The 85% rule

I am so grateful for the Tim Ferriss show, in particular in the episode #444, where Tim interviewed Hugh Jackman. I learned a key concept I would love to share with you: the 85% rule.

Here is the story:

Some time ago, on the running track, running athlete Carl Lewis would start and lag behind all the other runners. But in the last meters, he would continue and outrun everybody to finish first.

What happened?

He used the 85% rule.

During the training his coach, noticed that when he asked him to run at 100% of his performance, it would lead to a certain kind of result. However, when he asked Lewis to run at 85% of his capacity, he noticed that the performance significantly increased.

How did that happen?

Thanks to the power of relaxation.

Look at how relaxed he is (especially his face).

This counterintuitive truth reminds us that the more relaxed we are, the better the results.

Indeed, optimal performance is finding the sweet spot between relaxation and tension.

I talked about this in my article on Flow, and in Resting is part of the training.

In meditation for example, it is common to use the analogy of the back being straight with the right tension like a violin. Too much tension will not produce the right sound (or might break the string), and too little tension will not allow for beautiful music to flow.

This means that sometimes, to achieve success, you need to know when to lower the bar. Make it so low that success becomes inevitable.

One of the advice I give to business students when I help them prepare for interviews in some of the top consulting firms is to take more time to relax, limit the number of information they take in for the preparation, and, their only goal for the interview is to give 85% of their capacity.

Most of them are already high achievers, and already did all the prep work necessary for the interview. This allows them to relax more, breathe, be more human, connect better with the interviewers and come across as more confident.

I have been on the interviewer’s side in other contexts, and the candidates that I appreciated the most were those who were well prepared but also came across as genuine, natural, spontaneous and human (even with a sense of humor!).

Christina Aguilera, in her Masterclass teaser talks about putting all your attention on the note before the difficult part of your song, so that the difficult part will become easier:

This is an artistic version of the saying:

“Hard training, easy war.”

That’s all folks !

This article, like all the others, is not about getting more information. It is about insight and transformation. Convert your insight into action by answering the following questions:

In which areas in your life are you overperforming?

Where could you use the 85% rule to perform at an optimal level?

Where do you need to relax more?

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