The Power of Being Intentionally 90%

Life & Work

I’m surrounded by perfectionists.

Seriously — many people I work closely with are so good at the details and barely let anything slide. It drives me nuts.

Of course, they probably look at me and think, “Wow, he doesn’t really care about doing a great job.” When the reality is, of course I care! But I’ve learned a lesson that I desire for you to learn too.

Being a perfectionist is not a bad thing. The world needs you. Don’t be ashamed of it.

But it’s also not a bad thing not to be a perfectionist. The world needs non-perfectionists, too, or else nothing would ever get done.

So here’s the big secret I’ve learned: I do almost everything intentionally 90%.

If I’m starting a new business, for example, I’m ok with getting to about 90% of the initial vision for launch and putting it out there.

There’s a few reasons for this.

First, the last 10% can take as long or longer than the first 90%! Often, that last 10% also inflates and grows as you forgot about things, learned more, etc. Shooting for 100% is a death sentence.

Second, it’s frustrating! I’m not going to grind away until my mind is numb at something I’m not even sure will work.

Third, only real customers with wallet votes count. In business at least, we’re obsessed with data, metrics, hand raises, opinions, etc. But the only real opinions that matter are those attached to the wallets of paying customers. And if you don’t give them something to buy (because you’re too busy working out that’s last 10%), you’ll never know if they want it in the first place.

The old adage is true: Good enough is better than perfect. Perfect is the enemy of great. However you want to slice it.

Here’s one more way to think about it: You should allow enough leeway and flexibility to keep from going over the edge.

Consider a strict diet. Everyone’s a little different, but many people can’t follow a strict diet well, because the food addiction hits so hard that they collapse and revert to their old ways.

One remedy for this is being intentionally 90%. 90% of the time you are eating right, exercising, and making great decisions. But here and there, maybe a birthday or a holiday meal, or one little piece of candy, etc., may be enough to satisfy that addiction without a total regress.

It’s amazing — when I don’t force myself to follow arbitrary rules and instead make decisions based on how I feel in the moment, with an eye towards staying within the 90%, I make better longterm decisions.

I may have one fun meal that is part of my plan (in the intentionally disregarded 10%) instead of thinking of it as a “cheat” meal that “ruined my progress” so I “might as well just screw it.” (Humans are strange beings, no?)

There is tremendous power and freedom in the 90%. Experiment with it and see if it works for you.

Apr 23, 2024

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Hey, I'm Steve — a Christian, entrepreneur, thinker, and creator. Thanks for stopping by!

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