The 100% Rule

Do you know about The 100% Rule?

I learned it from my dad, Chubby. He was the epitome of “all in” — never unclear, uncommitted, or “kinda sorta” about anything.

His car was 100% clean. His clothes were 100% pressed. His closet was 100% organized. At the office he was 100% work. At home he was 100% husband and Dad. From religion to relationships to reading a book, everything was 100% right or wrong, good or bad.

Chubby built a 350 agent real estate firm in Cincinnati, Ohio… from scratch. He started it after he returned to Cincy from WWII, where he served as a fighter pilot instructor. He trained his real estate agents like he trained pilots before battle… if you weren’t 100% skilled you might end up 0% alive. 

While building his business, there was one person who was as 100% as he was — his office janitor, Aaron Greenlee. At the age of 12 Aaron was my first boss. Chubby told me I could earn extra money by helping him clean the office. I thought, “piece of cake.” 

My first assignment was polishing cherry paneling and toe stripping. I worked an entire Saturday morning and shined up every square inch. I was confident Aaron would be impressed and tell Dad I should get a bonus! 

Just before lunch Aaron checked my work. “Not bad,” he said, “but not that good.” Was he kidding?! Unfortunately not. Aaron began pointing out spots I missed. They were almost invisible to me. I’m sure he could tell I was irritated, so Aaron said, “Greg, it’s time for you to go home.”

Mad and hurt, I called Mom to pick me up. That night at dinner I expected Chubby to say something about my work, but he didn’t. After dinner he said, “Greg, hop in the car, we’re going for a drive.” 

When we pulled into the parking lot I had an uneasy feeling. Aaron’s car was there. As we walked in, Aaron had a giant smile on his face and exclaimed (no kidding, this is word for word) “Greg, when most people are done,” and Dad chimed back, “Our work has just begun!” We didn’t get home until after midnight. That night I learned about The 100% Rule.

The 100% Rule means there is no give and take, there is only give. From business to relationships, you are either 100% all in or 100% all out. 

100% Married

A few weeks ago I married the love of my life, Teresa. During our courtship, shortly after our relationship went from business to romantic, we had a conversation about The 100% Rule. I told Teresa that I don’t believe in give-and-take relationships. To me, we’re either “all in” or “all out.” 

“Every day,” I told her, “I will demonstrate unconditional love by helping, encouraging, inspiring, and doing my best to make life a joy for you, and I will expect absolutely nothing in return.”

My view of The 100% Rule as applied to relationships (marriage, friends, family, business partners) is if you give 100% over and over and over, and people disappoint you, tell them. If people hurt you, tell them.

Never temper the way you help and support them, including the excitement and adoration in your voice when you speak with them.

But there is a caution…

Being 100% committed doesn’t mean being 100% foolish. Some people are unreformable takers. The more you give, the more they take… gladly.

The power of The 100% Rule is that it inspires givers to be better givers, and sometimes converts takers into givers. It also flushes out unreformable takers, those who keep on taking when others keep on giving. 

If after giving and giving and giving at 100%, and expressing your feeling that the “other” is taking and taking and taking, and nothing changes, the solution is easy. 100% goes to 0%, and it’s time to politely say goodbye.

As we roll into 2021, many of us will be forging new paths to achieve new goals. Maybe one of them should be to have better relationships. The 100% Rule can help make that happen. 

You will inspire givers to be better givers. You will convert some takers into givers. And you will flush out the unreformable takers. 

You may have fewer relationships but they will be better relationships. To me that seems like a darn good goal for 2021.