[tweetmeme]When Seth Godin’s daily post came today, it literally transported me back in time. It’s like that moment when a familiar fragrance sets off a memory of a loved one, or you bump into your favorite college professor on the street after many years (this actually happened to me the day after I was married, and it seemed prophetic at the time).
Today, Seth makes the point about how important it is to put that work into the last 10% of quality. I was brought back in time to my childhood. My father continually exhorted my two brothers and me to “always try for that extra 10%.”
Coming to this country as a poor immigrant, he never reached the pinnacle of business success, even though he was one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. He could discuss current affairs with Ph.D’s and talk them under the table. I can still hear my father’s voice intoning “extra 10%, extra 10%, extra 10%.”
Seth Godin can always say things better than almost anybody else, so I am reproducing his post here:
Hardly Worth the Effort
In most fields, there’s an awful lot of work put into the last ten percent of quality.
Getting your golf score from 77 to 70 is far more difficult than getting it from 120 to 113 or even from 84 to 77.
Answering the phone on the first ring costs twice as much as letting it go into the queue.
Making pastries the way they do at a fancy restaurant is a lot more work than making brownies at home.
Laying out the design of a page or a flyer so it looks like a pro did it takes about ten times as much work as merely using the template Microsoft builds in for free, and the message is almost the same…
Except it’s not. Of course not. The message is not the same.
The last ten percent is the signal we look for, the way we communicate care and expertise and professionalism. If all you’re doing is the standard amount, all you’re going to get is the standard compensation. The hard part is the last ten percent, sure, or even the last one percent, but it’s the hard part because everyone is busy doing the easy part already.
The secret is to seek out the work that most people believe isn’t worth the effort. That’s what you get paid for.