How Breaking My Arm Taught Me the 40% Rule

The 40% rule is the idea that when you think you’ve reached your limit, you’re actually only 40% done. It’s one of my favorite concepts right next to the 80/20 rule also known as the Pareto principle.

Last month I decided that walking was too slow and I needed a more portable mode of transportation than a bike and a faster mode of transportation than my two feet. I settled on the pennyboard. Casey Neistat looked badass zipping around it in the city and I always wanted to learn how to skate.

I got the pennyboard and broke my elbow on my first fall. The chances of that I would like to say is Murphy’s law or the idea that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

I learned later that pennyboards are actually the hardest to learn because they’re so small and that my injury was a very common skateboard/snowboard injury. In that sense, safety gear is not a joke. No matter how uncool it looks, now I really know that the cost of a broken bone far outweighs looking stupid.

Breaking my arm was a great experience. I spent a couple weeks in decent pain, underwent surgery, got to try opiates, and discovered that not everyone can get addicted to prescription drugs.

I learned what it was like to only have one functional arm (it sucks). I met many kind and not so unkind people and I got an inside look at the health care system. I learned to adapt to my situation. I realized how important it was to slow down and focus when I spent a couple days bedridden in pain. When I experienced my first oxycodone high after my surgery, I realized that it’s all mental. After my surgery, the nerves in my arm were still numbed and after I took my first oxy, all the pain decreased. I felt so much better that I actually worked a little opposed to the horror I had experienced earlier that day- an IV poking my vein and having a completely paralyzed limb. The next morning, the nerve block wore off and the pain hit me like a brick. It taught me about stress, the different kinds there are, and how it affects my mind and body.

I discovered that I was absolutely more capable and stronger than I thought I was. I learned how to cook with one hand. I learned to adapt. I finally invested in a wireless charger– one of the best investments I made this year opposed to the pennyboard which may be debatable. I investigated patents as I came up with product ideas to make my life easier.

You could probably say that losing one arm would decrease your productivity by at least 50% or even more thus making you disabled. I argue that it just makes you disabled for a society that has all limbs and actually enables you to get creative to change your environment to one that suits you.

I used to think if I ever became permanently crippled my life would not be worth living. My broken arm helped me realize that I could lose my entire arm but I could still make do with my life. It helped me realize what I thought was my 100%, being able-bodied, was actually only 40%.

Breaking my arm made me stronger on so many fronts and it happened as I tried to learn something new. I urge my readers to try something new and discover the 40% rule in their own lives.

This applies to many things from fitness, age, intelligence, courage, and more. What holds you back?

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