Logarithmic vs Exponential Growth

A recent blog post by Scott Young has been making the rounds lately. I've recently been thinking about career growth and the boundaries of a given role. Scott's post hits on some important nuances:

Anything you try to improve will have a growth curve. Imagine you ran everyday and you tracked your speed to finish a 5-mile course. Smoothing out the noise, over enough time you’d probably get a graph like this:


Here, improvement works on a logarithmic scale. As you get better, it gets harder and harder to improve. Elite athletes expend enormous effort to shave seconds off their best times. Novice athletes can shave minutes with just a little practice.

Logarithmic growth is the first type of growth. This is where you see a lot of progress in the beginning, but continuing progress is more difficult.

Now imagine a different graph. This time you’ve build a new website you update regularly and you’re measuring subscribers. This graph would likely look very different:


Why might it be important to understand which kind of growth path you're on? As Scott puts it, if you're on an exponential path and you don't know it, there's a possibility of pulling out of the game before you hit the breaking point of high growth.