What happened to the other 5%?


I remember when I was in high school I received a 95% on a mid-term exam. I was so happy with the mark that I showed my parents and they were both very happy for me. Then the following weekend, I showed my uncle, who was a very accomplished doctor of veterinary medicine my exam, he congratulated me as well, but then he said “what happened to the other 5%?”

I was a bit bewildered by what he said. I remember trying to think about how to answer his question, and I couldn’t. It was a few months later when I received a 98% on a science exam his question started to make sense. I was happy with my 98%, and received the parental praise one would want to receive, but then I started looking at where I lost the 2% and how I could keep on improving.

Years later, I understand the valuable lesson my uncle taught me back then, and it was “sometimes success can be our biggest failure”. Very often, we will achieve some success in our professional or even personal lives, and then sit back and expect success to just keep coming automatically with no effort. When this happens, it’s only a matter of time before disaster hits, and you find yourself struggling to achieve what you previously had already achieved.

Not a good place to be in. High-level performers who have suffered from success failure soon learn they need to continue to work as hard as they previously did, and then add a little more effort if they still want to progress and move forward in any life endeavour.

There is also a second lesson to be learned about the missing 5%, and that is there is a great sense of “pleasure” when you are able to celebrate your accomplishments, and then refocus and improve your performance in order to achieve those small extra percentages in performance. Sounds hard? It can be, but when you move from 95% to 98%, with a focused effort, the feeling of accomplishment is even that much more exhilarating. And that is what keeps people engaged in any meaningful pursuit, whether they are Michael Jordan or a couple who has been in love and happily married for 40yrs.

Great and meaningful performance is all about the effort toward achieving those incremental small gains. So when you do achieve a 95%, yes, be proud of what you have accomplished, then refocus on achieving that missing 5%.

All the best in achieving your highest performance.


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