I came across a book by writer and business consultant Greg McKeownEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I’m rather a fervent fan of the “less is more” approach.

Image via ville-noire.com
Image via ville-noire.com

Actually, to be frank, I came across a read that mentions Greg’s book. In said read, one of McKeown’s ideas is fleshed out: that the busyness of the go-getter can lead to mediocrity just as much as the lethargy of the lemming. Go-getters tend to throw themselves at every opportunity. The spray gun approach. Which invariably means they end up doing a lot of unimportant stuff, and often badly.

McKeown’s antidote for the over-zealous, A-type achiever wishing to avoid luke-warmness is the “90% Rule”:

When considering an option, ask, “does it score at least 9/10 on some relevant criterion?” If not, say no.

In essence, it’s a rather extreme boundary aimed at steering types like myself from doing the unimportant stuff.

The criterion might be “Is this fulfilling?” (ideally), “Is this exactly what I want?”, or “Does this align with the company’s values?” And so if a new opportunity comes around don’t consider the minimum requirement for a yes. If it doesn’t fit your criteria, it’s a clear no!

It’s brutal and means missing out on a lot of opportunities that may come your way. It means making difficult tradeoffs and exercising self-discipline.

But I reckon what you gain is clarity. Applying this rule you’ll be less likely to get caught up in indecision and able to focus all of your energy and creativity on just a few essential opportunities. And you will seize them fully. No more being stuck in mediocrity.

As Greg McKeown puts it: “Think about how you’d feel if you scored a 6.5 on some test. Why would you deliberately choose to feel that way about an important choice in your life?”

Would you apply such a full-on rule? I have been doing so. It’s been a boon for sifting through low-rent guff in my life.