Tuesday, 8 June 2010

99% isn't good enough

I first became aware of a special significance of the number 99% when I was working as an agent. Sometimes an actor would go for an audition and the next day we'd get an exciting call from the casting director. "We really like xyz" she would say "can't make an offer yet, but it's 99%." This happened a number of times, including one case I particularly remember of a lead role in a big movie playing opposite Bob Hoskins. After a while I noticed that this '99%' never turned into 100%. No-one whose chances were described as 99% ever actually got the part. 99% wasn't even 50:50. It was either that they were very good but not exactly right for the part or that they were very good but the 'money,' the film's backers, wouldn't like them. Lesson: nothing's certain till it's certain and don't count your chickens till they're hatched.

About this time I put up a notice in my office reading '99% isn't good enough.' This was a reminder for myself as well as for anyone else. Some people thought that it was a plea for perfectionism, but it didn't say 'Only 100% is good enough.' That would be foolish. Nobody's perfect. No-one in the real world is 100%. Finally it was the songwriter Alan Blaikley who got it right. The 99% was for effort. If you're going to achieve anything worthwhile in life, aim for the maximum you can. Commit yourself to whatever you are trying to do. There is no guarantee of success, but at least if you fail you will know you didn't fail for want of trying.

So the Words of Wisdom this week are 99% isn't good enough.