80/20 is the famous Pareto Principle, coined by Joseph M. Juran, a business consultant, which states that 80 percent of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is roughly a rule-of-the thumb concept which is used heavily in business, e.g., 80% of the sales come from 20% of the clients.
This principle applies to other aspects of our lives as well. In school, roughly 80% of the discussion is kept going by 20% of the students. While all may probably graduate, only a few make it to the honor roll. And when they hit the job market, about 20 will most likely get hired in the first try.
When you look around the community, it’s a good bet that community activities are kept going and alive by a minority of the members. In professional sports, the bigger part of the gate’s receipts is produced by the few super stars, and at work, a company’s excellent bottom line is largely due to the efforts of a few overachievers.
The Pareto Principle is sometimes called “Pareto’s natural law of wealth.” As such, it is as unerring as the natural laws of gravity or inertia. But whereas, everything falls to the ground due to gravity, anybody can get away from the 80 and be among the 20. It is not a law of pre-ordination, or fate. You can move from being in a state of mediocrity to a state of excellence.
The question is, “How?”
In any given office or career, the anonymous many who are stuck in their static existence are chained there not by some external force or authority, but by their own self-limiting thoughts. Nobody is keeping them there, but themselves.
Therefore, if you want to move from the insignificant many to the elite few, remove the obstacles you have unwittingly placed around you. Get out of your box.
It is not going to be easy, though, because it would require ridding previously-held thoughts about yourself, about life, about career success and happiness. It might even require a complete overhaul of your core values. And change is always difficult. It means leaving behind things you love and cherish, things you value all your life (even if they have hindered you from moving forward), for things you are initially unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.
But C.S. Lewis said:
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Just as a seed must die for a plant to grow, a pupa to give birth to a butterfly, so must you let your old self die so you can allow a new you to grow into its full potential as a person, as a professional.
You can do that by starting to:
1. Develop a feeling of discontentment:
Not the grumbling, and complaining kind of discontentment but of the “I’ve-got-to-do-better” kind.
Be discontented with your pay, your job, the people you work with, or even the company you work for, if necessary.
Being the best janitor, or clerk or engineer in your office is good. But at the end of the day, you are still a janitor; or clerk or an engineer.
Be discontented enough to want to be something else because out there is something a lot better for you. It’s just waiting to be worked for; to be claimed.
2. Develop positive envy:
To be envious is not entirely bad.
Why do you think all commercials and ads use beautiful movie stars, top athletes and other famous people as product endorsers? Because they trigger the “If it is good for them, it should be good for me,” thought patterns among the buying public. They are meant to stir the envious desires of people
Envy is the root of all fads and fads set the stage for human evolution.
Feeling bad, depressed and losing self-confidence because of having been bypassed by an associate is the kind of envy you don’t want to have. It saps your energy, de-motivates you and could lead your promising career into an early demise.
Instead, say, “If he can do it, so I can. And better.” Try it and see how good it makes you feel; it allows you to see the bigger picture and sets you off running in the direction you want to take.
3. Paying the price:
Everybody wants to succeed, but only very few want to pay the price. It may not be in monetary terms, though it won’t hurt to buy decent clothes and shoes, or get a good physical make-over.
But the real price, and this is too stiff for most, are the inner changes you have to make to succeed.
First, and foremost, change your attitude about yourself, your job, the people you work with, and the whole world around you. You are a lot better than you think.
Second, get rid of your bad habits and character traits, e.g., tardiness, absenteeism, failure to meet deadlines, procrastination, lack of self confidence, etc. These are manifestations of unprofessionalism and unless you get rid of these, you will remain a little leaguer.
Third, learn how to communicate and interact well with co-workers. Office interaction and communication are probably the least understood and underrated skills one must have up his sleeve to get ahead in his/her career. They are the most crucial if one intends to move from the insignificant 80 to the over-achieving 20.
Every effort you put in pursuing your career goals will all go to waste if you cannot communicate your intentions in a clear, simple, and understandable manner, and persuade others to support you because your relationship with them sucks.
4. Learning new things and don’t stop:
Learning is one of the distinguishing traits of highly successful people. They never stop learning. They always have a book by the side and subscriptions to self-improvement, technology or business magazines.
They can carry themselves well in discussions covering a wide range of topics. And if necessary, rattle off figures, statistics and studies on subjects related to their fields of expertise.
The days of “mastery of one,” are long gone, supplanted by multi-tasking and multi-jobbing.
5. Believing in yourself:
Unless you firmly believe in yourself, all of the above will be like a typical obstacle course in a military boot camp.
You will find them too high to scale, too slippery to get a hold on, to difficult to wriggle through or too risky even to try. You will hesitate, procrastinate, and make shortcuts. If they don’t work you try a different route or skirt around them until you hit another dead end. Finally you give up believing that you are just not cut out to be in the 20.
Louisa May Alcott (author of the classic novel, The Little Women) said:
“We all have our life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.”
Success is, in most cases, not of lack of skill but a lack of will.
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