Have you ever noticed that 80% of the time you’re wearing the same 20% of your clothes? If you ever worked retail, have you noticed that 80% of sales come from just 20% of customers? Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but 80% of my time is spent with the same 20% of my friends and family members.
It turns out that it’s a well-documented phenomenon. It’s called the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule.
What Is The Pareto Principle?
It all started with the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto first noticed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Over time, the observation became a broader rule: 80% of the results will come from just 20% of the causes. It applies to wealth distribution, athletics, occupational safety, and to a variety of other fields. It’s even been morphed into mathematical and computing modeling formulas, which, well, I don’t understand at all. So back to basics.
How To Apply The Pareto Principle
Of course, the Pareto principle has found its way into wellness trends. You’ve probably heard of Personal Excellence. In “Living the 80/20 Way”, Richard Koch claimed to show how to harness the 80/20 principle to work less and succeed more. It all boils down to an idea that you’re probably already familiar with. Identify the key actions that will actually make a difference in the path to your goals. What are the things that you need to do? What are the ones that would be just nice to pursuit? Anyone with some college education knows that studying the key principles of a given topic is more effective than getting to know by heart every single book on the matter.
Don’t 80/20 Everything
Ironically, Vilfredo Pareto only discovered the 80/20 rule because he outright ignored it. He had just become the new chair of political economy at the University of Lausanne, and yet he began obsessively counting the output of his pea plants in spreadsheets. Moreover, Excel wasn’t even a thing. He put no less than 100% of his energy into a mundane, meaningless hobby, and it led to a scientific breakthrough.
The 80/20 principle is terrific for everything you don’t really care about. E.g. a boring college class. But you need to give your best somewhere. 20% won’t cut it. If something means everything to you, you can’t just half-ass your efforts to get it. When you find your unique path (even by chance, just as happened to Pareto) walk all the way on it. Give your 100%. Do your very best.