The 20% Rule and Batesian Mimicry: Unveiling the Secrets to Success

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

Sep 08, 2023

4 min read


The 20% Rule and Batesian Mimicry: Unveiling the Secrets to Success


In today's fast-paced world, where time is of the essence, it is crucial to prioritize continuous learning and personal growth to thrive in our careers. Just as we have minimum recommended dosages for physical health, such as vitamins and exercise, we need to establish a minimum dose of deliberate learning to maintain our economic health. In this article, we will explore the concept of the 20% Rule followed by influential figures like Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali, and Navy SEALs, and also delve into the intriguing phenomenon of Batesian mimicry in achieving success.

The 20% Rule for Thriving Careers:

The 20% Rule, popularly followed by Navy SEALs, Google, Genentech, and other successful organizations, suggests dedicating 20% of our time to activities that involve experimentation and skill-building. This rule emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and personal development in high-skill knowledge workers who engage in non-routine activities. For example, 3M, a renowned company, has been encouraging its engineers and scientists to spend up to 15% of their time pursuing their own projects, leading to breakthrough innovations.

Navy SEAL Jocko Willink exemplifies the significance of the 20% Rule by emphasizing the need for extensive training in his profession. He suggests that Navy SEALs should spend 20% of their week (equivalent to one day) on training to improve their skills. Willink's perspective highlights the importance of ongoing learning in certain professions that require constant adaptation and growth.

Moreover, our research reveals that 95% of respondents believe that implementing the 20% Rule in their workweek would increase their productivity and overall lifetime achievements. This rule acts as a catalyst for personal and professional growth, allowing individuals to stay ahead in an era of rapid time acceleration.

Unlocking the Secrets of Success through Batesian Mimicry:

Batesian mimicry, a concept originating from the field of biology, refers to the phenomenon where mimics imitate the appearance or behavior of a more dangerous or successful model. In the practical world, we often encounter individuals who mimic the traits and achievements of successful individuals, convincing others of their own capabilities. However, they may fall short in truly embodying the essence of success.

The success of these mimics relies heavily on the credibility and reputation of the models they imitate. The more impressive and renowned the model, the easier it becomes for the mimics to convince others of their own competence. However, it is essential to distinguish between genuine success and Batesian mimicry.

Charlie Munger, the renowned investor, believes in the power of repeating what works. He acknowledges the difficulty in differentiating between a genuine expert and someone who simply appears knowledgeable. Munger suggests that if one lacks expertise in a certain field, it may be wiser to opt for a low-cost index fund rather than attempting to identify a skilled money manager. Munger's insights remind us to be cautious of Batesian mimicry, not only in others but also in ourselves.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the 20% Rule: Allocate a significant portion of your time for deliberate learning and skill-building activities. This will enable you to stay ahead in your field and adapt to the evolving demands of the modern world.
  • 2. Differentiate True Success from Mimicry: Be discerning when encountering individuals who mimic the achievements of successful figures. Look beyond surface-level imitations and focus on individuals who have a genuine track record of success and a deep understanding of their respective fields.
  • 3. Prioritize Personal Growth: Dedicate at least 5 hours per week to deliberate learning, exceeding the minimum threshold for intellectual complacency. Adopt a growth mindset and seek opportunities for continuous improvement, whether through reading, attending workshops, or pursuing personal projects.


In a world where time is a valuable commodity, prioritizing continuous learning and personal growth is essential for thriving in our careers. The 20% Rule, as followed by influential figures like Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali, and Navy SEALs, emphasizes the importance of dedicating a significant portion of our time to deliberate learning and experimentation. Additionally, understanding the concept of Batesian mimicry allows us to differentiate between genuine success and mere imitations. By embracing the 20% Rule, remaining cautious of mimicry, and prioritizing personal growth, we can unlock our true potential and achieve long-term success in the 21st century.

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