Each day brings a thousand blinking buttons screaming to be pushed. Most do nothing, but five… five will change your life.
Joseph Moses Juran called this “The Law of the Vital Few.”
The list of people that have used the The Law of the Vital Few to achieve extraordinary things is long.
- Warren Buffet owes 90% of his wealth to just ten investments.
- Steve Jobs applied this principle to make Apple what it is today.
- Bill Gates famously took a week off at Microsoft regularly to step back and identify the vital few.
- Jeff Bezos used this internal process at Amazon to focus executives on a vital few ideas and products.
Look closely at any extraordinary accomplishment and you’ll find The Law of the Vital Few at work.
The Law of the Vital Few is counter-intuitive. It runs contrary to our sense of logic and fairness, which tells us that pushing 50% of the buttons should deliver 50% of the goodness. Casting this belief aside is the first step toward finding those five buttons.
You must also get clarity on what you want to accomplish. Warren Buffett’s 5/25 method can help. It has 3 simple steps:
- Make a list of the top 25 things you want to accomplish in your lifetime. Nothing is off limits. Anything goes.
- Force rank your list, with the most important on top and least important on the bottom.
- Draw a big, fat line under the fifth item on your list.
The top five are your mission, your Vital Few. The bottom twenty are your enemy, your Avoid-At-All-Costs List.
To put your Vital Few into action, just read and reflect on them at the beginning and end of each workday. Tack this activity onto something you’re already doing every morning and evening, such as eating or brushing your teeth. As you reflect on your list, think of the next action you can take before 11am that will move you forward. The size of the action doesn’t matter. This small act will have a profound impact over time.
But beware the motion trap! Motion and action are not the same thing. Motion makes you busy. Action moves you forward. Keep moving forward.
The enemy will try to stop you. Each and every item on your Avoid-At-All-Costs List will do its best to distract you from your Vital Few.
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”John Maxwell
Only by holding an active focus on our Vital Few can we walk a path we’ll be proud of in the end.