My "Rule of Ten"

[Originally published on August 29, 2017 on Linkedin]

“Success is not a function of the size of your title but the richness of your contribution.”

         -Robin S. Sharma

The “Rule of Ten” exists in a variety of settings; in nutrition, it refers to a percent energy transfer. In Business, there is also a “Rule of Ten” in presentations; more than ten content slides, and you will lose your audience. In Medicine, for certain surgeries, an infant has to clear a “Rule of Ten” criteria to be eligible for an operation; 10 weeks old, 10 lbs, and 10g hemoglobin. 

I also have a “Rule of Ten”; I use it every few days to sort of self-evaluate how well I’m working as an effective contributor to my organization. It’s not very scientific, it’s not part of my annual review, and it’s not something I impose on others as a measure. I simply use it to motivate myself every day to improve little by little, because I believe I should be a strong contributor to most everything that I put effort to in life, not just a spectator. That’s a key for me. 

Here’s how it works for me.... I figure that in my business role, I should be creating at least “10 times” the value of what my company compensates me every day (including benefits, etc), for me to be an excellent asset to my company, which is my goal. I look back at my day…. Did I create new revenue? Generate savings? Did I help piece together a new client implementation in a better way? Did I help the Recruiting effort… Staff retention… Client relations? Did I help someone learn a new, better way to do a job? Did I help someone get that promotion to build a stronger company? I then try to in my mind place a loose value on each of these things. Then I add them up, and if I’m above 10x, I figure that’s a good day. If not, I think about how things can be better tomorrow on the 10x scale. This is one way that I challenge myself to improve; to continually be a strong, rich contributor to the team. 

To others this may be a “Rule of 5” or a “Rule of 2”, and this can apply across many areas of life. The key idea is this: Self-reflection, and continually striving to do better every day. A few examples:

The Tennis Champion

Arthur Ashe was a top ranked tennis player in the 1960s and 70s. Raised in the segregated South, he was the first African-American male tennis player to win both the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. He was much more than an athlete though. His commitment to social justice, health and humanitarian issues left a mark on the world perhaps more dramatic than was his backhand swing on the tennis court. One of his favorite sayings that is often quoted is “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” 

The Chemist

Marie Curie was as a Polish scientist in the early 20th century who won a Nobel prize in both Chemistry and Physics. She made ground-breaking discoveries in the field of Radioactivity, enabling radioactive isotypes to be isolated for the first time. During the First World War, she perfected the practical use of X-Rays; she also discovered polonium and radium, two previously undetected elements. Her innovative scientific work was all the more remarkable because of the blatant discrimination which existed against women in science and industry at the time. She was the first female professor at the University of Paris and worked tirelessly every day to make a difference.

The Undercover Doctor

Dr. Jim Withers used to dress like a homeless person, so he could blend in. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, two or three nights a week he would muddy-up his jeans and mat his hair so that he could work with the homeless of the city and gain their trust. Over time, his tireless efforts developed into a program today known as Operation Safety Net, Through the program, today thousands of homeless and otherwise disadvantaged men, women, and children of the area are able to receive access to health care. Possibly just as important, they receive a lifeline to hope and dignity and a better tomorrow. 

The Principles

We all, in our own spheres of influence, have the opportunity to be Rich Contributors to our businesses, our homes, our families, the lives of others. It’s up to each of us to decide how much we will contribute every day on the “plus side” of the ledger; the important thing is to always be contributing something to moving ahead. Forward we go!  

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