The 10% Rule of Life


We judge most things and experiences on details. I call it it the 10% rule because most of that what makes the details worth of notice usually happen at the very end of a project, building construction, manufacturing, design, experience–the last 10% of completion.That’s why finishing well is not just a good idea, it’s the difference between mediocrity and greatness and even success and failure.

10% ten percent rule of life

I don’t care how solid the foundation of a house is or how well-framed the walls are, if the painting is sloppy the entire structure gets devalued. “It’s just cosmetic,” you might say, but in the minds of most people the entire product gets devalued because of the last 10% of effort was not done well.  The opposite is true as well. Sometimes a beautifully finished building will garner top price before its owners find out that at core the structure is substandard. The value, rightfully or not, is mostly assessed by our first impression of the very last phase in any project. In construction we have even named them  “finishes.”

Your last 10% can also be more than just an impression. It can be the difference between success or failure. I’ve been in multi-million dollar church facilities where I couldn’t hear or see well. After millions spent on steel, concrete, pipes and electrical wires, costs overrun “value engineered” sound, lighting and video to something inadequate.  The 10% rule comes to bear here and the entire church experience gets downgraded because the most important aspect of it, the message, gets no priority.

Over the years, I have stopped using some very talented freelancers because they constantly break the 10% rule. They can get projects close to completion with brilliant ideas, but fail to deliver at the very end. They often “disappear”, miss deadlines, can’t get corrections and fixes done, or are not able to take direction to bring their vision and the client’s expectations in line.

What are you thoughts on the 10% rule?


  • Steven Shantz

    Good post Maurilio. In my work, I’ve seen some projects reach 80% to  90% completion and then languish at that stage without reaching a definite sign off and evaluation.  These projects are often judged as failures, because it’s they get evaluated on that last 10%. The reason for this happening can be a bad vendor, poor project management or bad leadership. Formalized project management can help, but it takes a lot of drive and focus on the part of the sponsor and stakeholders to bring it to successfully finish.

    • In your position in a global organization, the last 10% is crucial for overall buy in. Thanks for the comment.

  • Sally Harrison

    Maurilio, you nailed this one. I see it happen everywhere. Thanks for the post. 

  • Jason Haas

    Good post Maurilio. The last 10% is definitely important. We see this alot as well with various vendors we use and contract employees that do work for us. I’d like to add that the “first” 10% is important as well. Some people don’t have the ability to even complete the first 10% because they lack ideas, creativity, vision, and innovation.

    I totally agree the last 10% is important, but the trick is surrounding yourself with those that can contribute to the first, middle, and last 10% to complete the task, project, or whatever the intended job at hand was.

    • You’re right Jason, it all matters. But those who can’t deliver quickly get disqualified. However, the talented who cannot finish well is truly the most painful partner.

  • @PaulSteinbrueck

    Maurilio, I think you’re right on. In sports the 10% rule is obvious – the individual or team that is able to finish strong and make the final score in a close game wins.

    Beyond that, there no area of life where everything goes exactly according to plan – work, marriage, parenting, church.  The 10% rule differentiates between those people who are content to give the effort that was originally expected and those who are committed to doing whatever it takes to succeed. 

    • I like your thinking that the last 10% goes above and beyond the expected or “paid for.”

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  • Mark H Jeffress

    Also starting well is often underrated. The beginning of any project sets the pace and the tone for the rest of it.

  • Sally Epps

    So true Maurilio, I see that happening all the time in my business. We have stopped working with vendors because they failed to deliver well at the end.

  • Jehiel Ortiz

    Interesting point of view. One question? It is possible to get the final idea of the 10% before start or in de middle of the process?

    • I think it can evolve with the product all the way until the very end. Putting the finishing touches that make it more than just good.

  • Linden Barrick

    Couldn’t help fixating on the typo in the final question you ask. (Occupational hazard…I teach English.) I guess this proves the point about finishing strong. I’m sure I missed valuable information because my focus was thrown. I need to re-read without my editing glasses!

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