A Common Mistake Most New Entrepreneurs Make – [The “Penny Doubling” Lesson]

Success & Personal Growth . 8 Min. Read . By: Devon Brown

Pop Quiz!

If you start with $0.01 (1 penny) on day one...

And then each day you double the amount you have…

1 cent on day one… 2 cents on day two… 4 cents on day three... etc...

At the end of a month, how much money do you have?

Don’t whip out a calculator or anything… I WANT YOU TO GUESS!

And if you’ve already seen/done this exercise before (and you know the answer), then I want you to keep reading because there’s a VERY IMPORTANT business (and life) lesson here for you too.

OK, do you have your guess?


The "Penny Doubling" Lesson

I’ll reveal the answer to you in just a minute, but first I need to talk about something.

As I’m sure you’re aware… if you’re a “newbie entrepreneur” who is just starting out in your business, you’re likely to make any number of common mistakes entrepreneurs make.  (Duh).

But there’s one mistake in particular that, if you can avoid it, will shave YEARS off of the time it takes you to achieve the success you want.

And oh yeah...

If you're not an entrepreneur, keep reading.  The advice I share in this post can be applied to numerous areas of life! I just decided to write it for entrepreneurially minded people because I know a lot of them read my stuff.

Let's Take a Quick Trip Back in Time...

Back around 2001, I  had a lesson taught to me that, had I paid attention to it, would’ve kept me from making one of the most common mistakes newbie entrepreneurs make.

But I didn’t want to  listen to lessons back then.

I was young (22 years old), my ego was big, and I was just ready to make a bunch of money as quickly as possible (advice from experts be damned).

Had I really taken to heart what was being taught to me, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me 7 years before I started to find success as a home based business entrepreneur.

But I guess some people (like yours truly) just need to learn things the hard way.

Here's What Happened...

After graduating from college (in late 2000), I’d decided that instead of using my degree to get a job, I would instead figure out how to “get rich quick” as a home business entrepreneur.

I found out about a “How To Make Money With Real Estate” seminar taking place not too far from where I lived. So, I maxed out my credit card and paid $4,000 for a ticket to the event.

Side note: To this day I still don’t know squat about real estate investing, I literally spent $4,000, went to the seminar, and then quit being a real estate investor three days later - HAHA!

Anyway, back to what I was saying...

While at the seminar, they divided us up into small groups. Each group had a leader (someone who had already been successful in real estate investing).

On the second day of the seminar, attendees were allowed to have a little 1-on-1 personal time with our group leader. 

This time was supposed to be used to figure out what specific area of real estate investing we wanted to focus on (rental properties, flipping houses, selling notes, etc…). I, however, decided to use my time to tell my group leader how badly I needed to make money right away.

I can’t remember my group leader’s name, so let’s just call him “Bob” for the sake of this article.

Here's How the Conversation Went Down...

Bob: So Devon, which area of real estate would you like to focus on?

Me: Whichever one will make me money the fastest…and I need money RIGHT NOW!

Bob: But which area do you like THE BEST, which area could you see yourself doing long-term?

Me: It doesn’t matter, Bob, I went completely broke in order to make it here, I maxed out my credit card and I’ve got to make all of my money back in 30 days or I’m gonna die!!

Bob: Look Devon, I’ve been there… and I’m telling you, you're not gonna get rich overnight. You’ve got to stay focused for an extended period of time and then slowly, but surely, results will start to happen.

Me: That’s nice, Bob, but I don’t have time to dilly dally around I NEED MONEY NOW!

Bob eventually acquiesced and told me the area of real estate investing he thought could make me money the fastest (assuming everything went exactly as planned). So that’s the area I chose (even though I had no real interest in it). 

To this day, I don’t remember what specific subset (niche) of real estate investing Bob told me would make money the fastest, but it didn’t matter anyway because, like I already mentioned, my real estate investing career only lasted about three days.

Here's the Point...

The point of the story is that I had someone (Bob), trying to give me REAL insight as to what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

He asked me what I was most interested in, what I could see myself doing “long-term” because he understood that success is a PROCESS, not an EVENT.

But I didn’t want to listen...

So I went about doing things my own way and experienced failure after failure.

I would jump into any business-opportunity that sounded good... but if I didn’t start seeing results (i.e. a shit-ton of money) relatively quickly, I would quit, and go jump into the next opportunity.

And that cycle continued.

Jump into an opportunity…

Look for instant results…

When instant results didn’t happen (which they never did), move to the next one.

Repeat the process again.

About a year later, I ended up filing for bankruptcy. All because I was looking for the "quick" fix and not accepting the fact that I needed to be consistent with something LONG ENOUGH to start seeing big results.

I'm going to give you a perfect example of what I mean in just a second.

Here's the Bottom Line...

I don’t care what the “guru” promises you, how badly you want it, or how certain you are that some business opportunity is "the one”... 

Success and true financial freedom WILL NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT!!!

That’s the 100% truth. Either accept it and move forward, or continue to fight it and keep struggling!

Let me put it another way…

When it comes to you achieving success, you will have to work hard at first and be willing to get little or no results. After a while, you will hit what you might call the “tipping point”, and things will start to happen for you faster than you ever thought.

To better illustrate this journey to success, let’s take a look at what happens if you take a penny and double it every day for 31 days.


Remember at the very beginning of this article when I gave you a pop quiz and asked you how much money you’d have if you took a penny and doubled it every day for a month…

Well, did you jot down your guess?

If not, do it now (and don’t peek at the answer below).

Got your number?


Let’s see what the math looks like together, and then I’ll explain the lesson.

Day 1 – .01 cent

Day 2 – .02 cents

Day 3 – .04 cents

Day 4 – .08 cents

Day 5 – .16 cents

Day 6 – .32 cents

Day 7 – .64 cents

WOW – not very impressive...? But let’s keep going

Day 8 – $1.28

Day 9 – $2.56

Day 10 – $5.12

Day 11 – $10.24

Day 12 – $20.48

Day 13 – $40.96

Day 14 – $81.92

Woo Hoo- $80 bucks *sarcastically* and the month is halfway over!

Day 15 – $163.84

Day 16 – $327.68

Day 17 – $655.36

Day 18 – $1,310.72

Day 19 – $2,621.44

Day 20 – $5,242.88

Day 21 – $10,485.76 – This is where the “tipping point” occurs

Actually, this isn’t looking too bad – just 10 more days to go

Day 22 – $20,971.52

Day 23 – $41,943.04

Day 24 – $83,886.08

Day 25 – $167,772.16

Day 26 – $335,544.32

Day 27 – $671,088.64

Day 28 – $1,342,177.20

Day 29 – $2,684,354.40

Day 30 – $5,368,708.80

Day 31 – $10,737,417.60


Here's the Importance of the Penny Doubling Metaphor...

Pay very close attention, because what I'm about to reveal to you the essence of this article.

The following information is one of THE critical components of success for ANY area of your life - not just entrepreneurship.

The penny represents your work effort compounded over time. If you notice, you go about 2/3 of the way through the month before you start seeing any serious gains.

Let me say that again, in the context of this metaphor, you’ve got to go 66% of the way down the path before you even start to see any REAL RESULTS!

The problem is that most people quit after the first week (because you've only made $0.64 cents, so you think it's not working). But it is working... you're just too impatient to realize it!

That’s the problem with most of us endeavoring to be home business entrepreneurs.

We look at the results that others are boasting about, but we fail to put into context all of the work that was done beforehand in order to achieve those results.

It's Like When I Finally Started Making Good Money as an Entrepreneur...

Around 2006, I decide that I was going to stop jumping from program to program and finally get serious about building a business over time.

So, I chose ONE are of business to focus on (my niche), and I started building a following (i.e. an email list) of people who were interested in my niche.

When I first started building my list, I would email them and ask them to buy stuff I thought they might be interested (in hopes that I’d earn a commission off the sale), but usually nobody bought.

Months after I started this endeavor, I got to the point where I had thousands of people on my email list… but people still weren’t very responsive, and I certainly wasn’t making a full time income.

(Note: This is analogous to about the 10 day point of the penny doubling example..  Metaphorically speaking, I’d only made about $5 bucks)

Then, as time went on, something happened.

Around mid 2007, I noticed that my results were improving at an astonishing rate.

Slowly, but surely, people started becoming more and more responsive to what I was emailing them. As it turns out, all of the time and effort I'd been putting in over the last year was actually helping me build a relationship with the people on my email list.

In other words, even though I wasn't getting very good results early on, my actions were planting the seeds for future success. 

All of a sudden, people were actually buying - a lot. I became one of those people you’d see bragging about how they made $3,000 in a single day!

And it all happened because I was FINALLY willing to practice patience and let my penny (efforts) keep doubling.

The Thing About Entrepreneurship...

There’s a  pretty popular quote you may have seen if you have a bunch of entrepreneur friends on Facebook.

It goes like this…

The point of the words is basically the point of the Penny Doubling Lesson.

“Living a few years of your life like most people won’t”... is analogous to the first 20 days of the Penny Doubling Lesson; it’s hard to stick with it because you’re not seeing great results.

“So that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't”... is analogous to the last few days of the Penny Doubling Lesson; when the positive results are overwhelmingly disproportionate to your effort (because you stuck with it when it was hard).

So, I leave you with this…

Don’t be like I was (haha).

Don’t make the common mistake of not realizing that success is a PROCESS, not an EVENT. 

Whether you're dealing with business goals, fitness goals, or goals in some other area of your life; commit to being patient and letting your penny double... and soon, you’ll have the success you’re looking for. 🙂

One More Thing...

If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to join our Awesome On Stage Facebook group. One area where more than 70% of the population want to improve is in their ability to confidently step on any stage, and speak publicly in a captivating way. If this describes you (even a little), then I'd love to have you as part of our private community of people who want to be more Awesome On Stage. 

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Devon Brown (“Duh-Von” not “Dev-in”) is a speaker, author, entrepreneur, former hip-hop dancer, and World's #1 Event Emcee. Once described as a sort-of ‘MC Hammer meets Tony Robbins’; his style is 50% education, 50% entertainment, and 100% must-experience. Be sure to connect with Devon on social media.

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