Boogers, Bacteria and Z-man

My 8 year old, Z-Man, got a science kit for Christmas. It’s got petri dishes, so yesterday we started growing bacteria.

We put sugar and gelatin in the dishes. The instructions said to take a cotton swab and get some bacteria from wherever you want. So we rubbed our cotton swab in…zman zoe petri Boogers, Bacteria and Z man



-Lint from between Z-Man’s toes


We smeared them onto the gelatin. In a few days, we’ll witness thriving colonies of bacteria multiplying in the corner of his bedroom.

I said “Hey Z-Man, come here, let me show you something.” I drew him a picture of how bacteria divide and multiply. “These babies double every 20 minutes. Here’s a calculator. Let’s start with 1 and then start multiplying by 2.”

As he punched numbers, I wrote them down on this piece of paper:

bacteria dirt s Boogers, Bacteria and Z man

By the time we got to hour #2, he started giggling. “WOW! This is going to go to a million!”

“Yeah, and that’s only gonna take about six hours.” I asked him: “THEN what happens?”

“I don’t know!”

We kept going. One million, two million, four million. He doesn’t even know how to read the numbers anymore. He’s rolling around on the sofa, giggling.

“Z-Man, you can hardly even see a million bacteria cuz they’re so small. They’re just a speck. By tomorrow, you’ll see a little bit. Then what’s going to happen? Are they going to grow and grow until they eat our house?”


“Why not?”

He didn’t know. He crinkled his face: “Yes. Maybe?”

He definitely knows that by next week those furry critters are gonna be swimming all over the place. Which colony will be bigger? The one from the dirt, or the one from the boogers?

There’s nothing like exponential growth to fire your imagination. Z-Man GETS it. Them suckers are growing. You can already see tiny colonies form and it’s only been one day.

You know what this is just like?

It’s like your own knowledge, education and wisdom.

It SEEMS like those things are linear. But they’re not. They’re exponential.


Because every NEW thing you learn connects to everything you already know.

If you know 4 things, there are 6 connections between them. But if you know 6 things, there are 15 connections:

6 15 connections Boogers, Bacteria and Z man

Add a 7th and connections expand to 21. Everything’s connected. Your knowledge grows one step at a time, but your ability to apply it grows exponentially. It multiplies like Z-Man’s bacteria boogers.

You should get all fired up by this, because the difference between a tiny speck of bacteria and a frothing colony that’s shoving the lid off that petri dish is only a few days.

This is why a 70 year old man or woman who feels creaky every morning can still be brimming with wisdom and be a force of nature. It’s why the late Peter Drucker was one of the most sought-after business consultants, even at the ripe old age of 90.

Glenn Livingston says, “Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in 1 year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 5.” Amen brother.

Right now you have problems that have taken you years to solve, that 2 years from now you will be able to solve in FIVE MINUTES.

That’s why you must never give up on your vision, your commitment to education, your passion for excellence, or your dreams. Your power as an active agent in the world is exponential. Never, ever forget that.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: Which bacteria do you think will grow the fastest? The ones from the dirt, the dishrag, the lint from between Z-Man’s toes, or boogers? Cast your vote below.

About the Author

Entrepreneur Magazine says: "Perry Marshall is the #1 author and world's most-quoted consultant on Google Advertising. He has helped over 100,000 advertisers save literally billions of dollars in Adwords stupidity tax."

He is referenced across the Internet and by The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and Forbes Magazine.

Last 5 Posts by Perry

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Posted by Perry on January 10th, 2013. Filed in Marketing Blog. Tagged as . Follow responses thru Comments RSS. Follow responses thru Comments RSS.

Comments on Boogers, Bacteria and Z-man »

  • Dishrag! ;) I just ordered a kit. My wife loves using dishrags and it drives me crazy. Now go swab the toothbrush!

  • Tawnia says:

    Dishrag, Hands down.

  • Ian Jacob says:

    I am going the dishrag.

  • Only a father of boys could have written this blog post title!

  • Susan says:

    I’m seeing neuron connections in your drawing. (Surprise!) This is a very cool explanation.

    And, I’d be interested the stats on this email/blog with that awesome title.

    • Perry says:

      I got a 27% open rate. I sent it to a sizable chunk of my list, whereas normally when I mail to that wide range of people I’d get 15%. Yeah talking about boogers activates the lizard brain :^>

  • George says:

    I go for dishrag as well!

  • Pete says:

    The brilliance I love in this post is the way analogies are used to connect familiar, everyday things to other things that drive home a point which will be remembered.

    Thinking in analogies was one of the reasons Einstein was so brilliant. He applied what worked in one area to an area no one had connected that solution with before.

  • Great post, Perry! (Not because of the boogers, but because of the eye-opening illustrations about the connections.)

    Since I already cheated and read the other posts, I will agree and say that the dish rag will be the winner. I do the dishes occasionally and I can definitely tell if the dish rag hasn’t been replaced in a while.

    Just wondering, do you have an email list for number theory?

    I love stuff like 80/20 and your connections illustrations. :-)


  • betsy says:

    Dishrag, unless it was just washed with bleach! Tempted by boogers. Humans are loaded with bacteria. Great post.

  • david says:

    definitely the dishrag!! let us know how it turns out :)

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