99% Right is 100% Wrong

99% Right is 100% Wrong

Aug. 13, 2020

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There’s a hilarious saying in tennis:

“Ninety-nine percent out is is one hundred percent in.”

Lines-people love saying that.

It’s corny, but it’s true.

If your opponent hits a shot that’s almost entirely out, it’s actually in. That’s the foundation of the sport. Any deviation from that ruins the game.

With the people closest to you, though, it’s the opposite.

Ninety-nine percent right is one hundred percent wrong.

The experts are always telling us to get rid of toxic people in our lives. But they never tell us how.

This equation tells us how.

For example, let’s say you meet someone interesting. He’s knowledgeable and funny and charismatic.

He seems like someone who can make your life better.

And then, in casual conversation, he starts telling you about the purple spaghetti monster that lives between the earth and moon and how it’s going to rain magical sauce on its believers next May.


Not only is there, obviously, no evidence a purple spaghetti monster exists, but it doesn’t make sense that it would ever exist.

That’s a big problem.

If that person doesn’t see the faulty logic behind a strong belief, every other interesting thing about that person falls apart.

If he believes in that indefensible thing, every belief is deeply suspect.

In short, this person is a swindler, a liar, irrationally confident, or dangerously naive.

Which one of those four would be good for our lives? Which would be toxic?

But why throw everything out just because of one thing? Couldn’t I just embrace the “good stuff” and ignore the rest?

That seems like the right thing to do. But it begs the counter-question:

Why not just find someone else who doesn’t have any toxicity?

Let’s say you want to get in shape and you have a friend that smokes. You love everything about that person except the smoking. Should you keep that friend as a best friend if you want to get fit?

You could, but at some point you’re going to hit a wall. Inevitably, one day you’ll want to go for a run and that person will want to go for a smoke. You’ll have to part ways or sacrifice everything you’ve worked for. Why keep that in our lives when we could easily find someone who doesn’t smoke?

A 100% non-toxic person is all upside and no downside

Or what if we’re trying to get sober and we have a heavy-drinking friend? It’s possible to still go to the bars with him and not drink.

But it’s not likely.

By indulging this one toxic characteristic, we’re putting the quality our life in danger instead of just hanging out with someone who never goes to bars.

That doesn’t mean we should eliminate everyone from our lives who disagrees with us. Reasonable disagreements lead to expansion and growth.

Maybe that person likes Nadal more than Federer (not likely) or maybe they like Indian food and you like Italian. No deal-breakers there. In those cases, a logical argument could be made on both sides.

A rule of thumb: as long as reasonable discussion is possible, there’s nothing toxic going on.

But as soon as they won’t listen to your anti-spaghetti monster arguments or put down their cigarette or stop doing shots, it’s over.

It doesn’t matter how great the rest of that person is. One deal-breaker is one too many.

In tennis, calling a 99% ball out means they’re a cheater.

In life, being 99% right means they’re toxic.


My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.