A Different 80-20

Have you heard of the “80-20 rule?” It’s the thought that in any given situation, you’ll be able to gather about 80% of the information you need to make a decision. The remaining 20% is gut-feel, instinct, and whatever label you put on it. The point is that you can’t expect to know everything you need to know. You’ll have to accept a measure of the unknown in making a decision.

I like the 80-20 rule. However, I want to suggest an additional version of it. My version comes from The River (see the index of my blog entries for explanations of The River).

Let’s take a part of your river—the rapids. What’s that connote to you? Probably you’re thinking of crisis, fast-paced time, quick changes, not a lot of deliberation, immediate decisions, and high chances of failure or upset.

Now, here’s where my 80-20 comes in. 80% of the rapids you face right now in this moment of your river will be like every other rapids you’ve faced before. The remaining 20% of it will feature new issues, new circumstances, and new elements to consider in making your decision in the present moment. Thus, your personal history—which I define as everything in your life down to the last 60 seconds—will provide you with 80% of the information needed to make a workable decision, while 20% is unique to this exact moment and separate from your past. That means your history has an important role to play but that it doesn’t drive or determine everything about to happen. 

That strikes me as commonsensical and worthwhile. That’s my 80-20 on The River.