To be truly successful, you only need to make the right decision about 70 percent of the time, he says. He calls it the “70 percent rule.”
“The 70 percent rule is building on this idea of [Amazon founder] Jeff Bezos, that when you feel like you have 70 percent of the information you need to make a decision, you should just make a decision,” Pearson tells NBC News BETTER. “Because … the cost of being slow is often integrated in the cost of being wrong.”
Learn to make decisions like a C student
We tend to procrastinate on making a decision until we are sure it is the right one, according to Pearson. It’s a habit we pick up in school, he explains, where getting an answer wrong on a test can cost us a grade.
As the writer explains it, students who get As are right 90-95 percent of the time, those who get Bs are right about 80-90 percent of the time, and those who get Cs are right about 70 percent of the time.
“The way we’re educated is you wait and you research and you make sure you have the perfect answer,” Pearson says. “You double check all your work on a math test, you know that’s how you get an A. You’re very meticulous.”
If you wait until you’re 90 or 95 percent sure, it’s usually going to be too late, you’re going to miss the opportunity.
But in the real world, he says, decisions often need to be made quickly.
“The idea behind it is that if you wait until you’re 90 or 95 percent sure, it’s usually going to be too late, you’re going to miss the opportunity,” he says, “and so you have to move at this 70 percent range, which if you had done that in school you would have gotten a C.”
An accomplished author, essayist and entrepreneur, Pearson says he found success by learning to think like a C student.
In 2012, the former English teacher had grown dissatisfied with his career. Pearson landed an interview with a tech company that needed someone who knew search engine optimization. Shortly after the interview, Pearson received an email from the hiring manager telling him he didn’t get the job.
“You don’t really have any applicable skills,” it said.
Pearson was dismayed. He had majored in history with straight A’s, but his education had done little to prepare him for the job.
“It was just like a wakeup call,” Pearson says. “Like ‘Oh, wow, it’s true. I don’t have a skill that they need.’”
Pearson made a decision. He was going to teach himself SEO, something he always wanted to learn, but put off for too long.
“I was scared,” he said. “I was worried: ‘Oh, I’m going to work on this thing and it’s not going to happen.’”
But he decided to do it anyway. Pearson bought a book about SEO and registered a WordPress website. He began researching and publishing articles about a subject he knew nothing about: kitchen remodeling. He used what he taught himself about SEO to drive traffic to the site. He added a few advertisements, and the site began to earn a small income.
Now that Pearson had a marketable skill, he began cold-calling marketing agencies. A hiring manager agreed to meet with him and, after seeing his website, offered him a job. Pearson wondered why he had waited so long to take his career into his own hands.
Stop being afraid of getting it wrong
To succeed, Pearson says he had to get over his fear of failure. It was hard, he says, but necessary.
“That’s part of the challenge of the 70 percent rule is you have to be willing to be wrong and look bad  percent of the time, and that can be very difficult,” he says.
That’s part of the challenge of the 70 percent rule: You have to be willing to be wrong 30 percent of the time
The good news is that unlike school — where a wrong answer is irreversible — mistakes made in the real world can often be fixed, he explains.
“That’s true in most work situations,” he says. “Everyone makes mistakes and you can always go back and fix them, and so you’re better off actually letting yourself be wrong 30 percent of the time and then just fixing them.”
Be willing to dance with failure
Looking back, Pearson says it was his willingness to fail that ultimately led to writing his first book and becoming an entrepreneur.
“I think this idea of being willing to be wrong is something that is deeply human,” he says.
He says true success requires a willingness to dance with failure.
“Are you willing to find the thing you’re afraid of doing, the thing you’ve been procrastinating on,” Pearson asks, “and learn to dance with it?”
How to make decisions with the 70 percent rule
- Learn to make decisions like a C student: C students get the answers right about 70 percent of the time and get them wrong about 30 percent of the time. But they win by not putting things off.
- Stop being afraid of getting it wrong: To succeed, you need to get over your fear of failure. In school, we learn that wrong decisions are irreversible. But in the real world, mistakes can often be fixed.
- Be willing to dance with failure: Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but were too afraid? Stop waiting and start doing.