Monday, 19 April 2010

When 99% equals FAIL

You may be disturbed to learn that ever since I was eight years old, I deemed 99% as failure.

Long story short, I once scored 99% in a maths test (not a typo, we say 'maths' in Australia) and was falling over myself with eagerness to share the thrilling news with someone whose opinion I held in high esteem.

Instead of receiving the cheer and pat on the back I'd anticipated, I was met with a very blunt "Which one did you get wrong?" At that point, my happiness balloon burst (stabbed by a javelin en route to my heart). I began to deflate immediately.

As if being kicked in the guts when you least expect it isn't bad enough, I was brought further to my knees by something along the lines of "you have no grounds to celebrate till you get everything right" (excuse me if I can't quote verbatim as things seem to go in slow motion when one is stunned like a mullet - the fish not the 80's hairstyle, though the latter is equally stunning).

From that moment on, something was inscribed into my subconscious - 99% equals fail.

I've realised how much this belief has shaped my life. I've spent so much energy and focus aiming for that 100% and if I'm so much as 0.25% short of the mark, guess what? - FAIL!

Not wanting to remind myself of the failure I am at 99% capacity, I opt to walk away and start something anew hoping that maybe THIS time I'll achieve that illusive 100%. Consequently this has seen me jump from job to job, industry to industry and gym to gym.

Okay, this is where I fess up.

Since breaking my butt, my gym attendance has been less than perfect (subliminally translating to "I've failed"). Another balloon burst. The pattern that generally follows goes something like this:
Feeling despondent, I spiral downwards from mild embarrassment to utter shame. I reach a point where I can no longer face the staff, eventually ceasing all attempts to 'redeem myself'. Then a few years pass and I'll be on the look out for another gym where I will try once more to be 'Little Miss 100%'.
Isn't that insane?

This time I'm breaking the pattern. I am turning the equation on its head. Instead of 99% equalling fail, I'm equating each 1% a success. It is far more uplifting to build on increments of triumphs than it is to aim for the seductive 100% mirage and risk another balloon bursting.

I know what I'm attempting to do is not unlike retraining myself to write with my left hand. After being right handed for 39 years, I'll instinctively revert to old habits. But with constant self coaching (courtesy of Project Grace 2010) and frequent reminders that it's the 'one percenters' that count, I feel I'm on the path to recovery.

Until tomorrow, may you accumulate over a million one percenters in favour of a hundred.

Grace xx

PS. I never bounced back after that test. My maths results went from bad to worse, till eventually I chronically failed (academic fails, less than 50%). I dropped the subject as soon as I was allowed to and ultimately became renown in the family for being 'bad at maths'.

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  1. To use a footy analogy 'it's the one percenters' that make a difference.
    You live in Melbourne, you know the drill, it isn't the guy at full forward that kicked 8 goals that is the game breaker; it's the guy at the bottom of the pack who knocks that one ball towards his teammate or the guy who does a tackle to cause the ball to spill.
    Sure, the 8 goals are great, but if you can change that small part, enough of those will win a game.
    See Dennis Cometti, Bruuuuce and Nathan Buckley for more on this topic.

  2. Totally - it's the accumulation of the 'one percenters' that make the difference!

    This is a HUGE revelation for me. Today I woke up feeling so free and optimistic, which I'm sure has to do with the shift in perception - AMAZING!


  3. I imagine many of us can relate very well to this blog (I definitely can). These sorts of moments become turning points in our lives with the effect resonating forever. But isn't it up to us how important these moments continue to be? It's a little like seeing a magic trick and then someone show how the trick is done.

  4. How amazing is it when you peel back another layer! I love discovering little gems like this which explain so much of your life

    I agree with Garrie that everyone will be able to relate to this blog.

    One of my friends had the exact same experience as a kid with her dad saying 'well what about the other mark?' stayed with her as well.

    My version happened when I did something that wasn't too clever and mum said 'For an intelligent girl Jessica, you really do some stupid things sometimes'

    Mum can't even remember saying it and she definitely didn't intend to scar me! But I turned it into 'I'm smart, therefore I need to do everything perfectly', and essentially lived by the 99% isn't good enough rule too.

    Fortunately I've put that one out to pasture now!! It's all about being grateful for what you've got or what you can do, and recognising that your best is good enough.

    The great thing is - it's never too late to change a habit or a thought pattern. Enjoy the change

    Jess xxx

  5. Thanks Jess - while I'm comforted to know I'm not alone, I'm sorry to have to share the 99% fail perception with so many... hopefully we'll all 'see the light' - as Garrie says, see how the trick is done.


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