The 90 10 rule. How John messed up a perfectly good day.

I have a monthly tradition of meeting for a 9:30am brioche and coffee in the best brioche place in Barcelona (cannot reveal the secret location) with my french-hungarian friend and entrepreneur Andre Vanyi-Robin (of Bestv and Entrepreneurs’Organisation).  We met yesterday.  The brioche was good.

Andre told me a great story about the 90 10 rule.  Neither of us know the actual source of this rule, but it comes with a great story.  Anybody who can point us to the source will be greatly appreciated.

The 90 10 Rule
10% of life are things that happen to us.  We have no control over these events.  90% of our life depends on how we react to the things that happen to us.  We can have total control over our choice of reaction to the things that happen to us.

Imagine this situation: Breakfast time at home and John and Suzie and their daughter Sally are sitting at the table. Sally turns quickly and knocks the coffee all over her father John’s shirt.

Scenario 1)

John curses and says “how could you be so clumsy! Now I am going to have to change this shirt.” He then turns to his wife and says “how could you have left the coffee so close to the edge of the table!”.  He storms upstairs to change his shirt leaving behind a daughter in tears and an angry wife.

He is now leaving home 5 minutes later and the traffic is terrible.  Sally is in the back of the car and totally ignoring him.  He drops her to school where she is now late and pissed off.  He reaches work angry and his boss says “lets review that important document we need to deliver today”…  John has left it at home in the rush.  He had left it out on the table to do a final review first thing in the morning, but the chaos at home meant that he rushed out without picking it up. His boss is frustrated because this is an important opportunity and John has to return home to pick up the document.

That night the house is a tense angry situation with nobody talking to each other…

Why did John, Suzy and Sally have a bad day?

1) because of the spilt coffee?
2) because of Sally spilling the coffee?
3) because of the traffic?
4) because of his boss and the important meeting?
5) because of John’s reaction to the spilt coffee?

Scenario 2)

Sally spills the coffee and looks shocked and concerned.  John looks at his shirt, pauses, and looks at his daughter “Oh no I will have to change this shirt.  Don’t worry, I have another one upstairs.  You need to be a little bit more careful, but its only a shirt”.  John hugs Sally and goes and changes his shirt.  John comes downstairs to find his wife is going to take their daughter to school and he has 10 minutes to review his document. He makes a couple of good notes and gets in his car.  There is traffic, but he is focussed on the way he will present the document to his boss and practices the presentation out loud in the car.  He arrives at work, enters bosses office, delivers a well thought through presentation.  That night he reaches the house and everybody is sitting at dinner sharing their day.

Two different scenarios began the same but ended very different.  They ended different not because of 1) or 2) or 3) or 4)…  but 5) how John chose to react to something that happened to him.

10% of life is stuff that happens to you.  90% depends on your choice of reaction to what has happened to you.

P.S. For those readers in Barcelona, we have a fantastic event on Friday 6th November at 15:30 – Nando Parrado will be sharing his story of survival in the Andes 36 years ago after his rugby team’s charter aircraft crashed in the high Andes.  I wrote about my reflections on his story 3 weeks ago in my blog here. Information on the event is available on the IESE website.

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