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 1900’s, 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.
The important point about the 80/20 Rule and these tools and supplies is that it helps you identify what you use most often and, possibly, what is most likely to break or be consumed most quickly. With that in mind, those are the items that need back-ups and back-ups to the back-ups! (See Rule of 3.)
Survival skills and vital knowledge
The 80/20 Rule has been called the rule of, “the vital few and trivial many.” When it comes to skills, knowledge and survival, there certainly is an 80/20 breakdown with a few skills being most vital to survival and the rest, not so much.
Consider the skills that you have mastered. If you could pass down only 3 or 4 to your children or grandchildren, and you knew those skills could make the difference between life and death, which would they be? Classical guitar? Hunting and field dressing game? Cooking from scratch? Scrapbooking? Identifying wild plants that are safe to eat?
Knowing which skills are most important will improve the survival odds of your family now and teaching them to the next generation will do the same for them.
Here’s what’s most important…
Regardless of where it’s applied, the real value of the 80/20 Rule is that it reminds us to focus on the areas, the people, the knowledge that is most important. None of us have unlimited time, money and energy. Each day we have to determine what steps to take to become better prepared for an uncertain future. Each day we have to decide how to allocate our time. The smartest way to do that is to look for ways to apply the 80/20 Rule in your own life and home.
I’ve recorded a short video that shows how to apply the 80/20 Rule to other areas of preparedness, including food storage and establishing a “survival community”. You can watch it right here!