"How long is a million seconds? How many days do you think that is?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said, then started counting, realised it was pretty hard to do in your head, then stopped.
I gave her the answer: "approximately 11 days".
"Now," I continued, "how about a billion? How many days is a billion seconds?"
This time she was ready. The answer was intuitive now. A million and a billion – they're not too different. We talk about millionaires and billionaires in pretty much the same breath. A little rough arithmetic and we're done.
"A hundred days?" she guessed. "Maybe a little more?"
I was reminded of this fact recently in a book on financial planning by Tony Robbins, where he was trying to push the point on how we often think we know what we want, but because never thought about it in greater detail are probably really wrong about that. He used the example of how we think the road to becoming a millionaire and the road to becoming a billionaire are pretty much the same.
They're different. Very different.
Another recent story came to mind, this time in the world of fitness: that of how a pro gambler won a $1 million dollar bet to go below 10% body fat. Reading the story, I was reminded how different it was to go from 25% to 15%, as compared to going from 15% to sub-10%. Seemingly similar goals, but in reality very different.
I wonder how many other things we take for granted to be similar but in reality are anything but.