As I like to say (and have experienced numerous times in my life), the first 90% of any project takes up 90% of the time, effort and resources. Then, that last 10% actually ends up taking 90% of the time, effort and resources to finish the project. It’s so incredibly easy to start something, but as time goes on, everything becomes a little more difficult… and continues on that path, with every aspect becoming a bit more challenging as time goes on. The “Time/Effort” graph looks exactly like the exponential growth graphs we’ve been trying to avoid for a year.

Ironic that as we approach the finish line of this pandemic, that’s what the end of this adventure is beginning to look like; in some places, because cases are once again growing at an alarming rate… but even where they’re not, the “We’re done with this” attitude of people who’ve already “checked out” of the effort. The “Forget everything, we’re fine” crowd reminds me of the people who start bailing on projects in that final 10%, because they figure they’ve done enough… the momentum will carry it through to the end, other people will pick up the slack, and so on. I don’t think I need to spell out what happens when a critical mass of people suddenly all switch to that mindset.

You’d think if you have a bad infection, the worst thing you can do is leave it untreated… while the best thing is to throw some antibiotics at it and cure it. But actually, the worst thing is to throw some antibiotics at it in a half-assed way, and then drop it because you yourself came to the brilliant conclusion that you’re cured, even while the doctor, pharmacist, Google and everyone will tell you: Take the antibiotics for the entire recommended course. Do not leave a single pill behind, even if you’re feeling 100% and think you’re cured.

If you don’t stamp out the infection properly, then the 90% of the bugs you killed won’t hurt you, but the 10% that are left… the strong ones… will be happy to make a re-appearance. These are the 10% that were tough enough to withstand your 90% effort in dealing with this in the first place, and now they’re mad. And resilient. Now you’re back to square one, fighting a tougher opponent.

We are at the 90% point now in this pandemic, but that 10% of rapidly-growing variants could quickly become the 90% of cases, and then we’ve all taken a huge step back. While we’re well-down the path of vaccines, if the new variants require a booster or a modification or whatever, we’re back to trying to vaccinate everyone… and now it’s also a steeper uphill because the anti-vax crowd will use it as ammo: “See, vaccines are useless! What, we’re going to need a new one every year?” – yeah, ironically, because of their attitude, we might. The people who tell us we don’t need masks will be responsible for us all needing masks. The people who tell us we don’t need vaccines will cause us all to need them.

An awful lot can happen in the last furlong of a horse race, something to which a lot of people reading this can attest. The best thing any jockey can do is put themselves in a position to win, do what they can… and hope things work out… though there’s always plenty outside of their control that will enter the story. 90% got them to the head of the stretch, perhaps in first place. But that last 10%… where we are now… this is where it gets real. This is where the race is won or lost.

And… this is not a project any of us want to throw out and start over.