The 80/20 Rule

Have you ever heard about the 80/20 rule?

Basically, it applies to everything but is used most commonly in business. Here’s the gist – 80% of everything is noise and/or junk, aka a complete soul sucking waste of time, money and effort. The other 20% is the real deal- what makes your profit, your satisfaction and should in theory be the focus of your efforts.

Good to know.

I thought about this concept a lot yesterday. I spent the day at a continuing education conference in Madison, WI. Optometrists are a funny bunch. I usually go to conferences in other States as it is a better learning experience and you can offer up some meaningful tidbits when you aren’t giving away your best trade secrets to the competitor two blocks down.

This year I lucked out and ran into a doctor that I used to work for years ago and we are still friendly. We also live far enough apart that we have zero overlapping patients. Plus, he is light years ahead of me in terms of his business so I am kind of like his pet.

Anyway, I had a killer seat in the back row (I was smart enough to save the seat before chowing down on the free breakfast.) He hadn’t saved a seat yet. I gave up my killer seat and we sat together somewhere in the middle.   Like I said, he is a pretty good friend.

As we sat down the first thing he said to me was, “I would rather be drinking a beer and going to the Badger game.” I said, “Amen, brother.” and we settled in for the duration. The conference was a rapid fire kind of deal – 20 minutes per speaker on stuff we should know. The 80/20 rule was in full effect and for six hours we listened and tried to pay attention. He told me that he just tries to take away one or two useful tidbits and call it quits.

It is too great of an expectation to think everything should be fascinating.

He also advised me that many people make their lives and jobs too difficult. For the long haul you have to be able to endure many ups and downs and the best way to do that is keep it simple. The KISS rule…Keep It Simple Stupid. He’s a good doctor, a good person and has a good relationship with his wife and kid. Smart guy. I am glad I sat next to him.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the 80/20 rule. As I was driving home, I started thinking about it. I am super lucky. I am the youngest of three. I have two older sisters who are very intelligent and extremely capable human beings. For my whole life, I have pretty much just followed in their footsteps or did what they told me to do. It’s worked out great. There have been some epic failures, trust me. But, truth be told when that happened it was because I didn’t listen to the Sisters.

The result is that in my life I get to be a kind and gentle soul (80%) with a dash of sarcasm and spontaneity (20%) thrown in. My sole function is to be funny and game for the unknown.

Years ago, one of the Sisters and I did a little trip to Carmel, CA. It was the early days of the internet and Sister booked us into a fantastic hotel (The Highlands Inn- which is fantastic by the way) and had some restaurants all picked out. We did it all and it was fun. One of the restaurants was kind of famous for being famous (I think Clint Eastwood went there at some point) but it was a little snooty. We had one more night and didn’t know where to go. I asked the valet guys were to go for a good meal and good atmosphere and they sent us to Flaherty’s. It was perfect.

I am the girl who askes the guys in the parking garage where to go and then actually does go. It takes both kinds of travelers to be successful. No planning is bad and nothing but planning is bad.

On that trip I also got to pick an activity and while we were at breakfast I saw an advertisement for sea kayaking on my placemat. We made a call and the next thing you know we were in Monterey Bay watching a baby sea lion get born. But then it got too close and it seemed like he was trying to get in the kayak…. and it was against the law and the guide yelled at us, “Paddle!” So we paddled. We were worried about the sea lion and made the guide go back and check. He said it was fine. I still wonder about that, he better not have lied. Anyway, it was a fantastic experience. All because of a little placemat.

I must give Sister credit though, she was the one who had researched the breakfast spot.

Birth order is fascinating. In my case, not only was I the youngest but my parents were oddities in that they had children much later in life. This is normal now, but in the 60’s it was kind of nuts. So, I arrived on the planet and my Dad turned 50 shortly thereafter. He retired when I was in middle school. Both of my parents are outdoorsy- so I would come home from school to find a five dollar bill on the table with a note saying, “Take Elaine to The Hut for dinner. Back home before dark. Love Mom, XO.” It was fine. The Hut was and still is a great spot for hamburgers and fries and it was cheap. I could take Elaine out to dinner and still have some money left over for things like smut books.

I used to ask my Mom if they ever worried about leaving me alone and she said, “We gave you just enough rope to hang yourself.”

I have never really been sure about that statement but it all worked out fine so it doesn’t require any additional deep thinking.

A friend of mine had a similar situation. He was the youngest of five with a 16 year age difference between him and his older brother. Pretty much everyone was out of the house for his childhood. We sometimes tell stories about growing up. He laughs and likes to say he was, “raised by wolves.” It worked out for him too. His parents worked like crazy and were never home. That was alright, he had a girl friend whose parents worked all of the time too, and he would ride his bike over after school and they would boink like crazy until 5pm and then he would ride his bike home in time for dinner. What can I say? It was the 80’s. He said it was super fun. I believe him.

I didn’t get to do any boinking because my Dad was a staunch Republican. They are uptight about stuff like that. Also, I had the bad 80’s perm thing going with a modest amount of baby blubber. I was a late bloomer. Things are better now. So, instead of boinking I hung out with our hunting dogs and read books. Then we got cable and I saw Jaws and it ruined me for swimming in the ocean to this day.

Younger siblings grow up fast and I think it has to do with being exposed to the older kids’ lives. I give my parents credit (actually, I think it was probably because they weren’t paying attention) for not censuring my reading material or TV/movie viewing.

They used to make my older sisters babysit for me- and little did they know but we weren’t exactly staying at home. They just took me along. I was at the Drive-In movie theater and Brown’s Point (a summer time party spot) at a ridiculously young age. The upside was that I got to say yes or no to just about everything early on. I never really had an issues with the whole drug/alcohol thing because (once again) I just did what the Sisters did. Thanks girls, you did a great job.

I have always been a deep thinker. If only I had applied the 80/20 rule and saved myself the trouble of caring about a lot of useless things.

As the years go by, it would seem that I have about 20% left. I have whittled it down to the people who matter, I am not seeking approval as much (that never goes completely away- my Dad will have been dead 20 years November 3rd, and I am still trying to please him- but that is a story for another time.) and I am mostly content with my choices. That is a good feeling.

There must be another mathematical equation at work here.

Does something happen when you get past the halfway point? Kind of like when you fly over the Pacific Ocean and you don’t have enough gas to get back to North America…. it’s not an option anymore… the only direction is to keep moving forward.

As I write this, I have this song stuck in my head. It must be a sign.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose… (that is the good part.)             

and nothing is all that Bobby left me…. (that is the bad part.)

                            -Kris Kristofferson/Janis Joplin

That’s okay Bobby, you sound like you were a hoot while you were around. But, when I think about it…. The Sisters would have canned your ass for being unreliable. Hit the road.

It’s time for me to wrap things up tonight.   Tomorrow is another day. I am going to try to keep the 80/20 rule in mind. If you do it too, keep me posted on the outcome.

The World seems a little nutty right now…. maybe if we all work together we can shift the Universe.

Zen baby.

GGJ

 

 

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