The Ten Percenters
I learned about the Ten Percenters when I joined the Marines. I was one of the “Ten Percenters” – not a good thing, just ask any Marine.
“Ten percent of you maggots are going to FAIL!” the Drill Instructors screamed at us. “Ten Percent of you are going to wash out. Ten percent of you are no good. Not to the Marine Corps; not to anyone.”
And I was – at least in their eyes – one of those ten percent. But I was also something else. I was also one of “ten percent” who had more than a basic education. I was one of the ten percent who didn’t just do a good job – I did an “outstanding job” when it came to completing a mission, which merited attention. As a result, I was one of those few ten percent who got an accommodation (a Meritorious Mast), and a field promotion by a big fat general; as well as other less official honors, such as being a Private First Class being put over some officers – they were given to me to command, having been ordered to obey my every word without question nor hesitation. Ninety percent of them didn’t like it, but I didn’t abuse my ‘authority’ – ninety percent of the time – only exercising my authority ten percent of the time over the ninety percent of them who didn’t like what the upper-ups had done . . .
And I found over time that the Ten Percent rule was a good rule of thumb for explaining just about everything. And the first rule of the Ten Percent Rule is that it’s wrong about ten percent of the time! (Or ninety; it depends on how you are looking at things. Which brings us to the second part of the Ten Percent Rule: you must always consider its Inverse: the ninety percent.
Which sort of explains scientists’ recent observations that we can only see about ten percent of the universe – maybe even a bit less. Apparently we’re ‘blind’ to some ninety percent or so – we just can’t ‘see’ it. Dark energy and such; more dimensions, alternate universes – things we can’t see, measure or touch. Ninety percent of it is ‘gone’ as far as we’re concerned. However I am happily predicting there’s a ten percent chance that we’ll see about ten percent of that ninety percent unknown discovered before our race is done. And I’m only giving us a ten percent chance of making it another thousand years, given what we’ve done to this planet thus far. However, there’s a ten percent chance – I may be wrong – that we’ll turn it around and make something good and substainable out of it . . . you never know . . . ninety percent of the time – and that other ten percent? You’re only right about ten percent of the time – or ninety, depedning on what you’re guessing about.
But the Ten Percent rule also gives rise towards explaining people in one way or another. The Marine Corps was right. Ten Percent of you are going to be washouts in the annuals of life – except that ten percent (or ninety percent) of that ten percent are going to break that rule, altering the statistics . . . ten percent may do worse, ten percent may die; ten percent might “accidentally” fall into something . . . ten percent don’t . . .
Ninety percent of people are inherently ‘good’ but it’s that missing ‘ten percent’ that gives mankind a bad name. (We, the Ten Percenters who have guns and are actively able to shoot them; willing to, and all that kind of stuff – should take care of them. Eh? But that makes ‘us’ the ten percent ‘bad guys’ who go out on vigilante justice – of which only ten percent might succeed; unless it is in the non-violent crime area, in which case ninety percent of us may succeed – except that ninety percent of us don’t want to go to jail (and of the ten percent who don’t care, ninety percent of them don’t wanna go, having been there before) . . .
So we just end up flipping off our enemy (ten percent of us), and moving on (the other ninety percent). Though ten percent of that ninety percent that went walking away may wish they had flipped the other person off; perhaps ten percent of that ten percent will actually stop to do it – I don’t know – only statistics will tell . . .
And speaking of statistics, every statistic has a margin of statistical error, which means in this case the Ten Percent Rule does – and indeed, I’ve found it does – about ninety percent of the time. About ten percent of the time it’s dead on.
Giving a “for instance”: Nanowrimo.org reported that last year out of approximately 300,000 participants, 30,000 succeeded in completing the competition. That makes out for about ten percent, doesn’t it? And I’d be willing to bet that ten percent of those who completed their novels will either go on to publish them (perhaps ten percent successfully) – and ninety percent will fail.
This year it turns out the percentages were a little different. They were about 13%. Given a margin for error in any human predictive indicator based upon percentage differences, a plus or minus three percent error is not bad. Not bad at all – especiallly when you are using it as a Rule of Thumb for things – an unprofessional error, but good enough for the ninety percent or so of us who are simply muddling along in life, trying to figure things out on the way (of which it seems about ninety percent of us do – but only ten percent to a happier conclusion; the other ninety percent sometimes sinking into despair for awhile – though ninety percent of them seem to pull out of it before they are ‘done’ (meaning ‘dead’)).
And given the margins for ‘good and evil’ – sometimes I look and think: ninety percent of people are good; ten percent are bad. Of the bad ten percent, ninety percent might go on to do something. Ten percent are caught ninety percent of the time. Or is it the other way around, with ninety percent caught ten percent of the time? Or is it that of the ninety percent of ‘good’, ten percent will do some wrong while meaning to; ten percent will do something ‘wrong’ (to our case of perceptions) without intention . . . or am I wrong? I’m bound to be wrong at least ten percent of the time by the Ten Percent Rule, but even in that ten percent I might get it right Ten Percent of the time . . . and is the Truth exposed ten percent of the time? Or is it ninety?
You can see how confusing it can be when you examine it too closely; ninety percent of the time I find myself chasing rabbits down all kinds of holes . . . ninety percent of the time going into herringbone conclusions without any end – and even if you are right, it only explains about ninety percent of human behavior; there’s that mysterious ‘ten percent’ nobody seems to know anything about . . .
How else do you explain that ten percent that give their lives for someone else? That ten percent which will reach out to someone they don’t know (if at all; even in that ten percent ninety percent seem to hold back from fear). It’s strange how you can keep sub-dividing – using the ten percent rule – explaining the whole range of human behavior – from ‘bad to good’, human sexuality (is it that ten percent of us are gay; and ten percent perhaps bisexual – just not talking about it?). I don’t know. I do know it makes for an amusing coincidence . . . about ninety percent of the time.
But seriously (and I’m serious about ninety percent of the time – however, I may appear to be joking during ten percent of that ninety) – the ten-ninety rule explains a lot of things ninety percent of the time. When it comes to slicing hairs – its an accurate as any measure I’ve found – ten percent of the people changing their minds about this thing or that; ninety percent of them stuck in the mud; ninety percent of the backsliders moving forward; ten percent actually getting ahead . . . things like that.
The Ten Percent Rule (and Its Inverse) – gives you something to think about
Ten percent of the time.