Years ago when I was a mixed martial arts fighter, a mentor told me to leave some in the tank. He said to keep showing up consistently, but to go 90% each day so that I stayed hungry.
Consistency was key, he said. But so was curiosity. I had a ton to learn and to absorb it all I needed to maintain not only my body’s ability to withstand the physical demands of training but also the curiosity mindset.
At the time, I understood the advice but didn’t apply it. I thought I was different, that I could push myself to levels nobody else could handle. I’d bought into the Gatorade culture of going 110%, whatever that was, and believed I could train at that intensity each day until I was a world champion.
It didn’t pan out. My body repeatedly broke down and the curiosity mindset that propelled late night sessions of studying film and visualizing techniques began to fade. I’d often get sick because I wasn’t letting my body recover, but worse than that was my loss of desire.
It’s been over a decade since I’ve competed inside a steel cage, but the lesson rings for me today more than it did then. Not only is there nothing wrong with going 90%, but there’s a whole lot right about it.
Consistency at 90% beats inconsistency at 100% in just about every endeavor you can imagine. The challenge, however, is in imagining yourself doing less and being better because of it.