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The Pareto Principle (80/20)

Updated: Dec 25, 2021

The Pareto Principle, also referred to as the 80/20 Principle, relates to virtually all areas of life and tends to be a reliable explanation for distribution of resources and success. It explains how 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.  It also explains how 80% of your problems come from 20% of your decisions.

The original idea came from a mathematical observation by a man named Pareto that 80% of Englands income was generated by 20% of the population.  Since then, many people have made their own applications of this principle in most every area of life to understand and explain a natural curve that is generated by the vast variety of people. It explains how their disposition and approach towards life leads to predictable outcomes.

The Pareto Principle is valuable to understand because when we look at the world through our natural lenses, we tend to look at the world as being flat and fair.  We think that as long as we sow hard, we will reap hard and as long as we keep busy, we won’t have any effort unnoticed or unrewarded.  We think that everyone who works hard should be equally rewarded for their equal efforts.

That would be great if it were so, but the truth is that very few of the efforts we make actually move the success needle as much as we tend to think.  We all have likely experienced some success in our lives that stem from great ideas, hard work or creative thought.  These successful endeavors likely came about through just a handful of talents, habits or skills that you possess.

We like to think that we are decent at a lot of different things.  We can do many things fairly well and have a pretty broad understanding of the world.  That is rubbish.  The truth is that we are all only really good at three to five things.  That’s it.  We do many more things outside of these three to five things, but most of our success you can attribute to the time and efforts that come from these key areas of strength.  These are your core competencies.  You should pay very close attention to these core competencies and put a hedge around them to make sure they are not squeezed out of your life or schedule by your lesser skills and efforts.

“The truth is that we are all only really good at three to five things.  That’s it”

Some people go through their entire life and never get a good understanding of our core competencies. The success we have had we attribute to our collective knowledge and all the different skills we have picked up over the years.  We take great pride in being “well rounded”. We know we are better at some things but what we don’t realize is how many things we think we are decent at that don’t add any real value to the overall project, not to mention sometimes even taking away from the success of the project without even knowing.


Until we fully understand our core competencies and leverage them, we will continue to be on the wrong end of the Pareto Principle.

This Blog is dedicated to helping people identify the three areas that their efforts fall into based on the Pareto Principle.

  1. Competency Zone – The time, efforts, and skills used that contribute to most of your successful results from using your unique gifts and core competencies. These are the 20% of your efforts that lead to 80% of your results.

  2. Mediocrity Zone – The time, efforts, and skills we often believe contribute to success, but really add very little if any value to the project. These are the efforts we make that keep us afloat at best. They often are necessary but should never be counted on to bring home the gold medal. These are the 60% of your efforts that contribute some to the solutions (20%) and some to the problem (20%)

  3. Futile Zone – The time you waste when you should be doing more important things, the efforts you make in vain, and the skills you pretend you have that only make things worse. These are the 20% of your efforts that lead to 80% of your problems. Stop it!

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This blog is dedicated to helping people view the world through the lense of the Pareto Principle.  I hope you like it.  Please let me know what you think so I can continue to grow.

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