(Blog #1) You’re stuck in a traffic jam. You’re late and your cell phone won’t stop ringing. Conditions are certainly unfavorable for you. But you know the secret, you are aware of the power you have to make a difference not on the outside world but in your own private inside world. Top 20s think inside-out, not outside-in! If you have any interest in eliminating some negative experiences in your life, read on….

Author’s note: When we use the phrase ‘Top 20‘ in this article, we mean that we are thinking, learning and communicating effectively. When we use the phrase ‘Bottom 80’, we mean that we are thinking, learning and communicating ineffectively.

Let’s start by thinking in terms of having two lives. One life is the outside world. This includes your life at home, work or school. But there is another world that we all live in—the inside world. It consists of the six-inch space between your ears—your thought life. Your thought life is made up of your attitudes, opinions and beliefs about the outside world. These are all functions and activities of the inside world of your mind. So there are two worlds: stuff out there and what you think about the stuff out there.

What percentage of your success (good results, good experience, good relationships) is tied to the outside and what percentage is tied to the inside?

  • The thinking of Top 20s is that most (90%) of their happiness or success is tied to the inside world and that very little (10%) is tied to the outside conditions.
  • Bottom 80s believe just the opposite. They believe very little (10%) of their success is tied to the inside world. Instead, they place large value (90%) on outside conditions.


Top 20s know they do not have control over the outside world but they always have control of their attitude about the outside. Knowing this and knowing how to use this can actually improve their experience of the outside world. Top 20s use their inside world to influence their outside experience. The person who masters this masters life. While this habit is extremely beneficial to young people who are just beginning to take power and control of their own lives, it is probably even more helpful to adults who have already developed (both effective and ineffective) thought processes and habits.

The 90/10 Rule is the ultimate responsible thinking strategy.

With 90/10 we eliminate our role of victim

because it embraces the big belief: “I always have power of choice.”

Top 20s’ mission in life is to discover the power they have been given and then use this power to make their world a better place.

Think of a person with whom you might have some difficulty. Do you think it is easier to change the person or to change the way you think about the person? Where does it make sense to put 90% of your energy? Often we spend our time trying to alter these outside conditions and trying to get other people in line with our thinking. All of this energy is wasted because the outside is usually very difficult or impossible to change.

A natural law of life states that if you improve your inside you will eventually improve your outside. Sometimes it may be sooner and sometimes it may be later, but it will happen.

Cody Comments

My wife Judy and I have enjoyed about twenty-five years of harmonious, blissful marriage…out of our thirty-five total years together! Things were a bit rocky in our relationship during those middle years raising three sons, balancing finances and careers. Unaware of the 90/10 Inside-Out Law, I was extremely busy in those days, trying to fix my wife. While this was a maddening experience for both of us, I was convinced that I could control her, that I could improve her. I was dead certain that my life could only be “fixed” by fixing hers. Fifteen years ago, when I first began to entertain the notion of Living Top 20, my thinking changed…and my life changed. I now put the majority of my energy into monitoring myself, into improving my own inside experience. It’s amazing how much better Judy has gotten! She never attended any seminars on “Being a Better Wife”, yet she and I have developed our relationship to a higher level over these years. It’s so simple it defies logic: you can work on something you cannot change (the outside) or you can work on something you can change (the inside).


When we improve the inside, the outside eventually gets better. If you want a better team, become a better player. If you want to have a better relationship with a friend, you need to become a better friend. If you want a better boss, be a better employee. The first step of becoming is to improve your attitude about your team, your friend, your boss and yourself.

You become a Top 20 by first improving your thinking and then by taking action on that new and improved thinking.

Thoughts such as “I totally disagree with this” or “I don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about” will keep you firmly entrenched in the Bottom 80. Being clueless or resistant will not excuse you from the effect of this law. For example, if you don’t like the Law of Gravity or disagree with it, that law will still apply to your life. Your choice is to comply with these laws and have a better experience or oppose them and experience negative consequences.


Accepting this law doesn’t mean that life will never again deal us a bad card. We will still experience days when it rains on our parade. We will still experience the death or loss of a loved one. But even though we can’t control those situations, a Top 20 still decides how she is going to operate in the midst of undesirable or painful situations. The belief in 90/10 recognizes an outside world that can often respond contrary to our desires or values. Nonetheless, Top 20s know that attached to every outside experience is an inside experience and they have the freedom and the power to do the inside job.



PAT’S RULE Reframe the activity that you are not motivated to do into an activity that you are more motivated to do.

Pat was a 14-year-old when he took a Top 20 high school course and learned this material. When his mother asked him to vacuum the house, he reframed vacuuming to a more enjoyable activity. He would either start dancing with the vacuum cleaner or, being a football player, imagine himself in a game with two minutes to go. Quarterbacking his team in its “hurry up” offense, Pat timed himself and tried to finish the vacuuming in two minutes or less.


Many times Top 20s are in a condition caused by the outside world. They can even be confused or stumped by this situation. They may not know what the better attitude is, but they know they’re searching for one. They have faith that it exists and are open to the search. In their own way they are asking for a better perspective to have about this situation. For Top 20s that search usually results in finding a better way.

On the other hand, Bottom 80s believe that they are so victimized by the situation that they are powerless. There is nothing they can do to affect their experience of this situation. The outside has full control over the inside. It is hopeless unless the outside changes. It would never occur to them that there is a better experience available by doing an inside job.

Anne Frank, who could have easily seen herself as a victim, practiced the 90/10 Rule in the most difficult of conditions: You will have more power to direct your life. You will have claimed the freedom that resides within you and will no longer be the victim you once thought you were. You will use the potential in your life now to create your future. You will even influence your outside world.”

Cody Comment

I cannot let this Anne Frank quote slip past you without adding an observation. She was able to claim power and control over her inside life even while SUFFERING THROUGH THE MOST INHUMANE EXPERIENCE IN HUMAN HISTORY! Her Nazi captors took everything they could take from Anne’s outside world, but they were never able to take away her human dignity, her power to live life on her own terms. If this young woman could accomplish this…then I think it just might be possible for me to handle the slow checkout lane at the grocery store.


Belief in the 90/10 Rule is not only powerful and liberating but also difficult. Accepting responsibility for our own life means we have to stop blaming others for our experience. Blaming can become a convenient response because it gets us off the hook. Actually that is a false belief. It only appears to get us off the hook.


“ If I didn’t score the goal, it was because my teammate didn’t give me a good pass. I even blamed other kids for my own homework assignments. If I got a problem wrong, it was because Jimmy helped me with it.” —Sean


We also have to stop pretending that we have no control, even though we may have become quite good at that habit. Pretending allows us to hide. The habit of pretending can be such a part of our everyday life that it is hard to stop. We can even become trapped in who or what we are pretending to be. Responsibility frees us not only from external controls on our lives but also from self-imposed traps of pretending.

As parents, it is easy to fall into the seductive lure of blaming our children when things get rocky at home. It may seem effective to pretend that they are always the problem and that their growth and development will cure any family ills that exist. It is equally important that we continue to grow and develop as adults and caregivers. Quite simply, despite our tendency to think otherwise, we have very little power or control over our children’s lives…but we always, always, always have the ability to govern our own thinking and behaviors.

Making excuses is an effort to protect ourselves. When we forget about 90/10, we use excuses like shields to deflect responsibility away from ourselves. Protecting ourselves from responsibility is a sure way of staying stuck in the Bottom 80. It assures us of not getting better and of having a miserable experience.


The language of our thoughts helps us identify whether we are Top 20s or Bottom 80s regarding 90/10. Which of the following statements are you most likely to believe?

Top 20 Beliefs Bottom 80 Beliefs
I use my attitude to control the event.I can always work on my inside.I’m not sure what it is but there’s a better way of thinking about it.I see choices.Change is possible. I allow the event to control my attitude.I wait for the outside to change.There’s nothing I can do. I can only do what I’ve always done.I’m stuck.I can’t help the way I am. It’s in my genes…my family…and there’s nothing I can do about it.



Certainly as human beings we experience problems in our lives. However, the way we think about the problem can actually add to the problem. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, that is a problem. The traffic jam is real. You need to get some place by a certain time and because of the traffic jam you are going to be late. So let that be the problem rather than creating others by allowing your thinking to go crazy and directing your rage at other drivers.

Maybe rain has canceled your plans with friends. Let that be the problem. But Bottom 80s will take that home and let the disappointment of the canceled plans effect how they relate to their family. Now they have more problems. Top 20s would do something like invite friends over, or make new plans.


We have come to a crucial fork in the road. The only way to become a Top 20 is to take Highway 90/10. This is the road to responsibility, empowerment, and taking control of your life.