Make Like My Pants and Stretch: How 2% Changed Everything

Those who know me well would tell you that I am a man of many things—Among them: amateur chef, lover of books, frosting aficionado, and purveyor of endless (and mostly useless) trivia. Yet, for all the things that I am, there is one thing that I am decidedly not: a pants enthusiast.

Having worked from home for sometime, I’ve come to regard khakis, slacks, and other varieties of formal pant as an office-man’s game. It isn’t that I don’t own them or that I refuse to wear them—I simply prefer to not do so unless required. That being said, I’ve always tried to be presentable enough on a daily basis to be seen in public should the need arise. Neighbors begin to believe you’re some variety of shut-in or hill-person if they see you taking the dog out in a bathrobe at 3PM. I was the one in the robe, not the dog—but I digress. Over time I’ve found jeans to be a happy medium between suit pants and a bath robe. In the past I’ve not been as passionate about my jeans as, say, every country music star ever. On the whole, they got the job done, but not much more. That is, until a few months ago, when everything changed.

I was perusing my local Costco (another passion) and stumbled upon a display stacked high with $15 pairs of jeans. As you may have deduced by this point, I’m no snob when it comes to pants, and for the most part, clothing in general. I was certainly not above giving Costco jeans a go—If I’ve learned one thing from Costco it’s that there are lots of things that I desperately need that I had no idea existed (and some of those things can be purchased in bulk!). If the price weren’t selling point enough, there was something else about these jeans that intrigued me—these jeans stretched. A closer look at the tag revealed them to be 98% cotton and 2% spandex. I tossed them in the cart and was on my way.

As it turns out, 2% spandex was all it took to change my life. These jeans were, by far and away, the most comfortable pants I’d ever worn. As the weeks passed I became a non-paid spokesperson for my new jeans. I extolled their virtues to anybody who would listen. These jeans, these glorious, heavenly comfortable jeans, were only 2% different from every other pair of jeans I’ve ever owned. They were 98% the same as all the other denim walking around on the streets, yet that seemingly insignificant 2% made all the difference. It made me wonder, if a 2% difference could have that large an impact on simple blue jeans, what could it do elsewhere?

The 2% Challenge

My challenge to you is this: Take 2% of your life, and fill it with something that stretches you. Take that time and spend it doing something that will help you to grow—personally, professionally, spiritually…whatever moves you. Resolutions are all the rage right now, and most of us have more than a few failed attempts at them in our past. Why are resolutions so prone to failure? Because we try to change too much too quickly. Enter 2%. 2% change is small enough to be manageable, but significant enough that you’ll notice when you succeed.

Some Examples:

Each of us has 24 hours in a day. Though it may feel like more or less depending on lots of factors, each of us should have the power to take control of at least 2% of that time. 2% of 24 hours is roughly 28 minutes…lets make it easy and round to 30 minutes. Think of what you could accomplish if you spent 30 minutes each day on an endeavor of your choosing. You could get through that science book you’ve always wanted to read. You could learn to meditate and quiet your mind. You could even learn to play an instrument. The possibilities are endless!

A typical work week consists of 40 hours—and let’s be realistic, most of us are working far more than that. 2% of 40 hours is 48 minutes. For simplicity’s sake we’ll round that down to 45 minutes. What could you accomplish in your job if you took 45 minutes out of every week to dedicate to something completely new? Remember, do something that stretches you. During those 45 minutes each week you could work toward earning a professional certification. You could start that ambitious side project that could lead to a promotion. You could even devote that time to developing a leadership skill that you feel you lack.

We each get 365 days to live each year. As we all know, some years it doesn’t feel like 365 days. Some years it feels like the weeks and months fly by so quickly, that we barely know how we’ve gotten from one point to the next. While none of us should take for granted even one day of our lives, each of us can reclaim 2% to start. 2% of 365 is a little more than 7 days. One week. 1/52 of a year. If we can’t find one week over the course of a year to dedicate to being inspired, learning, stretching ourselves—what are we really living for?

I challenge you to take 7 days this year—just 7 to start—and stretch. Travel to a country where you can’t speak the language. Plan 7 adventures with your kids. Dedicate 7 full days to learning something you’ve always wanted to—paint, cook, code software—whatever!

Every single one of us can make a 2% change. 2% is such a small amount of any whole that it may seem negligible, but over time those 2% changes add up. Before you know it, you’ll have stretched far beyond your wildest expectations. Plus, if my Costco jeans can stretch 2%, doesn’t it seem a little silly to think that we can’t? Even if 98% of you stays just the way you are—that 2% might make all the difference.