100 days principle


Whenever I want to accomplish something beyond my current level of competence I say this to myself:

”Your 100th [insert what you want to improve] will be good.”

Examples:

  • I want to be a better writer? My 100th article will be good.
  • I want to make great meals? The 100th meal I prepare will be good.
  • I want to have a better body? I’ll get one on the 100th day at the gym.
  • I want to become a good photographer? The 100th photo onwards will be good.

100 time’s the charm

I don’t think much about the most talented people around, people who create literally anything and it’s great out of the box, people who can shit roses figuratively speaking. They got lucky playing the genetic game or the talent game.

I’m on the side with people who work, the ones who are not given any talent or chance but create one with sheer effort. And learning from people on this side, I’ve made this ‘100 times the charm’ rule/principle for myself.

  • If I want to become a writer, the first piece I write won’t be any good but the 100th piece might be worth some attention.
  • If I want to create music, the first thing I’ll create will be so bad that I myself won’t like to hear it but the 100th track I create might be worthy of some ears.
  • If want to have better physique, which is often seen as something largely controlled by genetics, I won’t start looking good on the first day at the gym but I might see some changes on the 100th day at the gym.

The first 99 iterations are the tax I pay to make something happen, to force it into my destiny. The rule also helps you to not get demoralised because you kind of know when to expect some results.

Quality vs Quantity

And it follows the same theme of quality vs quantity. You don’t have to be the most talented person that can create quality all the time and you don’t have to be the dullest person who only churns out quantity. You can be the other guy, that uses quantity to reach quality and have a nice little journey to look back on.

What we actually want to improve is the quality of our skills and what we’re doing is providing the quantity of work.

The following is an excerpt from a book called Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class, he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

It’s not Quantity vs Quality, but in fact Quantity leads to quality.

Does this even work?

Mostly it does, many times it doesn’t but it doesn’t matter. The point is to get to action.

The 100 days rule might just be a placebo you tell yourself that a definite milestone exists and upon reaching that milestone you’ll improve some skill.

In reality, some skills are far too complex to be learned let alone mastered in 100 days. But having a 100-day track record of actually working on it is far better than planning/talking about how to get it done or far worse - not doing anything about it.

They say it takes 10,000 hours of work to become a master at something. I don’t want to become a master at something, I just want to get visibly better than my previous self and 100 days of continuous effort over a few hundred hours of work seems to be a good way to get there.

Read Next:

"Be so good they can't ignore you." - Steve Martin