80%-er

Catalogs that show up in my mailbox go directly into the recycling bin. One exception is the Patagonia catalog that seems to show up every couple of months. I actually take 30 seconds to flip that one before chucking it and it’s not because I’m interested in yet another expensive puffy vest. It’s because I really dig the adventures that are used as the backdrop to sell their gear. I can totally see myself doing all of those things depicted in the pages of Patagonia….once the kids are off to college….the business is bigger/acquired for a stupid multiple….blah, blah, blah.

Amidst my day dreaming, this quote was hovering over a dude climbing a mountain wearing some really sweet gear:

“ I’ve always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession and degree of specialization that doesn’t appeal to me.”

WHOA. THAT IS SO ME. I’ve never heard that depiction of the difference between passion and obsession so well articulated. Granted, I’m a numbers nerd so using a metric of an 80% threshold is appealing but I don’t think that’s the point. For me, I can very easily become passionate about new things, experiences, activities. And while I want to excel at these things, I don’t have an internal desire to be the very best at them. At times that feels like I’m lacking in focus or commitment, but it’s really more about not chasing diminishing returns. That push beyond high-level proficiency to be the greatest triathlete, golfer, mountain climber, or whatever means I have to sacrifice new experiences like sky diving, writing a novel, or raising chickens. What’s appealing to me, is the opportunity for new and diverse experiences. Obsessive specialization crowds those opportunities out.

That quote above was actually written by Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard. His book “Let My People Go Surfing” just got added to my Kindle reading list. Interesting guy and sounds like we share at least one philosophy. If his PR person reads this I’d be happy to connect with him on a trout stream while wearing one of his puffy vests.