Nine out of Ten

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 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 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!!


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