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  • Joe DeLisi

90%, 10% and 1% People


We hear about “1 percenters” in the context of those who make a 1% tier income. I want to talk to you about a different group of 1% people.

I’ve never watched The Matrix all the way through (fun fact: I played Keanu Reeve’s brother in the 1987 film The Prince of Pennsylvania…true story), but I think I understand the whole blue pill/red pill thing. There were two times in my life when I chose a pill that opened my eyes to a world that, while there the whole time, was completely hidden from me. Once was in high school when I met my high school baseball coach, Bernie Walter. This man taught me the power of WORK. To that point, I drifted through life. No ambition, no drive, no hunger. But he taught me things like, “to the victors go the spoils”, and “one more rep for a state championship” (reps being a weight lifting goal, another sprint or even eating one more protein pancake!). He explained to us all that if we didn’t out-work and out-hustle everyone else and all the time, that we would lose baseball games for sure, but we would also lose life.

The second time I swallowed a pill that opened my eyes was in 2011. 2011 was the year I was divorced and I was confronted with a choice: get through that pain as basically the same man as I went in, or I could become better... Different. Great. The best. I chose to become the best. But the best at what? Whatever…the best Dad, friend, businessman, coach, leader, follower, you name it…I was going to become the best. I can tell you right now that “the best” is not a destination. There is no end zone. You’ll never get there. The journey is the reward. But it was 2011 when I fully realized that I was a 1% person.

Who is a 1% person? Let’s break it down like this: as I look around my environment every day I am confronted with people who are comfortable in their pain, in their dissatisfaction, in their “lot in life”, in their status quo. They aren’t happy…they are comfortable. I’m not pointing an accusatory finger at those folks. If they are ok with where they are and how life is unfolding, who am I to judge that? It’s all relative. If they are comfortable with it then so am I. This group of people makes up 90% of everyone you see out there at work, in the airport, at church or in Starbucks getting their coffee on. 90%.

But then there are those who aren’t comfortable with where they are. They think about it every day. They may be dissatisfied with their relationships, their health, their spirituality, their work…whatever. They know they have more to offer. They know there is more to life and they want to “go somewhere”. They are willing to try and do better. These are 10% people. These are the people who like New Year’s resolutions. They read self-help books. They watch motivational videos and like Facebook celebrities who speak to them about how they get “somewhere”. 10% people are rare. But not nearly as rare as the 1% people.

1% people are the ones who not only want to get “somewhere” but they are uncomfortable. The 1% people may even describe the status quo as pain. And they are willing to go through different pain so that they can move through the current state of affairs to a different world. 1% people are Navy SEALs, Olympic champions, CEOs and chess champions. But 1% people are also the guy next door who will never make the news. But he will lead his family like a lion. It’s the woman who you see on January 1st at the gym…and then you see her again and again every day and you watch her put in the miles, the sweat and the work to transform her health. It’s the co-worker who one day gives his two week notice and then you run into him in a year and you find that he started his own company and while he makes less money (maybe) he sees his family every day. And it’s the husband and wife who decide they will do whatever it takes to get their financial affairs in order, even if it means they don’t get all the fancy toys they had become addicted to.

1% people are my people. In over a decade of public speaking, I still cannot pick them out of the crowd. I can’t predict who will become one. But I know one by their actions and their execution. The 1% crowd will show up when the work is laid out. The 1% crowd will attack it head on. They aren’t the quickest but they never give up. The 10% will pick and choose. The 10% will get better. But the 1% will change their lives and the lives of those around them.


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