80-20 rule applies to air mattresses too

pareto 80 20

Ever have trouble finishing things?  Perhaps one of my nerdiest obsessions is with Pareto’s law.  It’s everywhere: from the tortoise and the hare to building houses.  If the tortoise beats the hare it’s clearly because the vapid challenge leads the bunny into unexpected obstacles.

Maybe you’ve been the rabbit; rushing headlong into an endeavor powered by the anticipation of the ever so slight pressure on your chest that comes from running through the ribbon at the finish line.  You begin your painting, song, science experiment, research paper, business idea… er.. um.. blog post and your freeway of progress turns to a bog.  What the heck is that?

Steven Covey is famous for his books but also this one phrase: “begin with the end in mind”.  Nothing against Covey but I’ve always thought that sounded trite and academic.  Don’t get me wrong.  He’s right.  But I have to wonder if he knows why he is as right as he is.

So I’m deflating air mattresses after my daughter’s sleepover.  I grab the twin sized mattress first.  I flip it around to the business end and quickly spin the valve cap off.  The mattress belches out what seems like half its air.  Do I need the air pump to suck out the rest?  Nah.  I’ll fold it over a couple more times and be done in no time.

But that’s where the process slows to a crawl.  I wind up laying across the now pillow-sized folded bladder on the living room floor for more than thirty seconds before I accept the truth.  Getting that last stubborn bit of air out is what takes most of the time.  So I fire up the air pump to draw out the last bit of air so I can get this thing back in the bag.  I did not begin with the end in mind.

But didn’t I?  I didn’t pivot my way toward the goal of corralling this vinyl beast into it’s home.  It was always the goal and I achieved it.  So where did I fail?  Planning and preparation suffered in my overconfidence.  I assumed that the fast part of the job would compensate for any snags along the way.

New home construction is notorious for this.  Weather permitting a house can go up like lightening from breaking ground to roofing to the brick exterior.  But then the molasses floods in.  Drywall finishing, painting, cabinets all seem to take forever.  Why does this happen?

Welcome to the 80/20 rule.  He’s a cheeky sort.  So why do we avoid him?  Simple.  He’s a party pooper.  He spoils our fantasies and interlopes our visions of grandeur with his annoying cameos.  Lest we heed Covey’s advice.  To begin with the end in mind is to go looking for him.  It’s more than just thinking ahead.  It’s pretending we like cold water dumped on our heads.

In entrepreneurial endeavor it is particularly brutal.  Covey’s doctrine requires us to play the eternal pessimist on the inside while projecting optimism and confidence outwardly.  Our secret skepticism of our own dreams and plans to achieve them is our greatest responsibility.


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