Career Karen

Make an 80% Decision

The difference between a great decision and a mediocre one is one word: doubt.

I’d rather make a great decision and be 80% successful with 20% room for error, than to second-guess my decision, doubt it and then do 100% n.o.t.h.i.n.g!

I’m someone who will default to performing at 80%. The advantage? Things get done. Not perfectly, but they get done.

In school, when children bring home a straight A’s report card they sometimes are rewarded with gifts and money and other fun things. However, when you come home with a straight B (minuses!) report card, I’m pretty sure there’s no bicycle in the driveway waiting for you.

But here’s the thing: I’d rather perform with B’s and get things done. The bicycle can wait.

Why? Because there’s no such thing as perfect. If I adopt that mindset, my stress levels will be through the roof.

I’m comfortable with an ‘almost perfect’ outcome.

For example, my company is being built on 80%. If I didn’t have this philosophy, I’d still be in Vancouver in a senior leadership role for a luxury footwear company working a 9-5 job. Well, actually, more like a 60-hour a week job.

Taking a leap of faith is like committing to doing something at 80%. The remaining 20% is the cushion, the room for error, the room for growth and, best of all, room for the “aha!” moments which arrive at my doorstep unannounced. The 20% buffer rocks!

My mistakes don’t define my success. However, they absolutely contribute to my success. My shortcomings, those moments where I find myself thinking “I have no idea what to do” turn into amazing lessons for my personal development.

Yes, in the moment or errors, I’m being stretched wayyyy out of my comfort zone. It’s like I’ve been thrown into a stormy ocean of “what to do ” waves! But I don’t drown. I’ve never drowned. Each time I’m in that “I don’t know what to do” predicament, a life vest of new thinking is thrown my way.

Those 20% flawed moments provoke me to ask this question: “What am I going to do about it?” and “How do I get through this?” They force me to look beyond my limited understanding, to seek out help and ask for insights. I read more, explore more and research more. That 20% flaws create an “uh oh” in me that forces me to think. And when I take time to think, I’m welcoming life to teach me. I am a student. I open myself to knowledge and understanding that far surpasses my limitations.

My 20% mistakes keep me motivated and, in turn, I remain true to my original commitment: “Get it done.”

If one of the principles enveloping my business is, “Karen, you’ll figure it out. You’re 80% ready, go for it. Get it done.” then the 20% room for error plays an essential part and empowers me all the more.

Why are we worried about doing something at 80%? Our reputation? Our ego? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to function at 100% in our decision-making and in our execution?

Quite frankly, the only way you can do anything at 100% is within a team context. When I was fortunate to lead an incredible team of managers at John Fluevog Shoes, I felt like we were unstoppable energy with limitless possibilities. My 80% contributed to someone else’s 80% and so on and so on. A team of 22 people performing at 80%, well, do the math. The beauty of teamwork and leaning on each other, knowing that I can only get straight A’s if I do it with y.o.u. is unbelievably empowering, life-giving and successful. Together we join our flawed performances, we weave a tapestry of unique fabric and create a masterpiece.

Embrace your 80%. Embrace his 80%. Embrace her 80%. And let’s fill in each other’s gaps.

Don’t be afraid of the 20% errors. It’s only 20%. Life’s too short to be uncertain. Be a great decision maker. Stay the course. Get it done. Learn. Grow. #pressrepeat

– Karen Thrall

*also published on


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s