The Vital Few and the Trivial Many

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Recently by Lisa Bedford: Go Retro With Your Quarters and Dimes!


When I was a classroom teacher, I could always spot the troublemakers no later than the second day of school. They were the ones who didn’t bother trying to make a good impression, while everyone else was clean, shiny, and overly polite. In due time, this small number of kids would take up a good portion of my time as I worked to keep them focused on learning and out of trouble.

Looking back, I’d say that roughly 20% of my students caused about 80% of classroom disruptions.

This breakdown, 80/20, turns up over and over again, almost eerily so. It was Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who lived in the early 1900s, who first observed that 80% of the peas he harvested from his garden came from 20% of the pea plants. Looking beyond his own backyard, he noted that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. In time, Pareto’s Principle, as it came to be called, was noted to have applications far beyond a harvest of peas or distribution of wealth. In fact, it has implications for how survival-minded individuals can allocate their time, money, and energy.

Spot the 80/20 Rule in your own life

When I was preparing material for the webinar, “5 Survival Rules You Can’t Afford to Ignore,” I collected together all the knives in my kitchen. I had quite a pile of bread knives, steak and santoku knives and many, many others. When I set aside the knives I actually used on a regular basis, it was quite apparent that the 80/20 Rule was at work in my own kitchen! I reach for the same 6 or 7 knives over and over.

My daughter loves to paint and has a large collection of acrylic paints in every color of the rainbow. However, when it’s time to buy new paint colors, the list is almost always the same: white, black, yellow, red, and blue. In other words, about 20% of the colors in her paintbox!

In what ways do you see the 80/20 Rule in action in your own life and home?

Applying the rule to survival

So what does all this have to do with preparedness and survival? Quite a lot, actually! Consider first the collection of tools you have collected. In your tool box or garage, you probably use the same 20% far more than the other 80%. When you go camping or hunting, only about 20% of your supplies are most vital to the success of your trip. When you go to the shooting range, you likely take the same firearm(s) every time!

I have a large box of various over-the-counter medications that I’ve been collecting, but you know what we use most often? Ibuprofen, cough syrup, and Benadryl. Among my essential oils, I use lavender and eucalyptus most often. Clearly the lesson here is to stock up on these items far more than any of the others.

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