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Melissa Shanahan

#257: The Awesome 80%: Celebrating Good Enough

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If you’re here listening to the show, you likely tend to strive for 100% in everything you do. You’ve been trained to believe that the higher the score, the better, and that perfection is something you should be aiming for. However, if you’ve never questioned this narrative and you’re experiencing a sense of inertia when it comes to getting things done, you’re in the right place. 

In a world that tells you there’s one right way to do things and that hitting all your marks is virtuous, you’re not alone if you feel resistance to the idea that 80% is enough. The Awesome 80% is the foundation to Melissa’s work across all of her programs, and she’s here today to show you the power of celebrating good enough.

Tune in this week to learn more about the importance of aiming for progress, not perfection, and why you only need to strive for 80% in anything you do. Melissa is sharing examples from inside Mastery Group of what happens when you’re in the practice of celebrating good enough, and why real progress gets made when you adopt this mindset. 

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with Melissa. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. Join the waitlist right now to grab one of the limited seats when enrollment opens again!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

• Why striving for 80% is what will get you across the finish line.

• How trying to perfect anything you’re doing is generally a waste of time.

• Examples from inside Mastery Group that demonstrate the power of celebrating good enough.

• Why you’re getting caught up in perfectionism.

• How real progress is made. 

• Why aiming for 80% makes your work more fun and light-hearted.

Featured on the Show:

Create space, mindset, and concrete plans for growth. Start here: Velocity Work Monday Map.

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Join the waitlist for our next Monday Map Accelerator, a 5-day virtual deep-dive event.

Schedule a consult call with us here.

Clear Thinking by Shane Parrish

Buy Back Your Time by Dan Martell

#199: Consistency: Laying the Groundwork (Part 1)

#200: Consistency: Building Stability Before Growth (Part 2)

#201: Consistency: Progress, Not Perfection (Part 3)

#202: Consistency: Overcoming Obstacles (Part 4)

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast Episode #257.

Welcome to The Law Firm Owner Podcast, powered by Velocity Work, for owners who want to grow a firm that gives them the life they want. Get crystal clear on where you're going, take planning seriously, and honor your plan like a pro. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Everyone, welcome to this week's episode. Wow, as I'm recording this, we have just come off of a really big month. Not only did we have many retreats for private clients that we were leading, Strategic Planning retreats. But also, we have, for private clients, these really awesome supportive days, that are full-day sessions, targeted on a specific area of the business to help them get organized, provide them templates, and roll up our sleeves and get to work with them.

So, we have been doing more of those. That has been incredible for our clients and super fulfilling to us. And then, we hosted an event, it was called the Syndicate Summit. We have a small group of members in a program called Syndicate.

Syndicate is not something that currently is available to the public, it is strictly for  Mastery Group members who have done the work and have gotten themselves to a certain level. There was interest last year, and so we did it this year. There was interest for them, once they've hit a certain point, to break off into a smaller, more of a mastermind-feel group. That has been going very well this year.

We just hosted one of two live events for them. The first one was Syndicate Summit, it was the beginning of May, and it was incredible. It was incredible to have all of these people in one room together. It was fantastic connection time, lots of learning. We had John Grant from Agile Attorney come in and lead. We had our very own Giselle Urbina in town for this as well to present a session.

And, lots of good connection time for the members. They had breakout sessions. They had conversations, brainstorming, and they got to work on some things while they were here. And then, the social part of all of it was pretty incredible. We had an awesome dinner out at one of my favorite restaurants close by the workspace. Just all of it was just so, so good.

In many ways, I'm pinching myself. Because I cannot believe all the things we are getting to do with clients right now. I am so overjoyed at what we have going on. We have Mastery Group. We have our private client work. We have this in-between group called Syndicate. This was our first year with Syndicate; we will be doing a second year.

It's just all very fulfilling; the connection, seeing people's progress, seeing the camaraderie, seeing the improvement towards the things that they really want, seeing an increase in the value that they're placing on things that they used to just brush to the side and hurry up and get to goals. But now, there's this emphasis within our community of not brushing off to the side of things that matter.

And, how do we actually give attention to all of the things that are the most important to us in our personal life, and with the firm and the growth of the firm? The culture that is inside is inspiring to me. I realize I am at the helm of this, but there's a lot more than me that affects what goes on inside of Velocity Work. It is just such a beautiful brew of the vision that I had, and have, of the members and clients that we have inside of Velocity Work.

And of my team, how much they've developed and evolved, and are so supportive with the members and clients. It is pretty remarkable right now. So, I'm sharing that, just sharing the gratitude. I'm in such a place of awe. I'm inspired to keep going and keep finding new ways that we can be useful and helpful to everyone inside of our sphere. It's not lost on me; people have a choice.

People have a choice on where they can go. And the law firm owners who choose us as their supporting partner, who engage, there is a real shift that happens for them. So good.

Alright, some of this actually ties well in with what we're talking about today. I want to call this episode “The Awesome 80%: Celebrating Good Enough.” Now, I have done plenty of episodes in the past on perfectionism, and helping us choose progress over perfection, and helping us make sure that we're clued in with consistency not perfection. I even did a whole series a year ago, which I haven't gone back to listen to before I recorded this.

I'm not exactly sure what overlap there is, but that whole series I did was when we were crossing over the 200th episode for the podcast. Now, we're at 257, which is wild. But that series, it was a four-part series, was all about consistency and how important it is. This topic is very similar, and I'm going to touch on some of that, but there are specific things I have to say.

Because of what I've noticed recently with some clients, within our own team, with myself, I think it's time to have the conversation again about how amazing 80% is. We all strive for 100%. We all were shaped to do that as we were raised in school, and a score… the higher the score, the better. And if you wanted to get into the schools that maybe you wanted to get into it, they had to be perfect.

That training that we were exposed to shaped us. It shaped how we thought about success. And it created perfectionists out of people who might otherwise might not have been a perfectionist. So, I want to talk about this idea that 80% is freaking awesome.

I have a few points I'm going to make today, but if that's just it… if you pushed pause right now and you never turn this thing back on, but you actually give some thought as to why 80% is so dang awesome, then you've got your message for the week. This is a truth.

I want to keep bringing us back to the truth on this podcast. Because it's so easy to get caught up in some game that is pointless and worthless, and will have you in a losing position every single time. There's a lot out there that the world tells us that is the right way to do things; hitting 100%, and hitting all your marks, and being perfectly consistent.

We need to live outside of that headspace most of the time. Every once in a while it's just part of the deal. We're going to get caught up in some flawed thinking, that we need to hit the marks perfectly and have this perfectionistic tendency surface. But most of the time we need to live outside of that. Because real progress is made outside of that.

And so, in this episode, I want to talk about why 80% is so, so incredible. It is the path that we need to be on. It is a standard for ourselves, that will get us across the finish line in many cases.

Now, you all have, I'm sure, heard the same quotes that I've heard around the concept that “Done is better than perfect.” And, that is true. I mean, that is what the 80% is, right? Just get it done 80%. And in some cases, maybe even consider it 70% or less. But it's done. Right? Then you can iterate on it from there.

And so, that's definitely something to think through when we're considering why is 80% awesome, because stuff gets done. Instead of noodling on things, or being super persnickety with things until they're 100%. Or even just paralyzed, you can't move on to anything because this thing isn't done. You can't really find time to get it done and done perfectly. So, it's just going to sit there until you have the perfect amount of time to get the perfect stuff done with your thing.

All of this to say, progress is what matters. That's why 80% is so incredible. If we're worried about perfecting things, we're not going to get it done. And even if you do get it done, that last 20% of perfecting it was a waste of time. It just needed to get done. Perfecting it can happen over time, with feedback and with the next iteration. But this last bit of time…

I mean, think about, getting it 80% done probably takes about 20% of the time of the entire project. And then, the last 20% probably takes 80% of the time. Of the entire project, 80% of that time is spent on the last 20% to take it to the finish line of this perfect ideal that we have in our minds. It's just not worth it.

We have too many things going on. We have too many things to do. We have too many things vying for our attention. We have so many things that we want to do and we want to push forward, and things that we want to bring forth into our firms and into the world. And in order for that kind of progress, and for you to feel a sense of velocity with the work that you're doing, 80% is good enough.

So, before we go any further, I want to ask you to think of something right now where you could adopt this mindset and it would probably serve you in many ways. Even if it feels painful, even if you don't know how to do it, or even if you can't see a way forward that you would possibly only get it to 80%. I just want you to take stock of what is going on in your firm, in your world, in your life, whatever, and what needs to just get pushed? “Just get shipped,” as Seth Godin says.

What is there? And could you maybe apply this rule that we need to just get it to 80% for now? “It's just going to get to 80% and I'm going to ship it. I'm going to get it done. I'm going to put it into motion,” etc.

There's a quote that I read in Clear Thinking, by Shane Parrish; which is a really good book. I'll be doing more episodes on this the more I study this book. But he quotes Seneca in there somewhere, and it says, “It's not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”

And that's kind of what I'm saying with this time that we spend to perfect things, or we don't release things into the world, we don't push them into the world, we don't begin certain things, because of this time that we spent perfecting. And when you really look at the entirety of your life… and for a second, let's just think about the firm and the progress of the firm. It is a waste of time to perfect the things before they are considered “done”. That is a waste of time.

In a span of time, you can get so much more accomplished and make so much more progress by getting to 80%. That is really the goal. But again, we have these ideals that were put into practice with us, in school specifically. Maybe there are other activities you could think of that really reinforced this idea that 100% is what you should be shooting for all the time. Not to mention law school.

And here we are, we have real lives, we have businesses we’re running, yet we still are trying to abide by that same scoring system. That ain't how it works. The right way to do things is to just keep pushing out, shipping out, the next and the next and the next; the next system that needs to be documented in your firm.

People will sit on those. They will wait to publish those inside for their team, or wait to train their team, or wait to get it there for future new hires, because they have a little more crossing their t's and dotting their i’s to do. Get it done. You can improve it later, right?

So, all of these things that we are thinking aren't good enough, we’re wrong. They are good enough. They are good enough to be considered progress. They are good enough to be helping us create more of the things that we want to create. They are good enough to line ourselves up even faster with the things that we say we want.

That quote that I reference a lot on here from Jerry Colonna, “How are we complicit in creating the conditions we say we don't want?” There were a number of times that I've had these conversations with members and with clients. And speaking from my own experience, the way that we are complicit in creating conditions we say we don't want, is by being perfectionistic and holding ourselves back from actually just creating progress.

There are a few examples I can give you from my experience in working with law firm owners who are just killing it. They are doing such a good job. They are experiencing the momentum that we all want to feel. And I'll tell you why, and it's through the really small examples I'm going to give you.

There is one member that just emailed me. Mastery Group has an accountability report they can fill out. It comes straight to me, and I often respond to those. One member wrote that one of her wins was executing her Monday Map to 80%. Now, I want you to stop and think about that. At first, it almost feels like ‘well, is that good?’

If you don't know what Monday Map is, it's a calendaring process that we teach for time management’s sake for the law firm owner, for the individual. It's all about making sure that if you're supposed to be spending time doing something, it's on your calendar when you're supposed to be spending time doing it. We map our weeks, Monday Map. You map how you're going to spend your time in any given week.

Now, this member has been around for years. This was a win. She actually followed her Monday Map to 80%. I just smiled when I read that and thought, “Girl that is a win.” I mean, think about how many times we make these plans that are so perfectionistic. We all want to do a good job with getting all the things done that we said we would do, right? So, we map our time with it.

She stuck to what she planned; 80% of her plan, she stuck with. Because of that, the reason she was writing it as a win, was because of how amazing it felt to get all of that stuff done. She did it. Now, the other 20%? I don't know, who cares? She did 80% of it.

I want you to think about any given week, when you get to the end of a week, what percentage of the things that you wanted to get done did you get done? Most of the time, for most people, it's not 80%. People who are juggling a lot; running the firm as well as being an attorney in the firm, dealing with team dynamics. There are so many hats you wear as a law firm owner.

And so, I know for sure, because of how many of you I’ve talked to, most of you don't feel like you were able to get 80% of what you wanted to do done. There's more than 20% leftover, and it just gets stacked to the next week, or the weekends or the nights or whatever.

And so, what a win! She was really intentional with how she was going to get her stuff done, and she got 80% of it done. That's a win. And because of that, she is going to experience momentum and progress in the ways that she wants to.

Now, maybe, when we really think about how we stack our time and how we plan our time, if we're only getting 80% done of the things that we said we wanted to, okay. So, what does that mean over the course of a quarter, over 10 weeks of solid productivity is under your belt. People will say, “Well, why not…. Actually, the reason I said “over 10” is there's 13 weeks in most quarters of the year. So, that's what I mean by “over 10”.

It’s 10.4, to be exact, weeks that solid productivity of 80% is really dialed, that's amazing. And the other 20% is really more for the stuff that arose that we didn't plan on having to deal with. It also accounts for when we just didn't have discipline.

For one reason or another we didn't practice discipline, and we didn't stick to our plans. That is pretty remarkable, if you can imagine. That's a very high level person that spends 80% of their time extremely intentional and on task with what they said they were going to do. That's amazing.

I think somehow, in our heads, we think that when we plan our time… Especially if you do Monday Map/Friday Wrap, or if you're familiar with the process… we think that we have to make these plans and we have to stick to it 100%, or else it's failure.

Now, I work really hard to make sure that people understand that that's not the case. And that that's perfection, it's a sense of perfection; we're going for progress. And so, 80% is what I'm talking about. But this is an example of how 80% is so awesome.

I'll give you another example, for Mastery group members in particular. There are times when people first come in and they're getting prepared for their first Strategic Planning retreat that will be facilitated by me. And some people say, “Well, if I can't be there in person I better not join yet.”

I'm like, “What are you talking about? This is all recorded. You have time with me afterwards, and office hours to get all of your help and questions. You can watch this on your own time, and then come and meet with me.” But people have this perfectionistic sense of ‘I have to be there 100%.’

Well, let me tell you something. I have people that can come to 80% of it. They can't come to 100% of it because of the nature of their day, or they have to leave to go pick up their kids while the retreat’s still happening. They can watch it in a recording. But if they get 80% of the entire day, of the entire retreat that's being facilitated, don't you think that they are going to be lightyears ahead of someone who just didn't do it or didn't watch it?

On top of that, let's just say they didn't come live at all, but they're going to watch on their own and they end up watching 80% of it. Don't you think they're going to be lightyears ahead of where they'd be had they not done any of it? Eighty percent is freaking awesome.

With private clients we have an agreed upon deadline when they, every month, will enter in their data into the Data Portal that we built for them. We have an agreed upon date that they will enter everything in for the previous month. Now, at the latest, it's the 15th of every month; they will have the previous month's data entered in.

Now, we're pretty close partners with our private clients, so there are months that they don't do it by the 15th. We have to poke them and say, “Hey, guys, we need this data.” They'll get it in, but it'll be in late. But 80% of the time, they're right on the money. Now, that last 20% doesn't matter. It's still awesome.

Can you imagine what it would be like every single month, if 80% of the time, every month, you entered in for the previous month, and you were so organized, and so together, what a difference that can make? Again, I'm saying this, I do eventually get it from them. We poke them, we work with them to get it, but that is awesome.

Versus, before we met them they were tracking things over here and over here and over here. They weren't really analyzing any of their data. They weren't doing anything really meaningful. But now, 80% of the time their stuff is banked in one place, and they're super organized about it. I mean, come on. That is awesome. We do get it to 100% of the time, but 80% on time, that's how dialed they are.

I'll give you another example, and I see this with private clients as well as members. When people decide, in a Strategic Planning retreat, or when they make their plans, they decide on Rocks. Which are the key quarterly priorities. They submit those to us. And if it's private, we know what those are; we help them form them. They go into a tracker, we keep that conversation alive, and there's accountability for how it's going and how things are progressing.

Now, I would say, half the time people get them all done, and the other half the time they get 80% of them done. And, all of them experience momentum that they would never experience otherwise.

And so, I'm saying this to say, even 80%, you get 80% of your Rocks completed, it is remarkable the difference it makes in the firm, in the speed of which things move, the progress that you feel, the next level that you get yourself to, the team dynamics… because everybody's working together to get the stuff done… that all is a win.

When people have a Rock at the end of the quarter, when we're reporting in for the final time, they say, “I didn't get that one done, but I got the other four done.” It's like, “Okay, moving on. How you feel? How did this quarter end for you?” And every single time they're saying, “It's great! I've made so much headway.” They feel a sense of pride. Eighty percent done is awesome.

Now, if they got all of their Rocks 80% done, and not one of them was completed, that doesn't feel as good. It doesn't feel as good, but it is better than nothing. What I'm talking about is 80% of what they committed to in terms of… Like,  if they had five rocks and let's say they got four done. That is awesome. That moves you ahead. This is work that moves the needle. You’ve banked it.

Sure, you have 20% left that you could be doing, okay, next. On to the next one. We will figure that out. We're going to move it to the next quarter. Or we’re going to just tie it up because it's almost done and we don't need to actually make it a Rock next quarter. But it doesn't just die. We figure it out. We still make headway.

There are people I have worked with in the past that don't get 80% done. Maybe they get 20% of their Rocks done, they get one Rock out of all their Rocks done. That, to me, just tells me that they need help. They need help with something. Something is a barrier. That is not rocket science, we just need to work with them to figure it out. And then, they can quickly get themselves to the 80%. They can get themselves to where they have one left out of five, instead of four left out of five.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is, when I'm working with people on this stuff, my goal is not to get them to perfection. My goal is to get them to 80%. I don't often articulate that specific statement to people, but that's what I know matters. It's about progress, not perfection. I do know that. And, to me, 80% is insane progress. That's what we're working for in any relationship that we have with any law firm owner inside of Velocity Work.

The other beauty of this is it makes everything much more fun. It's easier to be lighthearted about your approach, about your progress, about reporting in on things, about how you feel about yourself, about how you feel about your team, when you do experience a sense of progress. And you're not just waiting for or just gritting your teeth in trying to get to 100%.

That's not what this should be about. That's not what this should be like for law firm owners. And, it's important to me that clients and members understand that. There is a lightheartedness you bring to this. It's just ‘go, let's go, let's go.’ It's not ‘let's go and it better be perfect. Oop, it's not perfect, start over.’ There's none of that attitude inside.

Because of that, everyone inside of Velocity Work, or everyone that subscribes to this, whether it's in Velocity Work or not, you will always fly further faster. Eighty percent is awesome. Let's celebrate good enough.

There's another quote that I can't help but think of as I'm recording this episode, and that's the quote from Dan Martell in the book Buy Back Your Time. He says, “Eighty percent done by someone else is 100% awesome.” Again, another example of how 80% is awesome.

There's one final point that I think fits here in this episode. In that book Clear Thinking that I was telling you about, that I've been reading and studying. One of the things he says in there is that the great enemy of any attempt to change one's habits is inertia. I'm going to say that again. The great enemy of any attempt to change your habits is inertia.

In physics, “inertia” refers to an object resisting change in its own state of motion. This is Newton's first law of motion. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. That's why it's so hard at first to create change that you want to see. There's resistance and there's friction to get things moving, to get motion going, with the things that you care about.

And once you have some motion, inertia is at play and it's easier to hold that pattern, that new habit, etc. So, when I think about this idea of ‘80% is awesome,’ I think, if we really believe this, if we really believe that 80% is gold, man, let's go for it, it would help us to initiate change or to get started with something with more ease, than if we think we have to do it perfectly. It takes us longer to get on it because it feels more daunting.

I mean, we know what the last 20% is like when we are perfecting something. It's exhausting. It's sometimes the only way we know how to work, but it's exhausting. But if you actually just knew, “Nope, I'm going to get started on this. We’ve got to get to 80%. I'm going to get started on this, we’ve got to get it to 80%.”

If that was more of the approach, it would be easier to overcome inertia. It'd be easier to just get started, to get into motion with what we say we want. With the project at hand. With the conversation we're dreading. With the system that we need to put into place. With decisions that need to be made. I think you get my point.

But it feels like it fits in this conversation because of that. There are so many times that inertia is at play in our own worlds and in our own lives, but what if? Would it change anything? Would it make it easier to override inertia if we really believed from the outset ‘80% is what we're going for here’?

I hope something in this episode was helpful for you, just to create some wiggle room in your brain from its default state with perfectionistic thinking, or getting 100% score, straight A's, and we carry that into our firms as business owners. And that's not a trait that is helpful on this path of business ownership. It's not helpful at all.

We want to pretend that it is, but the truth is progress is what matters, not perfection. So, how can we shift our minds into a gear that aligns us with success as a business owner? Which is 80%. It doesn't mean it always has to stay 80%. That's the other thing people freak out about. They're like, “I cannot have a firm that's full of 80% completion, or 80% as good as it could be.” That would drive someone insane.

But just to get it done, and then you can refine it, then you can have a second look. And maybe that's the Rock for next time, is tightening up something that you've put into place, and you've got it to 80% of what it could be, right? But just getting it done. That's so important in business, is getting it done.

So, I'm hopeful that something here resonates with you. That something was unlocked, and you can figure out something in your firm so that if you had this mentality it would serve you. And you're going to feel the benefits of thinking in that way or subscribing to that idea pretty darn quickly.

Alright, everybody. Have a wonderful week. I'll see you here next Tuesday.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process I teach called Monday Map/Friday Wrap. If you go to, it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans. So, that week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to to get your free copy.

Thank you for listening to The Law Firm Owner Podcast. If you're ready to get clearer on your vision, data, and mindset, then head over to where you can plug in to Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

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