Scale independence is a ubiquitous feature of complex systems which implies a highly skewed distribution of resources with no characteristic scale. Research has long focused on why systems as varied as protein networks, evolution and stock actions all feature scale independence. Assuming that they simply do, we focus here on describing exactly how this behavior emerges. We show that growing towards scale independence implies strict constraints: the first is the well-known preferential attachment principle and the second is a new form of temporal scaling. These constraints pave a precise evolution path, such that an instantaneous snapshot of a distribution is enough to reconstruct its past and to predict its future. We validate our approach on diverse spheres of human activities ranging from scientific and artistic productivity, to sexual relations and online traffic.