Imagine you’re standing on one end of a very narrow valley, with sheer, unclimbable rocks to either side of you. You can’t turn back, and you can’t climb the rocks. You don’t even want to. Instead, you want to get to the other side of the valley. That’s your goal.
There are several problems, however.
First, between you and the other end of valley are all kinds of obstacles. There are pits, crevasses, huge boulders, dense thickets, and all kinds of obstructions. As a matter of fact, from where you stand to where you want to go, it looks pretty much impassable. At a minimum, it’s going to take much more work than you were planning on.
The second, and perhaps worse problem, is that you’ve seen recent pictures of the other side, taken from people who have already arrived there. It’s nice, but it’s not exactly what you wanted. The picture you had in your mind of what would be perfect is quite different from how the other end of the valley actually is. Once upon a time, the other end of the valley was your image of perfection, but today, it’s not. It’s still really good, and much better than where you are now, but it’s not exactly what you wanted.
When faced with this scenario, human beings form several groups.
The first group is the defeatists. They look at all the obstacles between here and there and declare that it’s literally impossible to get to the other side of the valley. Sure, a few other people have arrived there, but that’s only because they were really smart, had really good parents, inherited a bunch of money, or were born with really good looks. The typical person? Nope, he’s screwed. It’s impossible. Don’t even try. If you try, you’re just being an idiot.
They just sit down on the crappy side of the valley and wallow in their negativity.
The second group is the lazy people. They admit that it’s possible to get to the other side, but man, look at all those obstacles. It’s way too much work. Why would you want to waste your time working that hard? No, they say, better to just sit around, smoke weed, play video games, and take it easy. They’ll never be very happy, but at least life is easy. Getting to the other side is too much damn work.
So they sit down, right next to the defeatists, smoke up, and play Call of Duty on their PlayStations.
The third group is the delusional people. Unlike the defeatists and lazy people, delusional people are quite positive in their outlook. They look at the valley before them and assume the obstacles don’t exist. Sure, there are some pits and boulders in the way, but that doesn’t apply to me, they say. That only applies to jaded jerks. If you’re a good person and do the right things, the obstacles will simply vanish before your eyes.
The delusional people strap on their backpacks and venture into the valley. Since they don’t take the obstacles seriously, they are constantly getting wounded and killed. They fall into the pits and crevasses. They smash themselves against the boulders. They get whipped and torn by the thickets. Many of them spend their entire lives walking up against the rocks and smacking themselves in the head.
When you warn them to mind the obstacles, they verbally attack you and scream that you don’t know what you’re talking about, and that you’re just being a jaded jerk. Then they walk into a pit and die.
The lazy people point at the delusional people as perfect examples of what they’re talking about. “See? There you go! I told you it was too much work.”
The fourth category is the ragers. These are people who admit that there are plenty of obstacles in the way, yet it’s perfectly doable to get to the other side of the valley without that much work. However, they’re furious that the other end of the valley isn’t what it used to be. They want it to be like it was 50 years ago, perfect and wonderful (at least in their eyes), and feel personally affronted that it isn’t that way anymore.
The ragers spend their time screaming at other people, and even screaming at the pits and boulders, about how horrible everything is and how it’s bullshit that the other end of the valley isn’t what it used to be. They even stand alongside their buddies, the lazy people, and often agree with their points. Some ragers create movements to rewind the entire valley into what it was many years ago (though these movements never actually accomplish anything meaningful or long-lasting).
The fifth group is the fearful people. They really want to get to the other side of the valley, and clearly know they’d be happier over there. However, they’re utterly terrified of the obstacles. They see all the catastrophes the delusional people keep having and this fills them with further dread.
So they spend their lives fantasizing about how great it would be if they lived on the other side of the valley, knowing sadly that they’re too frightened to ever go there.
The final group, and by far the smallest, is the successful people. They want to get to the other side of the valley, but they do several things differently than the people in the other groups.
First and most importantly, they don’t delude themselves. They clearly know that there are obstacles and they will need to be taken into account and dealt with. They also know that the ragers have a point, in that the other end of the valley is not what they would ideally like it to be. However, they know that because of the 90% Rule, while they can’t get 100% of what they want, they can get 80% or even 90% of what they want on the other side of the valley (as opposed to the 10% or 20% they’re getting now on this side).
The make a detailed plan of action to deal with all the obstacles and to set up their new life once they reach the other side of the valley, without any delusions or false Disney fantasies. Then they venture out into the valley, avoiding and/or dealing with the obstacles as they encounter them.
Because they acknowledge the obstacles, they get a few little scrapes now and again, but they don’t get seriously wounded or killed like the delusional people do. It takes some time and work, but it’s not a big deal.
Soon, they reach the other end of the valley. It’s not perfect, but its way better than where they were. They then design their 90% awesome life, and are happy for the rest of their days. This is unlike the defeatists, lazy people, ragers, and fearful people who are still very unhappy on the other side of the valley. Sometimes, if they listen closely, they can still hear the ragers screaming from all the way over there. It makes them chuckle, and they shrug, and get back to their happy lives. Here on the other side of the valley, living their 90% awesome life, they’re happy, so none of that matters anymore.
They just smile at how glad they are. Life is good.