The Pareto trap

The Pareto rule suggests that for many tasks, you can achieve about 80% of the result with about 20% of the effort.

But should you?

Let’s say, you’re juggling 10 tasks, each with 20% of the effort of what it would take you to do them at 100%. And let’s assume that those 100% are what the majority agrees to be a really well done job while 80% are still an ok job. You’ll end up with 10 results that are ok. Smart move, right?

If you invested the same amount of time to deliver 100% of the result, you’d end up with only 2 jobs completed.

Here’s where it gets interesting: What if you invested the same amount of time to deliver ONE result that blows our minds?

The appeal of the Pareto principle is that it suggests you can do more in less time. Which is fine as long as you’re ok with delivering ok jobs.

Here’s the thing, though: Ok jobs will get you attention for ok jobs. Or, in other words, none at all. You’ve delivered 10x average. Which is still average. No-one’s going to recognize you for any of these jobs.

But when you blow our minds, you, well, blow our minds. You’ve got our attention. We’ll notice. And tell others.

That’s how Rafael Nadal got famous for winning more Grand Slam tennis tournaments than anyone else. He isn’t ok at 10 sports, are even really good at 2. He’s exceptional at one.

That’s also how Pink Floyd got famous for Dark Side of the Moon.

Or how Stanley Kubrick got famous for his movies.

All of them decided that they’d better focus on one thing (at a time) and blow our minds with it than become ok at doing ten things at once.

This is, of course, a choice.

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz


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