The 1 Degree Rule

By Paul Yung

Have you ever wondered how different your life would be if you’d made a different decision at some point in your life? What if you decided to go to a different school, study a different course, pick a different sport in school, or had a different hobby.


These seemingly insignificant choices could have led to how you met your spouse, sparked off a business idea or met your best friend. The chain of events that unfolded from your decision in the past to take a certain path set of a chain of events like dominoes that led you to where you are today.


In 1979, a passenger jet carrying 257 people left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. Unknown to the pilots, however, there was a minor 2 degree error in the flight coordinates. This placed the aircraft 28 miles to the east of where the pilots thought they were. As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape. Although both were experienced pilots, neither had made this particular flight before. They had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 3,700 m. Sadly, the plane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board. It was a tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees.


In aviation this is known as the 1 in 60 rule. It states that for every 1 degree a plane veers off course, you will miss the target destination by 1 mile for every 60 miles you fly.


For the rest of us, I call this the 1-degree rule. I see it that for every day you sacrifice to do something that is going to improve your life, whether its exercising, reading or self-improvement, will affect 60 days of your life in future. So if you spend a solid 1 year on positively, consciously, consistently upgrading yourself, you could potentially change the rest of your life.


This begs the question. If we knew that small decisions in the past have big effects on our present life, what are we doing today to affect our future? Do you realize how much power your daily decisions will have on what your life could look like 5 years from now?

This is great news! It means that it doesn’t matter where you are right now, if you are ready to do something new, your entire trajectory could change.


Just like the rule of thumb of stock investing. It’s not timing the market that matters, it’s your time in the market. What’s important is to get your feet wet. Get started, in a small way. Watch YouTube videos, read 10 pages a day, join a Facebook group and discover the rules of the game and what it takes to excel in your area of interest.


One year ago, I couldn’t speak Mandarin to save my life. I downloaded apps, spoke to my wife, friends and co-workers in broken Mandarin as much as I could. Sure, it took a lot of practice and of course, I had a lot of frustrations, was laughed at, made fun of and made some truly embarrassing mistakes. (Turns out directly translating English to Mandarin is a terrible idea) Today I can conduct a business presentation in Mandarin.


So what will be your 1 degree of change? What small decision will you make today that will affect your life? Your decisions determine your destiny, so take control and enjoy the rewards of your decision for years to come.