To Do Your Best Work, Use the 85% Rule

Take it slow to achieve greater things

Tim Denning
Forge
Published in
3 min readAug 13, 2020

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Carl Lewis during the 1993 World Track and Field Championships. (Photo:
Gilbert Iundt; Dimitri Iundt/Contributor/Getty Images).

Recently, while listening to a podcast, I heard an anecdote that transformed the way I work.

It was an episode of The Tim Ferris Show, and Hugh Jackman, a guest, was recounting a story about a sprint coach who was fascinated by Carl Lewis, the legendary track and field star who’s won nine Olympic gold medals. The coach couldn’t understand why Lewis would always be in last or second-to-last place after the first 40 meters but then go on to win the 100-meter sprint.

Some people assumed that Lewis was simply a slow starter who ramped up speed in the end. But after watching the race footage from a different angle, the coach found this wasn’t the case. Jackman explained:

What he realized Carl Lewis did at the 50-meter mark, 60-meter mark, was that he did nothing. His breathing was exactly the same. His form is exactly the same as had been between meters 25 and 50. Whereas everyone else starts to push to the end — “Gonna try a little extra harder!” … their face would scrunch up, their jaw would tighten, their fists would start to clench — Carl Lewis stayed exactly the same, and then he would just breeze past them.

This strategy, Jackman noted, became known as the 85% Rule. As a chronic overworker prone to anxiety and…

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Tim Denning
Forge
Writer for

Aussie Blogger with 1B+ views that made me 7-figures — Get my free email course: timdenning.com/startonsocial-medium