The 70/30 Principle

We’ve all heard of the 80/20 Principle, it has saturated every workplace and industry. This was amplified further after the release of Richard Koch’s Bestseller (called “The 80/20 Principle” if you couldn’t guess that). To fill anyone in that may not have heard of the theory, it suggests that 20% of our actions produce 80% of the result, whatever the endeavour may be. Essentially this is a guide to productivity in life and in the workplace, identifying the most important tasks/ people or projects and eliminating the rest. Don’t panic, the title I have created, The 70/30 Principle is not some cheap rip off of the same idea. It’s been included for the simple point of setting the scene and just as importantly avoiding potentially claims of plagiarism or unoriginality.

This has theory has come to fruition through reading and learning from a variety of experts in equally varying fields; however the two biggest reference points were Starting Strength author and founder Mark Rippitoe and high profile blogger and New York Times bestselling author Mark Manson. Incidentally, my father’s name is Mark but he had nothing to with this article/ theory. The reason these two in particular were chosen was not that both have been indirect teachers and mentors for me in my personal development; more so it was because their expertise lie in the areas of life where this theory is most applicable. For Rippitoe, it’s Strength and athletic prowess while Manson covers the broad but interlinked subjects of business, writing, self-help as well as love and relationships. Now that’s out of the way and no further adieu, “The 70/30 Principle,” a theory on Physical, Mental and Career Success.

“The grass is greener on the other side,” point blank — that’s utter malarkey. Everybody, at least from what I’ve observed, has some vision of a what their life will be like in the next 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, etc. It’s usually a rosy dream about having no money stresses, no arguments, physically energetic, pain free with everyone and everything in their life being extremely reliable and equally rosy. This is the first major flaw in a lot of people’s thought processes, that one day they’ll wake up and everything will be 100% good and O% bad. That’s the where terms like the “American Dream” originate; it’s what people are thinking when they say “When we win the lottery tomorrow…” and it’s the very foundation of the self-entitlement and perfectionism that has riddle society for decades. In fact, studies show that since the 1950s that depression and anxiety has risen dramatically as a whole; conveniently this is when the “American Dream” and “white picket fence” ideals were being ingrained in society. (Find Evidence)

Two random but important definitions:

1. Perfectionism is described as the disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable (mind-blowing right)

2. Self — Entitlement is the fact of having a right to something

The 100% is not necessarily the issue, in terms of having a more fulfilling and positive life. More so, it’s the attempt to eradicate or believe that there is no reason for the shitty and mundane parts of life (pardon the French) that lead to our undoing. Bad things, problems and conflicts are all a necessary part of life and interestingly enough in the bestselling “Subtle Art of not Giving a F**k” by Mark Manson, it’s the act of solving those problems and conflicts where true happiness is found.

The main point being made is that no matter what you do in life, there is a good — bad ratio. For example, if you were to feed someone nothing but potato chips and soft drink and have them sit on the couch all day, a certain amount of the weight they would gain would be muscle. Albeit, the gain in fat would far outweigh (pun intended) lean mass growth that muscle would still be there, even without exercise. This is a direct quote from the Starting Strength Founder Mark Rippitoe. Other examples and the sides of them that don’t have a place in a highlight reel are listed below (this saved the paragraph being a page long):

- Dream Career: amount of time it takes, dealing with people you don’t like, late nights/ early mornings, constant mistakes, stress over validation and how good you are, missing out on social activities.

- Dream body: gaining any sort of muscle will come with some fat gain as well, extreme discipline, dissatisfying diets, physical insecurities, possibility of injury

- Dream Partner: most of the time a lot of self — evaluating and improvement is required, arguments, dry periods, anxiety

The second big idea (the first being that there is no 100% good, 0% bad), that it is actually far more satisfying to have problems and work through them than to not have them at all. Keep in mind, when I say “problems” I mean relatively first world issue such as careers choices, pay scales, personal relationships and hobbies. Issues such as famine, homelessness, abuse and violence are all extreme issues that the world could and should be with out. Virtually all other issues that are faced can be worked through and provided people are actively choosing what suits them best (e.g. leaving a job, getting into an argument, saving or breaking a relationship), they generally end up happier having down the line than if the problem hadn’t existed at all. This is called growth and for it to occur stress has to be undertaken and overcome.

It’s that very concept that seems to escape most people; this is why strength and fitness are such great examples in terms of growth. The pain one has to endure to accomplish a personal best is in fact the direct cause of that achievement in the first place, although recovery from that stress is just as vital. Mohammed Ali famously coined that he loathed training: “I hated every minute of” it “but don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” This may have just been a brag, after all his bravado was just as legendary as his skill but what is concrete is that Ali realised that he had to push through pain to be successful. This seems obvious but no one recognises those “growth pains” when it comes to their own self-improvement, those that do always end up successful. Think of current Worlds Strongest Man Eddie Hall, he deadlifted 500kg in competition. That wasn’t accomplished without at least a decade of focused, driven and extremely driven training; during that period he would have suffered through injuries, plateaus that seemed to last forever, failing lifts, massive consumption of food and prioritising his training and lifting above anything else in his life. Even in terms of simple strength concepts, the constant volume and time under tension of a training schedule is the key to getting stronger.

The merit of pain in terms of catalysing growth is not limited to physical strength. Truth be told, to get more proficient and/or efficient at anything a stress stimuli needs to occur. The skill or facet itself is irrelevant: from the mundane things such as being better at ironing clothes to becoming the Mohammed Ali in your career and love life. Don’t believe me? More examples then, Steve Jobs became one of the most successful entrepreneurs in history (he was the founder of Apple if you ‘ve been living under a rock). Rewind the clock back before that name became legendary and the rejection, animosity and technical issues that were worked through are easily apparent. However, the toughest challenges happened later on, first the CEO Jobs chose, after being forced to release some of the rains, was a complete bust who let down the vision Jobs had for the company in a catastrophic way. Secondly, Jobs was fired from his own company, his life’s work and had to watch for years from the side line until the board of directors at Apple digressed and gave the control back to Jobs, thus the fire was reignited and some much needed innovation injected. It was only after these extreme pains that Jobs led Apple into the era of some of man’s most ingenious and futuristic inventions akin to the wheel, television and the Internet. These include the IPod, IPhone and IPad. These are two extreme stories but as Tim Ferris tells in terms of skill development and adding value: take care of the extremes and you in turn take care of everyone and everything else.

The above has described that a life with no problems and no pain does not exist and the pursuit of an issue free life is perfectionism and self-entitlement, which are the roots of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Further more, the pain itself and the process of pushing through it is the catalyst for success; separately happiness is generally achieved through problem solving process but the two (happiness and success) are NOT one and the same. The final point is that not all pain and suffering is made equal and the percentage can be skewed for the better, inherently this is where 70/30 concept can truly be understood. The actual numbers 70/30 are completely metaphorical mind you; they simply stand for the skewing.

There is a very simple trick to skewing those results; it is finding the pain worth enduring. Quotes such “Follow your passion” and more morbidly “Find what you love and let it kill you” have arisen because of that thought process along with the idea that life is a bag of shit sometimes. To put this into a literal sense, I’ll reference strength training again. Remember the person on the couch eating potato chips and drinking soft drink, they were going to gain some muscle as well. Well, if you took that person and instead put them onto a structured (and fun) weights program and swapped the chips and soda for vegetables, whole foods and plenty of water something pretty amazing would happen. The might still actually gain weight but a good deal of that mass (if not most) would be muscle with minimal fat gain. Who would of thought right; exercise and healthy foods give you more muscle and strength than being a lazy piece of shit, shocking.

The same idea though can be applied to any habit in life. For example information consumption in the western world is at an astronomical level, where realistically it’s becoming abused. Social media, Netflix, the News and Youtube are platforms people spend so much of their day glued too; feasting on information like a wood chipper would a tree. Not to say that these things don’t have their place, on the contrary they can have both very entertaining and educating content — I myself love a good binge “sesh” on any of the Marvel series on Netflix. However as a whole, these platforms are societies greatest forms of procrastination and short cuts to the really juicy material. Podcasts and actually reading a book are going to be far more productive uses of time and there is even evidence that more someone reads (particularly non-fiction) the happier, more enlightened and generally better person they are. Certainly, they’re far more thought provoking than some obnoxious person with a camera (News and Youtube) vomiting their agendas simply to get views and ratings rather than to provide value in peoples lives.

The 70/30 principle can be used to screen someone’s career choice as well. In a graduation, Bill Gates, famously said “If you think your teacher is tough wait until you meet your boss” and I think 99.95% of workers will agree momentously with that statement. Therefore if a boss is going to be tough and hard to deal with, people need to make sure that the job, opportunity or company resonates deeply with their ideals. The other option is to live as an entrepreneur, which will increase stress (total responsibility, failure, fear) but also greatly increase the satisfaction and sense of purpose in their career; mind you this is only for people who have the intelligence, integrity and courage to go through some pretty awesome hardships. Those two are the better alternatives but someone can always just suffer through anything and everything in life without screening whether the stress are worthwhile, that’ll work out great as well.

Now that a variety of examples on how the 70/30 principle can be applied have been demonstrated, the basic but important concept is quite clear. It all basically boils down to this, life can be shit and the idea of a life free of pain and stress doesn’t exist. In truth, the right pain and stress is always a cause of growth and the solving of an issue a gateway to happiness. The “right stress” is determined by taking purposeful opportunities that resonate deeply; this, along with actively trying to find opportunities to be a better, more caring and intelligent person can dramatically skew the result.