Pareto — Superhero or Villain?

A Self Analysis Session

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

I‘m a fan of Pareto! And I know for a fact you are as well (saw you at the Pareto-Con last year). You shouldn’t feel embarrassed though, everyone is a fan. Pareto is the perfect excuse to call it a day whenever the job is 80% done. Its appeal is almost addicting, which brought up the question: “Is Pareto a superhero or a villain?”. Being a fan is no contradiction, on the contrary. I like Batman, but I like the Joker just the same. Bad doesn’t necessarily mean not good, so what is the deal?

Pareto is actually more similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It can be very good to you, save you time and money on many cases, but it can also be violently dangerous. Like everything in life, it is all about timing. Using Pareto requires understanding of the circumstances but also of one self, hence the self analysis. So let me take you down my rabbit hole. Hold tight.

I’m a procrastinator, one of the most elegant words in English which adds flare and panache to the otherwise infamous term lazy. Being a procrastinator is not necessarily a bad thing (me trying to justify my faults). Being lazy means I’m using my resources effectively conserving time and energy. It also means that when I do exert myself, it’s with the intention to allow me to be lazy later on.

Pareto fits in very well with this mission of mine. Conserving energy requires me to constantly monitor the value I’m generating vis-à-vis its cost. Having that in mind keeps me focused and cost effective. In a way I’m constantly looking for that 80% mark to bail out. But it is dangerous, bail out too soon and you’ve not created any significant value, bail out too late and you’re wasting resources. There is another matter to consider; some tasks cannot be satisfied with 80% of the job done. Sometimes 100% is the minimum requirement.

Down the rabbit hole are all our insecurities about ourselves. Questions we hate answering, like “Am I good enough?” Or “Can I do it?”, and the lit goes on. Seeing the job through will give us an answer to such questions, an answer we may not like and most likely fear.

This makes Pareto even more appealing;

Save time and disappointment?

Who wouldn’t want that? Winners don’t want that, like Da Vinci or SpongeBob SqaurePants.

At least for myself, I find that I go all in, no Pareto excuses, only when I’m really interested in what I do. In those cases it is no longer a matter of conserving energy or some other pseudo-psychological bullshit, it’s me having fun not wanting to stop until the job is done, 100%. It is also a matter of focus, which is part of it. When I’m in the zone I don’t pay attention to what others may think. It does not occupy my mind so no fear of judgement nor failure and Pareto and his allure are irrelevant to me.

At the end of the day, it seems to me that unless I’m truly interested, I will Pareto as often as I can. Cost effectiveness is just another way of saying “if it’s not interesting I’ll only do it well enough to get by”. Not sure that is the best approach or it will get me to a hall of fame, but it does help me focus on what is really interesting for me.

So where is the bottom line?

We should meet again. Same time next week. Oh, and the session is 150$. You can pay outside.

A Product Manager, Biz Dev Director and Mentor, working with early stage startups, helping them to focus and scale.

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