Tom Connellan’s One Percent Solution.

Tom Conellan preaches the power of steady incremental change in The 1% Solution.

I read an intriguing proposition last night.

It turns out that the appropriate level of improvement one should strive is not 100 percent.

It’s one percent.

That’s the message of Tom Connellan’s The 1%  Solution, a breezy, entertaining and quick book that is told in the form of a story.

Like Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal, this much slimmer business novel uses a talented male slump who, like Dante, is alone midway through his life’s journey in a dark wood.

After seeing his son’s soccer team play much better than it had the year before, Ken asks the coach how he implemented the change.

When the wading through the obligatory humility, the answer comes as follows: by striving to improve a single percent.

This encounter is the beginning of Ken’s immersion in the philosophy: his journey takes him through six guides, each of whom emphasize the same message in different ways.

Through the various chapters we hear about the importance of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in Outliers, the 20-80 rule that stresses the big impact of a small number of people or little changes, and the 30 days it takes to form new habits.

This is all relatively familiar fare, and the notion is provocative nonetheless.  What if you identified a single area, worked on it consciously for 30 days and then moved on to another area?

Connellan suggests that this method is far more effective than setting resolutions that close to 90 percent of people abandon and that he maintains can actually be psychologically damaging.

I talked about the book at dinner last night.  Aidan was skeptical, which was not real surprising for a couple of reasons, and he made the point that while 1 percent may make all the difference in the world for Olympic athletes, the vast majority of humanity is not.  He also asked what specific examples Connellan applies.

Aidan makes solid points.

The book is light on non-Olympian examples, other than showing Ken almost inexorably moving to higher levels of accomplishment, confidence and satisfaction and talking about getting rid of a magazine pile a little at a time.

Nevertheless, the central point about striving for one’s personal best-an idea that Connellan references and that is encoded in the motto, “Swifter, higher, stronger”-is one well taken, as is the idea of the large consequences of small, continual and gradual change.

So, even if you don’t accept everything Connellan has to say, there are some helpful nuggets to be gleaned from the work.

How do you try to make changes in your life?  Are you a drastic or incremental person?


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