When 99 is more than 100

As a young man, I spent my 20s focused on taking myself to the limit. In my 30s, I discovered triathlon and shifted my life towards a devotion to personal excellence. In both periods, I was unable to understand why anyone would bother “being average” at anything.

Whether your focus is academics, finance, wealth or sport — if you spend your time in a group that consists of the top 1% then you’ll be at risk for certain errors.

The first error is a skewed definition of “average.”

Athletics is a great field to see this in action as we’re much less likely offend anyone by telling the truth! Here’s a quote from a former coach…

He’s constantly disappointed in himself because he thinks that he should be able to roll out of bed and drop an 8:35 Ironman.

In other words, our friend has a baseline that requires him to outperform 99.99999715% of the planet.

That’s an extreme case but, if you listen to the dialogue surrounding your favorite sports team then, you can see this pattern repeating itself throughout our elite classes.

As an amateur triathlete, I could beat 98.5% of the field at any Ironman race in the world, yet my performance wouldn’t even register for the top 1% of performers, who benchmark themselves on their peers.

My point, isn’t to correct the attitudes of the elites – an extreme way of thinking is useful to drive extreme action.

My point, is to encourage you to stop and ask, “Is It True?”

When your peers lack diversity, your views are at risk from becoming detached from reality. You will see it most easily in your definition of average and decent.

  • What’s a decent athlete?
  • What’s a wealthy family?
  • What’s a successful child?

Outliers living in the 1% are unable to see the extreme nature of their lives and that can lead to ruin.

It’s not just about aging athletes ruining their joints.

I had a very close friend that ended up financially ruined because he was unable to be satisfied with being more wealthy than 98% of his peers.

Others ruin relationships with children, who are unable to measure up to an unreasonable standard.


Another risk – the best are lazy.


  • …but I train 25 hours a week
  • …but I work 65 hours a week
  • …but I read 100 books a year
  • …but I add more value than anyone at this firm

My capacity for extreme workload requires me to drop everything in my life.

In fact, dropping everything is a “secret” of success.

However, it makes me very lazy outside my domain.

As the youngest partner in my private equity firm, I had staff to shop, to sort my CDs, to open my mail, to cook my meals, to take out my trash… the list went on and on. My approach was to throw other people’s time at any issue that prevented me from spending time on my goals.

Ultimately, behaving like a plutocrat wasn’t the main drawback.

By not placing “love” as a primary goal, I created a pattern of behavior that would have driven every relationship from my life.

It wasn’t until 15 years after my divorce that my family received the dividend of a man becoming a little less successful and far less lazy.

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