Finding 110%

A couple weeks ago, in my ‘I suck at social networking’ blog I referenced a quote by George Steinbrenner that was my first post on twitter. I’m still enamored by the quote and am devoting this blog to fully explain why I love it so much, and why I think you should too.

The video unfortunately is no longer available on Basically, George was talking about what made him successful and he said, “ I believe there’s 110% in each person, there’s 10% they didn’t know that’s there and that’s what I want to get into. Maybe too much.”

Put any negatives have towards him aside for a minute, when he says, “Maybe too much” he’s referring to HOW he accomplished getting the most out of his players and executives that made him maligned. But his idea of getting more out of players than even they knew was there is absolutely brilliant.

I had always thought that when coaches would motivate their players by saying something like, “Now go out and give me a 110%” I though it was a line of crap. I mean you can’t give more than you have. It sounded like just some inspirational line that lacked a lot of substance. It’s been years since I’ve thought about it and it became just another one of those things that’s stuffed away in the recesses of your mind that you don’t give much thought to…until something like this yanks it back out.

The reason this quote blew me away when I first heard it is because it fits perfectly with my ‘inch worm’ theory of development. This theory admittedly has a strange name, and I’m going to soon link you to a video that is laughably odd. There is a point I promise as long as you get past the fact that you’re sitting there watching a video about an inch worm.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, inch worm is a theory that I came up with during the time that I was producing my first video series for Stoxpoker back in March of 2008. Out of all the material that came out of those 4 videos, it’s the video that introduces this theory, that got the poorest ratings, and my guess was that it didn’t really give people the ‘ahha’ moment I thought it would and deserved.

Basically the theory says that improvement happens from two directions, by not only improving on what is already strong, but also by eliminating your greatest weaknesses. The key piece in this is that if you’re like many people who have been following the conventional wisdom that says, “always play to your strengths” what you end up doing is creating wider and wider range in your ability. You create greater variance or variability in your performance because your weaknesses still exist. They don’t automatically go away just because you’re best has gotten better. But too often players believe that it should, and it completely messes with confidence – when you’re expecting the shitty part of your game to not be there and it shows up, your mind can’t make sense of it and it gives your confidence a punch in the nads.

The reason this theory is called ‘inch worm’ is this. If you were to plot on a graph, quality ratings of your play over a large sample what you see is a bell curve. How that bell curve is distributed varies depending on how good you are at your best compared to how bad you are at your absolute worst. The closer those two points are the narrower your range and the narrower your bell curve, and when the opposite is true you have a flat bell curve.

As the theory goes, the bigger the gap between your best and your worst, the more energy and effort is required to actually increase your best. And the reason is because improvement actually happens in the same way that an inch worm walks.

As you watch this video, think of the inch worm as a bell curve, and think about his back leg as being your worst, and his front leg as being your best.

What you end up seeing is that the only way your can actually make your best better, and the only way you can find that extra 10% George is talking about is to eliminate your greatest weaknesses. Otherwise your bell curve gets so flat you get stuck, you plateau and stop improving.

So why I love George’s quote so much is that I now truly believe in the idea finding that extra 10%. You can give 110% and doing so brings you to a level of performance beyond what you previously thought possible. That has already happened for many of you already. If you think back a year, two or more ago, are you able to do more in poker than you though possible before? You may even be 200% or more better by now – if actual math for this could exist. Or if you’re new to poker, than in other aspects of your life your improvement has happened like this already.

If not, this theory can help, and if so, use this theory to take you even further. The key to taking that next step forward after you’ve reached a new peak, is not to try and take another one from the front – to improve your best – it’s to take one from the back, and eliminate your greatest weakness. Only then does finding that extra 10% get FAR easier, and not require the kind of rage and volatility that Steinbrenner probably believed he needed to get it.

What do you think? Does it apply to you? Answer some questions? or create more? (which I’m happy to answer as always here).

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3 Responses to “Finding 110%”

  1. Not trying to be a kiss-ass but it did make sense for me when I watched the Stox video and gave me that “ahha” moment. But sorry I never vote for the videos.

  2. Haha! So maybe I’m making too much out of the low votes. I’m glad to hear the ‘ahha’ happened to you too. It definitely did for me when I realized it.


  1. Thoughts on a Phil Galfond Blog - August 24, 2010

    […] you have a chance is to play your best, and since you’re best is a moving target (see my blog on Finding 110% for more), this is your chance to step beyond what you were previous capable of doing and into what […]

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