The 80/20 rule

A good portion of our everyday life is based on the 80/20 principle (or 80/20 rule) which is also known as the Pareto Principle. Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto first formulated this theory in 1897. Pareto was studying incomes and money and discovered that a small portion of the population had a large portion of the money. Pareto referred to this phenomena as the “unequal distribution of wealth”, and developed several mathematical formulas to quantify his this maldistribution.

The work of Pareto was later taken and expanded on by an industrial engineer by the name of Joseph Moses Juran. Juran took the work Pareto had done and made it into a more universal law with his work on what Juran called “vital few and the trivial many”. Juran had worked much of his career as a quality control engineer and he observed that often 80% of a problem is caused by 20% of the causes. It was Juran who is actually credited with coining the term “The Pareto Principle”. In his paper The Non-Pareto Principle Juran explains it this way.

“It was during the late 1940s, when I was preparing the manuscript for Quality Control Handbook, First Edition, that I was faced squarely with the need for giving a short name to the universal. In the resulting write-up2 under the heading “Maldistribution of Quality Losses,” I listed numerous instances of such maldistribution as a basis for generalization. I also noted that Pareto had found wealth to be maldistributed. In addition, I showed examples of the now familiar cumulative curves, one for maldistribution of wealth and the other for maldistribution of quality losses. The caption under these curves reads “Pareto’s principle of unequal distribution applied to distribution of wealth and to distribution of quality losses.””

Thanks to the diligent work of Duran we can now see how the 80/20 rule can be applied to any area of our lives or our work. As he points out “the trivial many” are the areas we do not need to spend our time or energy on as they are just not all that important to our end result.

The first time I can remember consciously using the 80/20 rule to my advantage was in my grade 10 math class. That year I had 2 teachers who would alternate months in which they taught, on of which I liked, one of which I did not. At this stage of math class the equations were beginning to get quite complex and multi step. I discovered however that with creative thinking I was able to skip most of the steps in the process and still come up with the correct answer. In essence I was doing 20% of the work but still coming up with the desired effect. One of my teachers saw my gift and encouraged me to continue using it to my advantage. It was he who coined the term for me “The Chuck Method”. The second teacher however saw things in an entirely different light. He decided that even though my answers were correct he wanted to grade on compliance to the system and would give me 20% on the tests because he could not come up with how I got to my answers.

I use this story because I believe it really illustrates why so few people actually put the 80/20 rule into practice. We live in a society that places emphasis on compliance more than creative thinking. When we try to develop something new it is often shot down as disobedient. I believe that each one of us has the power to challenge this system. This is one of the major reasons why the 80/20 rule is so powerful is, 80% of the population is willing to accept things as they come and don’t believe that they deserve anything better. It is the top 20% who will not accept this and they increase the gap between the haves and the have nots. It has been said that one of the biggest problems people face is not that they aim to high and fail; it is that they aim to low and succeed.

One great example of putting the 80/20 rule to a very positive use is the Windows operating system we are all familiar with. The Windows desktop is a fantastic example of the rule in action. On any given computer there are hundreds of programs installed but most are rarely used. On our desktop we have a small number of programs we use on a regular basis. It is much more convenient to have things like our web browser in an easily accessible place, but we don’t need every program there.

There are plenty of examples in our everyday world of the 80/20 rule being used, often times by each one of us. The real power of the rule however comes into play when you begin to make a conscious effort with each decision you make during the day. As soon as you become deeply and innately aware of the power the 80/20 rule has over your life the sooner you can begin to unleash to power it contains.

The secret to success is knowing what are your 20% activities which are producing the 80% of your results. Doing more of the productive activities in your life will allow you to earn more in less time and have more free time to do the things you enjoy.

Getting a message to Garcia

A Message to Garcia
Elbert Hubbard

IN ALL THIS CUBAN BUSINESS there is one man stands out on the horizon of my
memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain and the United
States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents.
Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba — no one knew where. No
mail or telegraph could reach him. The President must secure his co-operation, and

What to do!
Someone said to the President, “There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find
Garcia for you, if anybody can.”
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How “the fellow by
name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his
heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared
into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having
traversed a hostile country on foot, and having delivered his letter to Garcia — are things I
have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia;
Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?” By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing – “Carry a message to Garcia.”

General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.

No man who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands are needed, but
has been well-nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man—the inability
or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slipshod assistance, foolish
inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man
succeeds, unless by hook or crook or threat he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or
mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Light for
an assistant.

You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office—six clerks are
within call. Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and
make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio.” Will the clerk quietly say, “Yes, sir,” and go do the task? On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye, and ask one or more of the following questions:

Who was he?
Which encyclopedia?
Where is the encyclopedia?
Was I hired for that?
Don’t you mean Bismarck?
What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?
Is he dead?
Is there any hurry?
Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
What do you want to know for?

And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained
how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the
other clerks to help him find Garcia—and then come back and tell you there is no such
man. Of course, I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average I will not.

Now, if you are wise, you will not bother to explain to your “assistant” that Correggio is
indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile very sweetly and say, “Never
mind,” and go look it up yourself. And this incapacity for independent action, this moral
stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift—
these are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for
themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all?

A first mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting “the bounce”
Saturday night holds many a worker to his place. Advertise for a stenographer, and nine
out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate — and do not think it necessary to.
Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

“You see that bookkeeper,” said the foreman to me in a large factory. “Yes, what about him?”
“Well, he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him uptown on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street would forget what he had been sent for.” Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the “down-trodden
denizens of the sweatshop” and the “homeless wanderer searching for honest employment,” and with it all often go many hard words for the men in power. Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long, patient striving after “help” that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away “help” that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues: only, if times are hard and work is scarce, this sorting is done finer—but out and forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best—those who can carry a message to Garcia.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of
his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to anyone else, because he carries with him
constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress
him. He can not give orders, and he will not receive them. Should a message be given
him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, “Take it yourself!”

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his
threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular firebrand of
discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe
of a thick-soled Number Nine boot.

Of course, I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical
cripple; but in our pitying let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on
a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is
fast turning white through the struggle to hold the line in dowdy indifference, slipshod
imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their enterprise, would be both
hungry and homeless.

Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone aslumming
I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds—the man who,
against great odds, has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there’s
nothing in it nothing but bare board and clothes. I have carried a dinner-pail and worked
for a day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is
something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no
recommendation; and all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all
poor men are virtuous.

My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the boss is away, as well as when
he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly takes the missive,
without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the
sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets “laid off,” nor has to go on
a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long, anxious search for just such
individuals. Anything such a man asks will be granted. He is wanted in every city, town
and village—in every office, shop, store and factory.

The world cries out for such: he is
needed and needed badly—the man who can “Carry a Message to Garcia

The lawn mower business plan

Recently we purchased a new home with a nice big yard for us to enjoy. As we have been spending our free time building things like gardens and landscaping it to fit within the picture in our minds the grass continued to grow and I was forced to go shopping for a lawn mower. I decided it would be best to go with a manual mower powered by nothing but elbow grease and a desire to be a little more environmentally conscious.

In getting out in the yard this evening and fighting my way through the grass and weeds which had been left too long I was once again reminded of the cathartic experience simple manual labour can offer. Alone in the city with the smell of clean air and fresh cut grass I was once again wrapped up solitude which allowed me to focused my thoughts. The simple task of keeping the body occupied and yet having the freedom to lose myself in thought has become a very helpful tool for me.

I find it is easy to get wrapped up in the chaotic life of living in a major city, operating a business by day and maintaining a social life by night. We often forget to take time to look inwards and reflect on what is important and establish what to focus on moving forward.
Feelings and emotions, are the access point to your inner powers of mind. Solitude is one of the most powerful activity in which one can engage. So many epiphanies have been created in times of solitude and thought (some may call it meditating). I find I begin to experience a flow of energy coming into my mind and body as well as a tremendous sense of well-being. Answer to lingering questions seem to appear, new goals are crystallized and old irrelevant goals seem to drift away.

I read recently a study of happiness and a large group of people were asked what would make them happier in life. A very large portion of those interviewed felt earning more money (20-50% increase in annual income) would dramatically increase happiness levels. However, as the subject’s lives were followed there was no correlation between increased happiness and increased income.

What I found truly amazing about this study was when the group of people were asked what impact a 10 minute walk every evening in a park would do for happiness levels virtually none of them felt the nightly nature walk would have any effect on happiness levels. In contrast, of those who took a nightly walk almost all showed a dramatic increase in overall happiness. The study showed that as little as 10 minutes each day alone in nature with a minimal amount of physical activity was the best way to increase happiness and the feeling of fulfillment in life. It has once again been proven, money can not by itself buy happiness.

In looking back at my decision to purchase the manual mower, perhaps it is not just the environment who is benefiting. A simple act of green can have a huge impact on happiness and achievement levels in life. The time spent outside pushing the mower can be perhaps the most important business activity I participate in all week.



Personal Reflection

A number of weeks ago I wrote about solitude and the power it can have on our thoughts and our mind. I was very amazed at the response it generated and the stories people have told me about their experiences with it. It was off topic a little from what I normally write about but something that is quite important to me. With this in mind I wanted to share some thoughts on a similar topic, that of personal reflection.

I think in life sometimes we have a lot of difficulty asking ourselves the tough questions that would elicit change in our behaviors. It is usually easier for us to travel along a path of least resistance, than it is for us to face the music and make a powerful change for the better. We all have said those magic words that someday things will change for the better.

I for one think that waiting for someday is not an acceptable route to take. I have been fortunate in my life to have friends and mentors help me by being a catalyst for positive growth and change. I can think of numerous epiphanies in my life that have come from a single word or phrase uttered by someone I care about.

What I have discovered to be the key ingredient is my own burning desire to succeed. It has often been said that you can not say the wrong thing to the right person. I think that by allowing myself to be ready for change it has helped me in invaluable ways I could not even begin to describe.

Brian Tracy always asks the question “is what I am doing right now moving me closer to my goals?” I find that by asking myself this question both personally and professionally I am able to determine what the right thing for me to do is. The most important thing to remember is that the right thing is probably not the easy thing. To me true courage is doing the right thing in every situation. Take the time to determine what is right for you and don’t let anyone get you sidetracked and success will be your oyster.

Bon Appetite,


Giving back

I find that sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives we sometimes forget how lucky and blessed we really are. I sometimes find myself in awe of this wonderful city and country I live in. I know I am biased but I say Vancouver is the best city in the world to be in.

Though most people who live here know this, I think so few appreciate it as much as they could. To me one of the most valuable things we can do as successful business people and all round humanitarians is to give back to those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Randy Gage writes a lot about prosperity and what it means to be truly prosperous in life. He talks in depth about how it is not enough to make a lot of money, or have nice things but we have to live a balanced life that includes giving. The more we give both of ourselves and our money the more we will have in life.

I for one really believe in this theory and that those who give are the one who gain the most out of life both financial and spiritually. To be successful in life requires we be happy with ourselves and our surroundings, so why not do what you can to make the world a better place.

These are my two cents on the day,



Copyright © 2024 Chuck Brady.