The 85% Rule

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01st December, 2022

Recently, while listening to a podcast, I heard an anecdote that transformed the way I work. It was an episode of “The Tim Ferris Show,” and Hugh Jackman, a guest, was recounting a story about a sprint coach who was fascinated by Carl Lewis, the legendary track and field star who’s won nine Olympic gold medals. The coach couldn’t understand why Lewis would always be in last or second-to-last place after the first 40 meters but then go on to win the 100-meter sprint.

Some people assumed that Lewis was simply a slow starter who ramped up speed in the end. But after watching the race footage from a different angle, the coach found this wasn’t the case. Jackman explained:

“What he realized Carl Lewis

did at the 50-meter mark, 60-meter mark, was that he did nothing. His breathing was exactly the same. His form is exactly the same as

had been between meters 25 and 50. Whereas everyone else starts to push to the end — “Gonna try a little extra harder!” … their face would scrunch up, their jaw would tighten, their fists would start to clench — Carl Lewis stayed exactly the same, and then he would just breeze past them.”

This strategy, Jackman noted, became known as the 85% rule.

The trick is to work at 85% capacity rather than 100%.

It can be surprisingly challenging to take your effort down a notch and keep it there. But going full-throttle all the time actually works against you. When your mind is relaxed, you’re able to produce better, more thoughtful results.

Get to 85% by identifying what’s essential and trimming out the rest to the extent that you can do so without making life difficult for others.

Decline invitations to things that aren’t good uses of your time. Take breaks in your day—or in your career. Find ways to remind yourself to simply slow down.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, you don’t produce your best work when you give your 100%.

For example, while building a business, giving 100% would mean working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the equivalent of clenching your fist and scrunching your face all the time. This clearly isn’t sustainable. You’ll exhaust and get out of the game soon.

It’s counterintuitive to take your efforts down a notch, but that’s how you find a balance between relaxation and intensity. Relaxation is an essential element in order to do your best work. That’s why you see athletes dancing around with joy before a sprint while poking their tongue out. They are trying to achieve the right level of relaxation.

The goal is to enjoy the game, not to perform at full-throttle so that your head becomes a pressure cooker ready to explode.

Your goal should’nt be  to put all the effort into a game until you reach exhaustion. It’s to perform at 85% capacity for a long time so that by the time most people are out of breath, you are still running like Carl Lewis or batting like Rahul Dravid.

Performing at 85% not only takes the pressure off, it allows you to play the game for a long time. This gives you an unfair advantage over others.

Follow the 85% Rule, achieve everlasting success & stay blessed forever.