Jun 17, 2008

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The 75% Rule and the Excellence of Imperfection

      I am pretty sure nothing in nature is really perfect.  Okay maybe the egg.  But other than the egg, everything has its flaws. And in truth, if you look at an egg really closely, especially under a microscope, you will see flaws and discoloration there as well.  It is sort of like having this really gorgeous girlfriend.  No matter how hot she seems at first blush, in time you will start to notice the little imperfections and they can actually really drive you to distraction because they start to stand out more and more once you get keyed into them. Blemishes just seem bigger against a pristine backdrop. Even a perfect game in baseball is not really perfect because it simply can not be replicated.  In fact, no one has ever pitched two perfect games.


Yet people remain driven to achieve perfection.  From a far, many of us admire the perfectionist.  We think, “Oh what discipline!”  “I wish I could be like that.”   If you think about it though, I am not sure you really want to be that guy.  


Nothing drove this home for me more than watching the U.S. Open this weekend.  There was Tiger and there was Rocco Mediate.  Everything with Tiger seemed to be chock full of drama.  He was in pain, he was grimacing.  He’d make a bad shot and you’d see it on his face.  Then there was Rocco, living the dream and just happy to be there.  He seemed to be just truly enjoying the moment.  Now, I know the retort — but Tiger is a legend, he will go down in history as the greatest golfer who ever lived.  That’s nice, but the problem with history is you tend to be long dead and gone and not around to enjoy any of it.  I just don’t get that Tiger is really enjoying how brilliant he is, he seems to be too busy striving for perfection.

Now, I am not advocating a life of sloth.  Rocco Mediate is no slouch as a golfer.  The guy has been around a long time, has earned many millions of dollars and he clearly works hard at what he does.   I just don’t get that he feels he needs to give his all to his game at all costs.   He strikes me as a guy who has a little perspective and balance in his life.   I am of the mindset that in the long run that is the healthier approach to life.

  The key is not always being at your best and continually giving 110%.  Unless of course you are hell bent on living one of these brilliant and very short lived lives.  Rather, it is in knowing just what your best looks like and knowing when you really need to turn it up.  If you think about baseball, the really successful pitchers are not the ones throwing 100 miles an hour all the time.  Instead, it is the guy like Greg Maddux with the really good command of his off speed stuff. 

 Possibly the best way to ensure you get where you are going in life and enjoy the trip is to adhere to the 75% Rule.  Find the circumstance that calls for your A game; then really give it your all.  Experience what its like to hit the wall and break through it.  Take note of what part of you is being called upon to get there. It is not the same for everyone. For some, it is fighting through pain, for others, avoiding distractions, or maybe it is shedding guilt or doubt and those voices in your head.  Whatever it is, there will be a moment. You need to understand and fully embrace that moment so that when necessary you can master it and yourself.  Then file it somewhere in your memory bank and go enjoy your life.

For me, it has always been about being in the game.  Playing hard, playing smart but not always winning.  I like to call that the 75% Rule.  Do just enough to keep the leaders within eyesight and pick your spot when you are going to really shine.  Maybe it is this first week at a new job – after all first impressions can be everything, but that’s another blog.  Maybe it is the one time you find yourself unexpectedly in the spotlight.  It is in that moment that you can really make an impression because everyone around might have their guard down and only you know what you are really capable of.

 I have found that winning can often feel hollow.  After all, once you win, then what?  You feel compelled to win again.  After climbing the mountain, second place never seems good enough and everyone seems to be gunning for you.   People tend to relate to you differently.  It stirs up envy in them. And in a lot of ways people just don’t know how to relate to a champ as a person.   They become larger than life and that I submit can be a lonely place. 

 But to be Rocco.  On Tuesday morning after the Open, everyone was embracing Rocco.  At most water coolers, he was what they were talking about.  After all, Tiger was supposed to win.  He was supposed to crush him.  So every hole that passed where Rocco was still in the hunt was another nugget for his memory bank. I know many people say, “It sucks to lose.”  And there is this notion that if you gave your best and finished second, it just means your best wasn’t good enough.  But another way to look at it, if you embrace the 75% rule, is that your best was better than anyone could have ever expected. And that can make you a legend in your own right.










  1. Great article Howard!