The 80-20 Rule

In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth. The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule, states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  Although this rule was first applied in Italy when Pareto was looking at the dispersal of wealth, it has since become a rule of thumb for many businesses.  It has been said that 20% of your workforce does 80% of the work, or 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.  I think this law comes into play in our lives as well.  Life is 20% what happens to you and 80% what you make of it.

There are tons of stories about people who come out of difficult situations — gang life, in and out of jail, drug addiction, broken families, abuse – yet still seem to rise to the top.  And of course, there are many stories of those who have been given everything they would need to succeed, only to wind up in the depths of despair and a broken life.  How you choose to respond to what life hands you not only says a lot about you, but has a huge impact on your life.  You can choose to either spend your life blaming your circumstances for misfortune or heartache, or you can learn from those things and move on. 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”—James 1:2-4

When James writes his letter, he tells the people to “consider it joy when they face trials.”  This is so contrary!  Joy?  How can you consider it joy when you are robbed, raped, lied to, fired, are having marriage difficulties or friendship problems?  James is not saying to pretend to be happy about a painful situation, but simply to have a positive outlook and know you can learn from it and not let it drag you down. The only thing we have control over in this life is how we choose to respond.  And how you choose to respond, especially under pressure, shows the depth of your character.  Instead of complaining about your struggles or blaming your trials for the bad choices you make, look at them as opportunities to grow, not opportunities to assign blame for your misfortune.

If life is truly 20% what happens to you and 80% what you make of it, think carefully before you react to something that has happened or each time you make a decision.


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