthly Earnings
MAR 2007: $0
APR 2007: $42  (Average $1.40/day)
MAY 2007: $126 (Average $4.20/day)
JUN 2007: $171 (Average $5.70/day)
JUL 2007: $373 (Average $12.43/day)
AUG 2007: $693 (Average $23.10/day)
SEP 2007: $805 (Average $26.83/day)
OCT 2007: $522 (Average $17.40/day)
NOV 2007: $92  (Average $3.06/day)
DEC 2007: $549 (Average $18.30/day)
JAN 2008: $78  (Average $2.60/day)

Though I am proud of my earnings, the naysayers constantly view them as pathetic. They felt that averaging only $10 a day after five months of writing is laughable, as the following comments indicate:

You call yourself an entrepreneur because you make $10 / day after 5 months? If you ever make any real money on the internet you will look back at this nonsense and realize you were completely retarded.

$10 a day? How can you possibly live off that. If you consider an average 8 hour work day that would equate to $1.25 a day, grossly below minimum wage.

Even beggars enjoy higher income than you.

I don’t understand why they were so unimpressed.

Maybe they didn’t understand that the money is being earned without a traditional job. Maybe they didn’t understand that the site is a long-term investment. Maybe they don’t recognize how I’ve created a money-making system that requires no inventory, no employees, and (arguably) no work.

I simply do what comes naturally to me — I write, and I’m being paid to do it.

I won’t deny that I’m currently making diddlysquat. I even admit that any job paying minimum wage would likely exceed my current daily income. The thing is, I really don’t want to go that route unless I absolutely must.

To me, getting a day job is like choosing payment option one. You settle for earnings that are immediately beneficial, but ultimately linear.

Right now, I don’t want to settle. I want to continue experimenting with exponential growth. After all, imagine what would happen if it works.

If you've found this website helpful, please click the PayPal button. You will be helping me pursue my dream career as a writer. Thanks for your support!

18 Responses to “The Power of Exponential Growth”

#1 Long time reader on 05, Sep, 2007 at 10:53 pm

You have a very well constructed mind set. Your blog is truly fantastic and inspiring. I’m glad that you’re willing to share your insight with others.

#2 LJ on 05, Sep, 2007 at 11:38 pm

now thats what I’m talking about!

#3 TCM on 05, Sep, 2007 at 11:48 pm

It’s like you’ve found a way to be paid to exist. Congratulations on such an achievement.

#4 Brandon on 06, Sep, 2007 at 1:33 am

You’ve found something you can do that you enjoy and still make money doing it. Isn’t that what we all want?

It may not make you a monetary millionaire but if it makes you happy and still puts food on the table – that’s the dream come true.

Keep living the dream. I’m enjoying the reading.

#5 Alexander on 06, Sep, 2007 at 2:32 am

Almost useless article, but it shows an interesting way of thinking. Thanks.

#6 Bobby Karaoke on 06, Sep, 2007 at 9:43 pm

Stuff it, Alexander. We came here to learn from the master, not read your base criticism.

Alexander = smelly hot dog salad

#7 Lawrence Cheok on 07, Sep, 2007 at 12:46 am

Way to go Shuan,

I have just started on a similar journey as you have gone down; a blog on personal development.

Your story is my inspiration and highly motivating.

Keep it going!

#8 Pranav on 10, Sep, 2007 at 9:38 am

Now I see, why I have to keep coming back to this site everyday.

#9 Swaroop on 21, Sep, 2007 at 5:17 am

U better wish the population would grow exponentially too 🙂 .

I guess it already does :p

#10 Jim Bob on 12, Dec, 2007 at 4:54 pm

How much did you make in November?

#11 Shaun Boyd on 12, Dec, 2007 at 5:59 pm

@Jim Bob
Considerably less than I earned in October. Updated the article even though I’m embarrassed about the low revenue.

#12 Jim Bob on 13, Dec, 2007 at 5:45 pm

I wouldn’t be embarrassed.. You’ve got strangers from other countries coming in to look at your blog. Besides, this month’s give a good base to grow next year.

#13 MMX on 29, Dec, 2007 at 11:20 am

Would you be willing to share the monthly unique visitor data for the same period? I’m interested in the conversion rate. (apologies if you’ve posted that elsewhere)

#14 Shaun Boyd on 30, Dec, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Since LifeReboot has been hosted on 3 different services since its debut, the data you’re asking for is unavailable. There are a select few that talk about traffic spikes (The Difference One Day Can Make, The Best of the Best of but I have not published unique visitor data anywhere consistently. I understand what you’re saying though — it would be interesting to see the correlation between the earnings and the visitors. I would say that maybe I’ll do this in the future, but since I believe most readers don’t care, I probably won’t.

#15 Ernesto on 18, Jul, 2008 at 3:37 pm

I’m curious to know where you are today with your blog’s earnings.

#16 Alexis on 10, Jan, 2009 at 12:11 am

I too like Ernesto are wondering what the last years revenue is.

Maybe a way you could earn more would be to host several websites? each focusing on a different topic. Then if you could get $10 a day on let’s say 10 site well then now you have a steady income and the negative jealous folks would be proven wrong.

#17 linda on 28, May, 2009 at 4:35 pm

ok, in the long run you will be happy at the end.

#18 Girish Mony on 10, Jun, 2011 at 6:27 am

Hi Shaun,

This article is already 4 years old. But still I am unable to hide my excitement. This reboots my passion towards blogging. Hope my blog grows exponentially as you said.

Leave a Reply