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  • Writer's pictureRahul Kolle

The 85% Rule

Do not give your 100%.

Don’t worry, this is not just a click-bait title, it does hold water.

Today, we’ll talk about the 85% rule, one that was first popularized by the legendary track and field superstar, Carl Lewis. A 9-time Olympic gold medalist and 10-time world championship winner. I stumbled upon this idea when I was listening to the Tim Ferriss show featuring Hugh Jackman, when they start talking about how the X-men star never gives his 100%, just like Carl Lewis. Back in the day, none of the track gurus and analysts could understand how 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. They assumed he was just a slow starter. But there was more to it than that.

If you go back and watch some of his old footage, you will realize that what Lewis did at the 50-meter mark, at the 60-meter mark, was that… he did nothing. His form remains just the same, whereas everyone else starts trying harder. Their faces would scrunch up, jaws would tighten, fists would start to clench – Lewis stayed exactly the same, and would breeze past them all.

This then went on to become the 85% rule.

This rule applies even to the stage, and to public speaking. We become slaves to overworking ourselves to produce the best but end up losing our shape and grace. A close friend who came to watch me talk at a seminar commented after my talk and said “I felt you were yelling that story at me” – Not the best feedback for a speaker who strives to inspire. 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. I’ve realized that when your mind is relaxed, you’re able to produce better, more thoughtful results. The work you produce in the end will be the work you’re most proud of.

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