Aim for 80%. Deliver whatever you do 80% of the time. Be like bamboo.
80/80 = 100. A stress reduction strategy for perfectionists
Most of my life I have aimed for perfection. My main sport was gymnastics, I won age group titles as a teenager, represented my country at 10 World championship in my late 20’s and early 30’s and spent a great deal of time aiming to score the perfect 10 according to a huge gymnastic rule book called a “code of points”. When not competing I coached children according to this doctrine and judged at an elite level internationally. The rules are in essence so detailed as to rank the top level athlete from the bottom, to separate the gold medallist from the silver and bronze. The code of points also as I found out later as Head of Delegation at a World Championship minimise subjectivity, decrease bias and increase transparency when your scores can affect the lives of an athlete from a neighbouring country and if that border is friend or foe.
If you have a background of aiming for perfection the incongruency of the 80/80 = 100% statement may grate on you. I say with tongue-in-cheek that to the degree it grates is the degree you will benefit from digesting this concept explained below.
80% is still an A
I am sitting on Cathay Pacific flight 616 departing Bangkok at 0640. My watch alarm woke me up at 0430, shortly followed by the hotel wake up call. After a taxi ride at speeds of 130km down the highway I am awarded a business class upgrade at check-in. As I listen to Chopin waiting to disembark the gate I reflect on teaching a fitness certification to experienced and new fitness professionals from all over South East Asia. The process takes three days and starts with me teaching and role modelling the 8 hour course “live”. There is a lot of a theory and practical content to learn and present in an engaging and entertaining manner, the expectation is delivery at the highest standard. After the “live” course we then review the course, section by section to clarify any grey areas or questions. The first day is over 10 hours long.
The next day starts with a workout that serves as further culture and team building and showcases certain products and reinforces standards of the company. The day involves the 10 candidates teaching back two abbreviated section each and receiving feedback from themselves their four other group members and from me, the master trainer. I then score technical and presentation according to a thorough checklist. This evaluation is a high pressure situation and designed to prepare them to teach the 8 hour course. I have done quite a few of these evaluations over the last 5 years all over Asia and my reflection comes up with a way to dissolve the stress of expectation and pressure of living up to being perfect as a role model.
This reflection comes up with my 80:80 concept.
80% is still an A. Deliver whatever you do 80% of the time and you can be a good role model and remain human. Perfection in Japanese Zen gardens are perfect not because the space is symmetrical and immaculately groomed but because an imperfect object like a rock is planted in the least balanced spot.
Many cultures in Asia expect the Sifu or master to be perfect all of the time, the adamancy of knowledge gives disciples confidence in themselves, it is my observance that it leads to too narrow a focus that closes the mind to other possibilities and worse, it chokes the mind. This choking and narrowing of the mind becomes a precarious and unstable place of thought, the standard of living with low tolerance of falability and humour. I see that when you aim for 100%, a small disruption can derail you from your flow and cause your mind to go blank, change your emotion from glad to sad and raise your blood pressure, all of which cascades into the rest of the day and a toppling down off the pedestal of perfection.
Aiming for 80% is still the same A that 100% is, does not take an exponential amount of effort required to get that extra 20% and frees up flexibility of the mind to bounce back from distraction or the unknown.
Be Like Bamboo
In Hong Kong bamboo is used as the preferential material used as scaffolding because bamboo bends and flexes and can dissipate environmental stresses of wind, heat and humidity.
Be like bamboo; bend and flex 20%, open your mind to other possibilities and learn not from black and white dogma and adamancy of another charismatic figure but from the free flowing and infinite source of self.
Why do I discuss this? As I said it was a reflection of the last three days in Bangkok teaching to 10 people from Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, US, Malaysia and a guest from China and another Master Instructor from Singapore. My reflection also includes the same training course 7 days earlier in Shanghai and the corner you can paint yourself into when seeking perfection, or in this case, status as a Master Instructor before broadening your experience and acquiring wisdom.
Having said all that a sure fire way to acquire wisdom is to hold yourself perfection 100% of the time. The fall is greater and harder to bounce back than living to 80%, 80% of the time.