By Jessica Walsh for "40 Days of Dating"

By: Christoph Niemann 

Your calendar is virtually airtight, and your to-do list is filled to the brim. Yet, there it is: a new passion project/a new intriguing industry event/an alluring committee invitation — something you know that you simply don’t have the capacity for. But, you’re going to take it on anyways. Why? Because FOMO.
FOMO (the fear of missing out) can compel people to make potentially unrealistic, and thus harmful, choices. Stretching yourself too thin can lead to anxiety, lost productivity, and ultimately burnout. It also robs you of the headspace you need for bigger thoughts about long-term projects. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, advises measuring your certainty before starting something new:  

“If you’re not 90 percent sure of doing something, just don’t bother. Don’t worry about it.”

Evaluating how realistic something is forces hard choices when it comes to selecting your priorities. This question will likely result in you turning down multiple things, but also saying ‘yes’ to only the things that you’re really, truly passionate about. And if you end up a little bored as a result, that’s perfectly fine, because “at the edge of boredom is all creativity,” said McKeown. 

“It’s about being so selective that you have the space to do the things that are absolutely fabulous, that are amazing, that are break-through experiences.”
When it comes to achieving your goals efficiently, less is more. So if you’re not 90% sure about something, don’t do it.


  • Randy Willoughby

    I don’t completely agree with the 90% rule. I’ve done many things in my life that I was much less than 90% sure about and in retrospect have seen those as really positive “decisions”. I’m a believer that we don’t have nearly as much control over our destiny as we think we do.

  • tannerc

    Hmm, I’m not sure I agree here either. Many of the best opportunities in my life have come as a result of saying “yes” to things I was barely certain of or only minutely curious in.

    Speaking opportunities, new career tracks, a publishing deal, etc. all sprouted not because I felt confident that they would be the best thing for me (whether I was 90% certain or only 1% in that fact). Rather, these opportunities came as a result of being willing to explore the things I wasn’t certain about, all in the name of excitement. And so what if many of the opportunities flattened out? I learned a lot in the process of pursuing them, which I would argue is much more valuable than simply pursuing the things I’m most interested in at any given moment or the things that I’m confident can become a reality.

    The issue I have with this article primarily stems from the fact many of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we try. So if you tell someone “Only say yes to things you’re 90% certain can really happen” you’re cutting people short of their potential.

  • happybana

    While I agree you shouldn’t bow to FOMO, requiring 90% certainty in all decisions will lead to stagnancy and a boring life…espcially for us creative types, who tend to be an anxious and overly-analytical bunch. You have to take risks in life or you’ll never get anywhere, and a long shot is sometimes REALLY worth it. Even things you know you’ll fail at or may not follow through on can lead to something interesting or useful, can help you meet new people, or help you figure out your priorities through trial and error.

    • Garrett K

      Calculate your moonshots. Take the time to really think them through. Elon Musk or Bill Gates-esque style 🙂

      And as Branson says… “Always protect the downside”

  • kei

    Do You mean we should stop being creative and inovative?

  • darthdombek

    90% sure? well that just seems… “safe”.
    I’m with the other folk commenting. What’s the fun in being sure?

  • allforit

    I think this is great, I often find myself over committing to multiple projects that I quickly realise I do not have the time or energy to invest in. Less is more and focusing on the bigger goal is sometimes much better than stressing out about the smaller projects. I’m all for the 90% rule.

  • one percenter

    In other words stick to the sure thing, don’t stray to far off the beaten path, and if that doesn’t work, conform. Great advice on how to be anti-creative.

    • Garrett K

      No, that’s not what it says, at all. 🙂 I’d recommend giving it another read.

  • moominpapa

    This actually frees up my schedule a lot, since I’m basically 50% or less on all household chores.

    • Garrett K

      Delegate that. Hire someone to come in to do them. It builds the economy, and frees up your time.

      Capitalism at its best.

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