the rule of the vital fewA fellow Redditor once posed the question: “What is the most beautiful mathematical equation?”

At first it’s almost jarring (read: does not compute (in a robot voice)) to see the words “beautiful” and “mathematical” in the same sentence - at least for a lit nut like me.  But there’s something aesthetically drawing ­- dare I say sexy – about some equations.

The Rule Of The Vital Few is another beautiful equation.

 

The Rule Of The Vital Few is also known as The Pareto Principle or The Law of 80/20. It states that 80% of your results come from 20% of causes.

What makes it beautiful is that it answers the questions of delicate balance. At some point the “x” of your results, and the “y” of your causes will meet to form a balance. This starts at the 50/50 split and moves upward, until the balance is found.

And so the pendulum stops at 80/20. The Pareto Principle. The Rule Of The Vital Few.

It’s most often applied to business, which makes the ambiguity a little clearer – 80% of sales come from 20% of clients.

And here’s the thing: every business should know about The Rule Of The Vital Few. It can and will shape visualizations of your company’s future, especially in furthering customer relations to a point where they become referrers.

But while businesses should be aware of the Pareto Principle, it’s something that any human, involved in commerce or not, should take note of. Why? Because it depicts a fundamental aspect of the human condition.

It says that these things that happen to us – these effects of fate – are not stretched evenly across the table. Each factor does not share its due weight in benefit or causality. In fact, it is the vital few, the strong, that determine an inordinately large amount of our course as people.

So now we as humans do and apply scientific theorems to our most unscientific lives.

Imagine the Pareto Principle as a guiding philosophy for your day-to-day. Your modus operandi in four digits (80/20).

Try this story on for size. I grew up in Chicago. During the 90s. Big Bulls fan. Yes, yes, we won everything, I know. I used to write stories in my journal about my joining the NBA, and teaming with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to win more championships. (Didn’t quite make it!)

Anyway, my mother – doing her best to teach me about the importance of team activities – always asked why I didn’t include the rest of the team.

The answer is the Pareto Principle. I only needed the two superstars and my outstandingly fictional talent to win a championship. Three players. The rest of the team didn’t contribute as much as us, the vital few.

This is how we operate.

The mundane tasks that we do because we have to take up a large portion of our effort, time, endurance, etc. And then there’s the special tasks, the vital few, which, recognized or not, compound the essence of your life.

The 80% (results) is the large chunk of that which establishes who you are. It stems from 20% of your tasks, your time, and your effort. So the question is not how to devote yourself equally to the duties that lay before you – but rather how to recognize those that benefit you substantially more than others.

And that may not be so easy.

The Pareto Principle is based on economist Vilfredo Pareto’s observation that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population (after noticing the same about peas from pea pods in his garden). His data lay before him as observable fact. Your life will never be as simple.

Recognition of the 20% isn’t going to be as cut-and-dry as land ownership. But once you find it, my my how beautiful it can be!

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  • Guest

    “The mundane tasks that we do because we have to take up a large portion of our effort, time, endurance, etc. And then there’s the special tasks, the vital few, which, recognized or not, compound the essence of your life.

    The 80% (results) is the large chunk of that which establishes who you are. It stems from 20% of your tasks, your time, and your effort. So the question is not how to devote yourself equally to the duties that lay before you – but rather how to recognize those that benefit you substantially more than others.”

    Sources? Proof? Connections? How are you linking a relationship based on quantifiable information to truths about the human condition? Can you offer an example of a person who has introduced the 20/80 law into their personal life? Has there ever been a study applying this principle to a person organizing their daily activities? What is the “effect” that you’re measuring? What are the causes?

    You can’t introduce a simple principle to something so complex without doing some serious legwork first. All I see are links to and from Wikipedia