Monday, October 1

The Ten Percent Rule

It may come as a shock to hear me say this, but people are not black and white robotic like creatures, but are instead rather grey. They're not all perfect and always follow the rules or do the right thing (for themselves or others). It's this inconsistency that makes them human.

If you lose sight of this inherent ability to fail there's a danger of becoming frustrated or even disappointed with yourself and those around you. So that prat who just cut you up on the pavement, or that short woman who was really inconsiderate with her brolly or even that close friend who just isn't getting the point you're trying to make; if you consider these all irregular lapses on their part rather than normal behaviour, then perhaps you can live with it.

But for those of us who see everything in terms of numbers, this isn't much help. We need a bit of a formal definition for this natural human "looseness". The way I reconciled it was by wrapping the inevitable failure of people in what I call The Ten Percent Rule.

The basic premise is to divide the positive and the negative recognise that, on the whole, the former outweighs the latter nine-to-one. So ten percent of all commuters will refuse to give up their seat to another who needs it more, ten percent of people will walk too slow for you liking and ten percent will always underpay their share of the dinner bill. The point is to recognise for all these guys there are a whopping ninety percent who aren't annoying you.

It's all very well to dissect society in this way. But since we, as individuals are also part of that same society, the rule can be applied to ourselves too. It's within tolerable bounds for you to be late for an appointment ten percent of the time, or to feel way too tired to work for one day in ten.

On the other hand, if you are able to control and monitor your behaviour then perhaps the ten percent can act as an acceptable tolerance for making mistakes. If you were acting like a right obnoxious tit one night, then make sure you show better character the next nine. If you stood someone up for a date, then make sure you make the next nine on time.

If you've been holding out on extravagant spending for nine weeks, well then perhaps by the tenth it's time to treat yourself. If you caught the wrong train, or calculated a sum incorrectly, or even missed your favourite TV show - as long as it's happening within that ten percent don't worry about it. And if you manage to beat the rule and get one hundred percent, then give yourself a pat on the back for being extra special.

But why ten? Well okay, this is where I admit that the above rule is all a bit woolly really. I mean in reality good and bad things probably happen far from this arbitrary boundary. But considering the rule forces you to think about the good too, and how often it happens in comparison to the bad. And if you find that you've got nothing to complain about ninety percent of the time then perhaps you'll be more accepting of the flaws we each demonstrate.

The rule makes the few times people upset you easier to digest, since it says that potentially it could be so much worse. After all, if crap happens only ten percent of the time it means that it doesn't for the other ninety. I'm sure you'll all agree that that's a pretty large margin to be smiling about.

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