Work on the 97%

Humans aren’t born to swim. The average swimmer converts just 3 percent of her underwater exertions (kicks, strokes etc.) to forward motion. The remaining 97 percent is expended in overcoming drag. In the 1992 Olympics, Jane Cappert found that finalists exerted 16% less power than swimmers who didn’t make a cut. That’s right! They owed their success not to push harder, but to a superior ability to avoid drag. They worked on reducing the 97% that was wasted effort.

We increasingly find ourselves swimming in seas of information. Perceptive people realize that most of this information is noise. One response to this problem is to add more information – to read more books and articles, to listen to more podcasts and audiobooks, and to watch more videos. Just like the swimmers, though, what separates the world-class from the rest of the lot is the ability to reduce noise rather than increase information.

To succeed is to reduce drag rather than increase one’s efforts. To succeed is to reduce the percentage of noise rather than cram in more information through an inefficient process.

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