The eighty/twenty rule states that in most situations, eighty percent of the results stem from twenty percent of the activity. The rule is often credited to Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian Economist in the early 1900’s, who observed that in most countries eighty percent of the wealth was controlled by twenty percent of the people.

Today, the rule appears everywhere. Sales people will tell you that eighty percent of the sales are made by twenty percent of the sales force. Artists say that eighty percent of their productivity comes from short bursts of intense inspiration which happen about twenty percent of the time. Managers point out that eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the employees.

Having read a multitude of books on self-improvement, management, wealth, and success, I have seen this theme resurface time and time again. The implication is always that it is better to be in the twenty percent than the eighty, but how to get there is usually less clear.

How to Become Part of the Twenty Percent


The rule implies that the twenty percent of people who are producing eighty percent of the results are highly leveraged. They are somehow able to squeeze much more production out of their efforts than the other eighty percent. Depending on the situation, they might have more energy, more resources, more help, or more effective systems.

It is easy for the average person to see this as an unfair fact of life that can’t be changed. “It takes money to make money,” one thinks. “Since I don’t have any, I’ll never get ahead.”

Unfortunately for the eighty percent it can be very difficult to make it over to the other side because both resources and lack of resources carry their own gravity.

The closer you are to either side, the harder it is to get away from it. It’s true that the more money you have, the easier it is to make more. The better shape you are in, the easier it is to work out. The gravity of your resources attracts more resources.

On the other hand, the less leverage you have, the harder it is to get ahead. If you are stuck on the earth with loads of debt on your shoulders holding you down, the trip to the stars can seem impossible. If you are trying to break into the film industry and you don’t know anyone, it can seem unfair to watch people with contacts get the best jobs. If you are so out of shape that you can’t work out, then how are you supposed to get fit?

The Crowbar

The only way to break out of the gravity of a bad situation is to use what I call the crowbar. The crowbar is a tool that exists within all of us that can be used to leverage ourselves out of the gravity of lack and into the gravity of prosperity.

Imagine a wooden box securely nailed together. Your brand new golf clubs are inside and you are dying to get it open. Using your fingers alone, you would not be able to separate the boards no matter how hard you tried because they are pressed together too tightly to grip.

You realize that you need some leverage so you pick up a crowbar. It takes several whacks with the pointed end, but you finally get the boards separated a fraction of an inch so that just the tip of the flat end will fit. You rock the bar back and forth to slowly work the boards apart enough to slide it in a little further to give you more leverage. The further in the bar goes, the easier it is to widen the gap until you are able to pop them apart almost effortlessly.

This concept of using a tool helps you slowly work up the leverage to overcome a force that you would not normally be able to overcome can help you get ahead in life.

The Eighty/Twenty Rule Inside

Just like the eighty/twenty rule exists within groups of people, it also exists within an individual person. Twenty percent of your activities produce eighty percent of your results; these are called high-leverage activities.

The best example of a high leverage activity is physical exercise. Everyone knows what activity (such as running, sports, or biking) can do for your health. A little bit of exercise can increase your energy for several days.

Even though everyone knows the benefits, only twenty percent of the people are doing it while eighty percent are not. Once again, the minority enjoys a majority of the benefits.

What sets these people apart is that they instinctively know how to use the crowbar.

When you are out of shape, working out is the last thing you want to do. Added weight and weakened muscles make exercise painful. The most comfortable thing to do is to go through your day avoiding physical activity.

The longer this lifestyle is allowed to continue, the more weight you will add. In addition, your weaker muscles will begin to make even every day tasks more difficult. The worse you feel, the less you want to exercise. This gravity pulls you into a downward spiral that can feel impossible to get out of.

Find Your Crowbar

To break this cycle you have to find a way to get some leverage. Dig deep to find the crowbar.

Call upon the crowbar to reverse the cycle of gravity. It is an extra boost of energy and focus that you can use long enough to pry yourself off of the floor. It is not sustainable forever, but you won’t need it after you have made it out of the initial gravity of your situation. You can put it back into your vault for the next challenge.

If you are out of shape, it will take a big surge of energy and guts to force yourself to exercise every day for a week. The first few days will feel awful. The pain will flow over from your workout and into your every day activities. You might even be less productive because of soreness and exhaustion.

To overcome these obstacles, you first have to realize that you are the only person responsible for your own destiny. Anything is possible, using the leverage of the crowbar, but you have to find the strength within yourself to use it. Go to a place free of distractions and concentrate on your goal. When you begin to feel empowered, start exercising or working towards your goal. The idea is to act before your mind has a chance to convince you that your goal isn’t possible.

The Leverage of the Crowbar

By the second week, the initial pain will be gone. While it won’t be easy, it won’t be the chore that it was in your first few days. You have gained a small amount of leverage that you can use to pry yourself closer to your goal.

You can use this tiny bit of leverage to pry yourself a little closer to your goal. The added energy you have will take the place of the burst of energy you had to find at the beginning. Slowly, things get easier.

As you gain leverage and escape the gravity that was holding you down, you will find that the leverage will spill over into the rest of your life. The energy that you gain will make you more productive and more able to take on new challenges.

After a few months, exercise becomes second nature. The secret of the crowbar is that the extra boost of energy is only needed at the beginning. The twenty percent who understand this use it to focus their energy on an area of their life until it becomes effortless and increases the quality of their overall life.

To succeed, it is important to use focus and persistence. Every time you quit, gravity overcomes you. Finding the extra energy and toughness to use your crowbar is draining. If you have to use it every other week because you aren’t persistent, you will start to resent it. If you save it to use once to get you off the floor and persist, you won’t mind using it for the next task.

Leverage Creates More Leverage

Once exercise has become easy and you are filled with more energy, it’s time to use your new leverage for your next goal. The extra strength that you now possess combined with your crowbar will be a powerful combination.

Think of other high-leverage activities that could improve your life. You might decide to work overtime for a few months to pay off some debt. You might decide to spend two hours a day for a month writing a book. Maybe you want to learn how to play guitar. Maybe you spend several months learning about real estate investing.

With all new things, the most difficult part is up front. Eighty percent don’t even try because it is too hard. Be one of the twenty percent who uses the crowbar to get over the hump and into the good life.