When my kids were younger I did a lot of early morning running on a treadmill in our basement. I’d pass the time watching documentaries like Ken Burns’ Baseball, or The Civil War. The half-finished innings and chapters left over for the next day were the perfect motivation icing for the next day’s run.
I was overjoyed last month when Ken Burns appeared as a guest on the podcast Conversations with Tyler. The famed documentary filmmaker still lives in the same New Hampshire town and is a gracious podcast guest. One thing Ken Burns mentioned, which I love, is the 40:1 ratio. His approach calls for 40 hrs of footage for every 1 hour on the screen, the “footage assembled-to-footage used ratio.” We have to dig and create to really find valuable nectar. The same works with maple syrup, a fitting New England reference. 40 gallons of sap equals 1 gallon of syrup.
Other domains follow this. There’s a derivative of the 80/20 rule in medical dollars: 1 in 40 people (or 2.5%) make up 40% of dollars spent. A few people drive a big chunk of claims, and they’re often different people each year.
Perhaps with other creative pursuits for excellence, spiritual journeys, and personal relationships this too follows. 1 in 40 blog posts, ideas, and client outreaches may end up explaining a decent chunk of our success. As an example, that one blog post I had long forgotten has led to a new client, a consulting engagement, or a fruitful and unexpected outreach. 40:1 requires we push when others are on autopilot, when we’re so tired. It’s the maintenance and stick-with-it side of life that is exhausting but rewarding.
In 2023 I will strive to think more deliberately, to push for that 40:1, to run when tired, to hit “publish” more, and to refine the good old intellectual batting average.