Eight years ago, I lived in a house that we called Project Hollywood. A group of the four best pickup artists in the world-- and me-- rented out Dean Martin's old house on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. This was a big deal in the pickup community, and it spawned clones all over the world. One such copycat was Project San Francisco, six hours away from LA. Mystery and I drove up there one day to check it out.
We were both immediately stunned with how well Project San Francisco was run. We were shown to our guest beds, given guest sets of keys, and guest towels. The whole house was clean and well organized. Our house, on the other hand, was chaotic. It was usually a mess and no one really took responsibility for anything beyond their own bedrooms. Generally it was only clean if someone had a girl coming over that he wanted to impress-- and then he cleaned it himself.
The tour through the house continued, and I commented on how clean everything was. In response, I heard the magic words: "Yeah, we try to keep it a nine out of ten at all times".
What an idea! Who would ever admit that they tried to complete something only to ninety percent? Eight years later, I'm still in love with the idea of nine out of ten.
Not everything in life needs to be perfect. For some things, like big goals, eventual perfection is a good goal, but the individual tasks that make up progress towards that goal should often be completed to a nine out of ten. My blog is important to me, but I don't think I've ever written a blog post that was a ten out of ten. I shoot for a nine, and of course fall short quite often. But what would happen if I said "ten or bust"? Well, for one, there wouldn't be many blog posts here. I might be capable of writing a ten, but it would probably take me ten hours. I can write a nine in half an hour or less. If I had to spend ten hours on a single post, I would probably post once or twice a month instead of eight times. What's better for readers-- eight nines or one or two tens? I guess it's subjective, but I'd take the nines from anyone I read.
SETT will some day be a ten out of ten. I won't quit until I get it there. But even when working on SETT, my goal is always a nine. Take page load performance. Right now the front page of Tynan.com loads in under a second, which is faster than 90% of web sites (and 7x faster than the blog of the founder of a certain well-known blogging platform). Could I get it to a ten-- faster than 99% of sites? Yeah, I could. I know how. In one day I got us from faster than 50% of sites-- average-- to 90%. That's a great return on time. If I spent a week or so, I could get it to 99%. If I do that, I'll have to give up seven days where I could have gotten other aspects of SETT to a nine. Not worth it.
A nine is excellent in anyone's eyes, and a body of work composed of nines seems superhuman. When you think about it-- most people you admire are probably putting out work that's a nine out of ten. Dr. Dre puts out 10/10, but he takes ten years to put out a single album. As a listener, I'd rather have ten albums that are all a 9/10. Jay-Z puts out albums that are 9/10, and a lot of them.
The nine methodology is also more conducive to learning. Put out a nine, get the feedback, work on the next nine. A ten takes so long that you don't get a good feedback cycle. With the path of nines, you improve very quickly, making each 90% of your potential better than the previous 90% of your potential.
A sum of nines can also make a ten. Most products that people put out have major weaknesses that detract severely from the overall product. A product whose components are all nines, though, is extremely rare. I'd say that many Apple products are like this. Not perfect, but so good in so many areas, that in many people's eyes, they are tens. When you shoot for nines in every area, you have time to get there. When you shoot for tens, you either never release, or you release something made up of tens and sevens.
So that next chunk of work? Shoot for a nine and move on to the next.
Check out my review of Earth Runners (my new favorite minimalist sandal) AND enter a Tynan.com contest to win a free pair!
Picture is Osaka castle. I went there at night last year and was pretty surprised how many people just hang out there at night. Was talking with a friend about Japan earlier today, so it's on my mind (more than usual...).
Going to three or four countries before the year ends... so hopefully I'll have some good photos for future posts. Believe it or not, I haven't left the country in 2012!!
Tynan, another great way to encapsulate what you're writing about is this:
"Perfectionists are very imperfect with their time."
There's a cost to everything. Prioritizing based on the ROI off those costs is the key.
10/10 reminds me of Donald Knuth books. He perfects his books and writes about a sentence a day. It's impressive but we also wonder if he's going to finish "The Art of Programming" within his lifetime. He even had to write his own text layout software and perfect it so that his books could look the way he wanted them to.
When I think I need a 10/10 it means I don't start. Sometimes I fail to realise that not starting is a 0/10 by default.
This is reminds me of an old saying used in some schools I have taught at.
"Shoot for the Moon, and fall among the Stars."
Good point.. I strive for 10/10 on projects and it kills me. I realize I'm spending so much time having something not only perfect, but visually perfect. It's difficult to not notice the tiny, little flaws in your work and it really kind of drags you down and has you focusing more on remedying the flaw than working on the project overall.
I think you might be interested in reading about Vilfredo Pareto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vilfredo_Pareto
Speaking of how fast SETT webpages load - yes, your home page loads quickly. But clicking to previous pages and on the titles of blog posts takes over ten seconds, and honestly I've never stuck around long enough to see if they ever did load. Important to note is that the url is already there, but the SETT page says it's loading, with the little dot dot dot signal. I just select the url and hit enter, and it loads lightning fast, but if this is happening to other readers, I'd say you have something that negates the 9 of your fast homepage load. I'm running Chrome on OS X, for what it's worth.
Thank you, Tynan. So important. I run my own business and suffered through the first four years of trying to put out tens. Now I realize that when I am working with young readers and writers, if they get to see my "nine" turn into a "ten" - for example, a word I left out of a sentence - they see revision. The little guys don't learn well when everything comes to them in a perfect state. They think it's magic! I appreciate your posts. ~Tammy
"What's better for readers-- eight nines or one or two tens? I guess it's subjective, but I'd take the nines from anyone I read." Says the person who wrote a post about not reading any blogs.
On the internet quantity isn't an issue. I unsubscribe from blogs because they simply write too many posts. Subscribing to more people to increase the quantity isn't an issue.
Another good example would be Stephen King. Even though I've only read his book "On Writing" to help with my writing skill; he doesn't attempt to perfect his books. He writes them quickly, edits them, and churns them out. They get to the good enough point or the 9 out 10. That's why he is a millionaire.
I like to bet. For those of you who have read the story about how I was a professional gambler, this is obvious. What I don't like to do is exercise. At one point in my life, these two activities joined to provide an interesting story.
I have a friend named Hayden. He likes to bet me. For a while we had a running string of bets, and I was down overall because I failed to get 10x his score in a Tony Hawk competition. At one point I was one of the top 10 Tony Hawk players in the world. That lasted for about 5 minutes until someone from Japan beat my score.
Hayden and I sat across from my kitchen table.
My coed Futsal team wrapped up the winter session on Saturday with a 1-5 loss. We went the entire session without winning a game, 0-6-1 was our record. Not many people like to lose, and I consider myself a gracious loser, always respecting the opponent. Having said that, a win-less season is very difficult to accept.
The coed team I put together was a combination of my son's eight year old and my daughter's nine year old teams. Both teams finished in the top half of their divisions this fall. All of the players are pretty good for their age, some better than average. So I wouldn't claim we were out talented.
It was our first foray into indoor Futsal and none of the kids have had any experience with the heavier, low bounce ball, on the smaller, compact field. I think the fast pace of the game also surprised them and me.
It was seemed like every team in our division had played before. They were quicker to respond to the action. They dribbled less and passed more, some actually executed set plays. They shot on goal at every opportunity. More than once I overheard coaches say after the game, "See you at practice."