80 Percent is Perfect

by James A Lopata

"Eighty percent is perfect," said the speaker at the front of the auditorium.

“But that doesn’t make sense!” The woman at the microphone was indignant. “I insist that my staff dot every i and cross every t. We need to ensure the highest possible quality for our work, all the time.”

“Lady,” said the man on the panel at the front of the standing-room-only crowd, “your business will die.”

This was at a big-time journalism conference I attended several years ago. The panel was made up of national experts in business development. The discussion was about the rough times being had in news organizations. The Web, Facebook, Twitter, and others were devouring traditional news outlets’ customers and profits.

The expert went on, “You need to release at 80%.”

The woman and a few others gasped.

“If people before you hadn’t released at 80 percent, we would never have television, or radio, or movies or the cell phone. Think of all the dropped calls you experienced in the early days of mobile technology. The business cycle demands 80 percent. The remaining 20 percent works itself out in the market.”

His wisdom does not merely apply to business building. The same holds true for regular life. I hold myself back when I wait for 100 percent — whatever that is.

I can’t know perfection until it starts to interact with a wider world anyway.

I frequently tell would-be writers that the most important thing is to write, write, write. And publish, publish, publish. The internet is great for this. Write quickly and publish quickly. ”But it’s not ready yet!” they yell. You will learn more by releasing seven imperfect blog posts in a week than carefully crafting ten blog posts over a year without letting the world witness them.

I call this The 80 Percent Rule. And I need to apply it in just about every aspect of my life, that is, if I want to get better and move forward to being better at whatever it is I want to be better in.

Recently, I was 80 percent ready to launch this website, but I did it anyway. I was 80 perecent ready to date, but I did it anyway.

When you’re 80 percent ready, you’re ready. Let it rip.

Or, as my coach sometimes says, "Done is better than good."

It’s nerve-wracking and anxiety-producing at first. You will get unwelcome feedback. But over time you will trust it and love it. It’s full engagement. It’s being truly alive to allow the remaining 20 percent to be shaped by forces beyond your immediate control. Think of the joy of being washed up on shore by a great wave on the beach on a glorious summer day. That’s how it amazing it feels once the practice becomes grooved.

What in your life is 80 percent ready for release?