The 80/20 Rule

Do you know what the 80/20 rule basically states? I learned a definition for this rule some 20 years ago working for a pair of small business entrepreneurs – John and Joe Lunsford. John told me one day in his upbeat way that he got eighty percent of his good work done in about twenty percent of the time he worked and that you could apply the generality of this rule to anything in life.
Over the past twenty years, I’ve learned in general that John is right. We work countless hours and on things that after a period of time I find only about twenty percent is worth remembering. But we must forge ahead in our careers and in our lives and create our body of work. Hopefully, when we are old, retired and reflect back on what we did in life we will have a good twenty percent to reflect on.

I know that this sounds a bit depressing, but after reading some old 1997 Cringely entries, I drew comfort from his article, Cringely’s theory of relativity: Or why pizza delivery as a career move is looking better and better. In the article Mr. Bob relates that in our careers we have to accept that our labor never ends and that we have to keep working to get to the next level — whatever that level may be.

I find in my professional work and more so in my hobbies that I tend to have about the twenty percent acceptance of what I’ve done. For instance, I can take a hundred pictures and I only like about 12 to 20. But in reality the band I took the pictures for love way more pictures than I did. So, I’m hoping this 80-20 rule is really more about high expectations than reality. John had a high expectation on the performance of himself and his people. Maybe high expectations aren’t so bad. For if we can hit the 80-20 rule for a life-time, when it is all said and done, the entire human race will have produced a lot of good stuff!


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