The Eighty Twenty Rule: Getting to Your Vital Few

Just in case you have not heard about the 80–20 rule or the Pareto Principle, here is it (source: Wikipedia)

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.[1] Management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who, while at the University of Lausanne in 1896, published his first paper “Cours d’ economie politique.” Essentially, Pareto showed that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; Pareto developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

When I was first introduced to this principle I was floored. I thought, “you mean to tell me that 80% of what I do really does not matter?” — the typical, immature, entitled reaction. I look back and think about the sheer arrogance that everything that did in my life had equal weight. Thank goodness that is not true, or all the hours I spent playing video games or watching television would have ruined me (even more).

I remained skeptical of this principle until I run some number on the real estate market in Hilton Head Island. I looked at the total sales volumes of all the agents. Back then there were roughly 1000 agents and I took the sum of volume of the top 200 versus the bottom 800. It was almost to the exact number — the top 200 agent produced 80% of the volume.

Not fully convinced, I took the top 200 and ran the 80–20 rule again — the top 40 agents versus the bottom 160. The result. You guessed it — 80% of the volume in that group was produced by the top 20%.

I am not saying I apply this rule intentionally all the time or even enough. In fact,

the passive nature of this rule keeps me from being the best version of myself, but knowing it usually gets me back on track.

The challenge for me is being mindful enough about my life to be able to identify my “vital few”. If 20% of what I am reading, watching, listening to effects my life in large ways, what is that 20%? If only 20% of my time with my family impacts them in a lasting way, how invested am I in that time? If 20% of my daily routine impacts 80% of my life — shouldn’t a large part of my emotional, mental, and physical energy be focused on that 20%? I think so…

Take inventory and be intentional. Not paying attention to the 80–20 is as dangerous and paying attention to it is effective.

So, what’s your 20%?

michael aldea go left marketing imageJan Michael Aldea is a jack of all trades finally making good at being well rounded. His background in marketing, consulting, business coaching & training, real estate, fitness, parenthood, marriage, and life makes Michael ill equipped to be in a cubicle, but very equipped to help transform people and companies one (sometimes humorously awkward) step at a time. He is the president and director of business development for Go Left Marketing based out of Charlotte, NC.

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