The pareto principle highlights a very important observation – for the majority of events, about 80% of the effects are resulted from 20% of the causes.


If it sounds confusing, let me rephrase: the pareto principle coined by the late 19th century economist, Vilfredo Pareto, demonstrated that 80% of the land in Italy at that point in time was owned by 20% of the population.

This in turn applies as a general principle for a host of socio-economic aspects where:

  • 80% of results are produced by 20% of the workers
  • 80% of the revenue is generated by 20% of consumers
  • 80% of the growth is sustained by 20% of the people

So how is this relevant to any survivalist you might ask? Well, it teaches a couple of vital lessons: first one is efficiency, and the second one is inequality.

Let’s just clear one thing first. The pareto principle doesn’t have to be precisely 80/20. It fluctuates at all times, but the basic principle points out that wealth, safety, prosperity as a whole, are the outcome of 20% of the global population. So not everyone contributes equally to a cause.

In a utopic reality, each human would contribute equally to the prosperity of humankind, each worker would bring an equal contribution to a project, each feature would be equally appreciated by users, and each human would have the same span of land as everyone else. At least at the foundation level.

You see, if society was to work properly, each human would receive upon birth a plot of land equal to what every newborn would receive. That would level the foundation.

What everyone would do next with those pieces of land (or money, or some other value) would not matter because we would have a fair and equally distributed foundation that would offer each of us an equal fundamental right.

What the pareto principle, the law of the vital few, or the 80/20 rule shows us is that inequality flourishes in our society, and that gap is only widening as we speak.

The majority of things in life, according to the pareto principle, are unequally distributed. Out of 10 things, maybe 2 or 3 will really satisfy the needs of something. Those 2,3 good things will be the ones to impact the group/project most.

The chart below shows how things should be (red line), while the green shows how things really are. There’s no 1/1 ratio, meaning that units of input (labor, time, effort) won’t correspond with its output counterpart.

By now you will think “how does this thing provide any relevance?” I know it may be a bit tricky to understand, but to cut things short, here’s how you can benefit from the pareto principle. It’s all about adapting the right mindset.

You must understand that most of the results are the outcomes of a small number of inputs (20% more or less). Here’s how to apply this in real life.

  • If you have a business and 20% of your customers are loyal, purchase your services/products constantly, and ultimately generate 80% of your business’s revenue, focus more on satisfying these 20 percent’ specific needs.
  • If your 20% of workers make 80% of the results possible, focus on rewarding these 20%.

The conclusion: concentrate your efforts on the 20% that makes the difference, rather than trying to satisfy the rest 80% that won’t really bring that much value.

Keep this in mind and apply this principle each time you deem necessary. Adapt your mindset and seek this principle in everything related to a group of people. It will save you a lot of energy and hassle.

And if you ever find yourself leading a group in a survival situation, seek the stronger links and maximize your plan by coordinating them, instead of spending your energy on every group member.

Always seek key “players” and focus on them to maintain and maximize the result(s).

I hope I have made myself clear regarding this “essential few” principle and why it is important. If you have any other observations, feel free to address them and I’ll try to explain them as thorough as possible.

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