Yesterday, I heard someone pledge, "You can count on me to give it 110%." That phrase bothers me on a couple of levels.
- It's an exaggeration that borders on over promising. I had a friend who loved to intensify everything with the modifier "very." She was very glad to meet you. She had a very good meal at a very nice restaurant. When something was truly better, she had to resort to very, very. And I found that very, very annoying.
- It's statistically impossible. You can't give more than 100%. Try giving someone 110% of the money in your wallet, or eating 110% of the food on your plate.
- It attacks the underlying belief that my grandfather instilled in me that you can always get half way better. 110% implies you can't get any better, you're already 10% above the best.
It's odd to me that we started assigning a percentage to the effort we were willing to give. Especially since I've never heard anyone say less than 100%. "You can count on me to give about 80% on this one." Now, that would be refreshing. Normally in these situations, it should be enough to simply say, "You can count on me." If you need to add extra assurance, you could add, "I'll give it my all."
But somewhere along the line "our all" wasn't enough. We had to add, "I'll give it more than I'm capable of." Well, I say enough is enough. Join me the revolution to stamp out the silly use of this extreme phrase. Start by looking in the mirror and ensuring that you don't say it. And then confront it's usage by others. Here are a few options:
- Keep-your-friends mild > "No need to promise more than you can possibly deliver. A simple, 'You can count on me' is good enough."
- The statistical-sarcastic-snob > "Oh 110% you say. I'm estimating with a 95% confidence level that you scored below 60% on your statistics final." Warning: Might be a bit over used.
- I'm mad-as-hell rude > "What! Only 110%? Why not 111%? Or 112%? Can't you commit to 150% you slacker?"
The only way to stop this outrageous inflation of committed effort is to call it out when it happens - 100% of the time.