The Pareto Principle


I ordered my green smoothie, minus the chia seeds.

“Just so you know,” he said, “after Friday we’ll no longer be serving smoothies. They generate the smallest amount of our revenue and cause all of our headaches.”

“Have you heard of the Pareto Principle?”

“Yes, I love the Pareto Principle!”

We proceeded to geek out on the Pareto Principle for the next 10 or so minutes, after which I walked out with one of the last remaining green smoothies on the menu.

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is credited to Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, who was born in Italy in 1848. In his case, he noticed that 80% of his pea plants generated 80% of the healthy pea pods, and then went on to discover that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

In the case of the restaurant I visited, 80% of their stress, irritation, and time investment tied back to 20% of their menu items (in this case, smoothies and smoothie bowls). And this 80% stress, irritation, and time investment produced under 20% of their revenue.

We can apply this same principle to nearly any type of business, to how we structure our work day, to the way we prioritize our work, and even how we approach our health and fitness.

Like Essentialism, this is one of those things that (for me) feels like common sense, yet takes constant attention and intentionality to apply in everyday life.

Here are a few ways that I like to practice the Pareto Principle.

  • Looking across all the projects I’m currently involved with, which fall in the 20% that create 80% of the positive impact and also feel the most joyful?

  • On the flip side, which projects fall in the 20% that create 80% of the stress and headaches?

  • Looking at the flow of my workday, where can I invest 20% of my time and effort for 80% of the returns? (For me, when doing independent work, the answer always falls in the early hours of the morning.)

  • Looking across my life at the things that aren’t working as well as they could be, where are the 20% of small irritations that are causing 80% of the lack of daily ease? (often, for me, this ties back to some sort of misalignment with my calendar.)

  • Which 20% of clothing items do I wear 80% of the time? (I’ve been working on continuously donating that other 80%, as for me there is a very clear 20%. I tend to wear the exact same few outfits on rotation.)

  • In which 20% of our house do we spend 80% of our time, and how can we maximize that 20% for the way we live?

  • Looking at my list of monthly, weekly, and daily to-dos, which 20% will yield 80% of the results?

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, can help us to focus our time and energy on the things that yield the highest results.

Do you use the Pareto Principle? If so, in what ways has it been helpful for you?

With Love, You are Not a Corporate Hostage

"Hi, I'm Ron. Ah, you know how it is, I'm a corporate hostage, doing the corporate thing... I hope to get out someday...."

"Hi, I'm Rich. I'm a recovering project manager......now I'm a consultant." 

"Hi, I'm Heidi. I'm a corporate refugee......I escaped though, I found myself, and now I'm a coach." 

"Hi, I'm Erin. I'm a recovering corporate executive and now I travel the world delivering keynotes about all that I endured in the corporate world." 

I hear these intro lines all of the time.

And each time I do, I cringe. 

Beyond the plain absurdity of these statements (is your employer really holding you hostage?! Did you really have to escape, as a refugee, from your previous place of employment?) and beyond the fact that they flippantly diminish the act of actually being in recovery from addiction, the refugee crisis happening in this very moment, and real hostage situations happening around the world, these statements perpetuate the type of thinking that keeps us stuck and divided:

Corporate America as the perpetrator, and the corporate escapees, as the victims. 

Corporate America as "other."

"Us" versus "Them."

This "us" versus "them" thinking is the same thinking that has created the current political division of our country. It's the same thinking that has our nation sliding backwards as we face riots and murders related to race. It's the same thinking that overlooks the fact that "Corporate America" is actually made up of 127.34 million human beings, many (I would argue most) of whom are incredibly talented individuals who are creating positive change, committed to doing the right thing, and making the world a better place. It's the type of thinking that prevents us from solving the actual problems that need to be solved.

Using this language also diminishes parts of ourselves. Our corporate experience is part of who we are and is part of our human experience. Shutting down this experience is shutting down a part of who we are. 

I believe that all of these things can exist together. We have an opportunity to shift from either/or, to both/and. We can be both an independent, free-thinking consultant and a former timeline-driven project manager. We can be both a conscious, heart-centered coach and a former corporate executive. We can be both a savvy, creative, and innovative entrepreneur and a former analyst in the corporate world. And we can embrace all of these parts of ourselves and our experiences to return "over there," to Corporate America, to partner with the many organizations that are doing business in a thoughtful, innovative, socially conscious and mission-driven way to create massive positive impact in the world. Perhaps we can also even bring these parts of ourselves to partner with organizations that aren't quite there yet, but that want to be better. 

It can all exist together. And when we start to recognize this, through our perspectives and our language, we start the healing that needs to happen - within ourselves, within Corporate America, and within our world. Healing begins when we can embrace the both/and. Let's start within ourselves.

You Want to Become a Life Coach? Three Key Things to Consider

Each week, I receive calls and emails from people who are interested in becoming life coaches. For various reasons, their hearts have called them to the profession, and they want to know more - what it's like, any tips I have, and what my experience has been like. 

The tragic truth is that I see many brilliant coaches fail, or become so frustrated with their coaching practice that they abandon it altogether.

Here are three key questions to consider in order to increase your odds of success, happiness, and fulfillment as a coach.

1. Why Do You Want to Become a Coach?

The answer I hear most commonly is "to help people." While this is great and noble, I lovingly say that this is not enough. You can help people in your current job, you can help people by volunteering, and  you can help people through a position with a nonprofit where you still get paid. 

What is your deep, compelling Why that cannot be ignored? What is your Why that outweighs walking away from your corporate job, your salary, and your benefits?  What is your "why" that makes paying $12,000 for a coach training and certification program a Hell, Yeah?

This crystal clear Why will be essential when you start telling people about what you're up to. It will be essential for creating content that feels 100% like you. And it will be essential on the days when building a coaching practice is damn hard. 

Before moving forward with training, certification, or abandoning your corporate job for good, spend some time reflecting on your Why. If it feels squishy, or unclear, spend some more time. Journal. Get quiet and listen. Check out Simon Sinek's TED Talk for inspiration. This Why will be your home base for your business. It's essential.

2. How Do You Feel About Running a Business?

In a successful coaching practice, only a fraction of our time is spent actively coaching clients. The rest of the time is spent running a business: creating content, handling operations, building meaningful relationships, growing your skills as a coach.

New and prospective coaches often tell me, "I just hate the sales part of coaching," or "I don't really like the business part of coaching." If this is you, PLEASE proceed cautiously down the path of becoming an independent coach. 

In order to have a thriving coaching practice, you must run a thriving business. And in order to run a thriving business, you need to either a) love running the business, b) learn to love running the business, or c) build out a phenomenal team of people to support you. who love running the business.

I invite you to spend some additional time thinking about how you feel about becoming an entrepreneur in addition to becoming a coach. The successful coaches I know run a business in addition to running a coaching practice. 

If you decide that the entrepreneurial aspect of coaching doesn't thrill you, there are many ways to be a coach without it. I know several people who have built out roles for themselves inside their organizations, as internal coaches. I know others who are part of coaching collectives, where they are connected with fully vetted clients, in exchange for a commission. They just show up and coach.

We are most successful when we are working within our zone of genius: the place where we are doing what we are best at and what we love. Getting clear on your zone of genius, and specifically where "entrepreneurship" fits into your zone of genius, will increase your odds of success and happiness with your coaching business. 

3. How Do You Want Your Life to Look?

Oftentimes, we start our own businesses because we desire more freedom, in addition to the opportunity to serve others.

Prior to starting a coaching business, take some time to reflect not only on how you want your business to look, but how you want your life to look. How do you want your business to flow with your life? Do you want to run your coaching practice as a lifestyle business, or do you want to build a global company? Do you want to work a couple days per week and spend the rest of the time with your kids? 

Getting clear on this vision up front helps us make better decisions down the line. As my business has grown, I've noticed an unintended pattern of, at times, accidentally recreating my 'old life' from the corporate world in my 'new life' as a business owner: working from 7 am until 9 pm, back to back travel, and a pace that is unsustainable. These days, I love my work so it rarely feels like work; however, one of my values is freedom. At times, I've compromised this value by saying Yes to too many things. 

When I get to this point, I find that it's helpful to take a step back to connect to my vision of how I want my work and my life to look. Doing this exercise up front makes hard decisions easier, and allows us to run our business in an intentional, rather than a reactive, way. Additionally, it allows us to set a clear foundation upon which we can build. For example, I know a number of new coaches who say Yes to taking clients at all hours of the day: 7 am, 9 pm, and weekends, because they are so desperate for clients. Not only does this create challenges up front, but it forces them to attempt to unravel this aspect of their business later on, when they decide it's no longer working. Clear agreements and boundaries up front make things easier for everyone: for us as coaches, and also for our clients.

Bottom Line

This work is the most rewarding, fulfilling, and joyful work I have ever done. I love it, and it fills me up from a place deep within. And, it's hard. Running a business is not for the faint of heart. A business takes time, energy, sweat, and sometimes tears to build. When I moved to Iowa for two years shortly after starting my business, I knew exactly one person. Building my business in Iowa meant combing through the local newspaper each week to try to identify possible opportunities to serve, and it meant more coffee meetings than I can count. Ultimately these efforts paid off and allowed me to create a greater regional impact through my business. And, the path to get there was not glamorous. Being tethered to my Why, being committed to my business, and reminding myself of my vision for my life were essential.

What about you? What is your Why? How do you feel about running a business? And how do you want your life to look in this new chapter? For more on this topic, check out 5 Key Questions to Ask When Looking for a Coach

"Being Busy" and "Being Good" - An Entrepreneurial Epidemic


There’s a bit of an epidemic happening these days. It’s happening to good people doing good things with good intentions.

It’s been written about a number of times before, and there’s a small movement underway to fight it.

While we’re all familiar with this epidemic in the corporate world, it’s hitting a population that we don’t talk about as much because it often, from afar, looks like success and abundance and prosperity and “making it.”

The epidemic is busyness, and its most recent target includes entrepreneurs, freelancers, startup founders, coaches, trainers, public speakers, and people kind of like me.

At a recent networking event, I was greeted by a well intentioned woman with, “You good? You busy?” In her question was a clear implication: Being good means being busy. Being busy means being good.

I see a similar correlation among my peers almost daily. When we’re “good,” we’re busy - meaning we are booked a lot, traveling a lot, gone a lot, and busy doing the things we do to stay busy. Being good means being busy and being busy means being good.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love to be busy. I love having multiple projects happening at one time (I’m an ENFP, after all). I love being busy developing strong relationships and creating new clients. I love working in the early morning over coffee, and I love jotting down new ideas late at night.

I love the work that I do, so of course - I love doing more of it.

However, the epidemic of busyness that’s hitting hard in the entrepreneurial world is clouding the real question at hand: are we having a positive impact?

  • Are we doing work that we believe in and can stand behind with all of our being?
  • Is it original and fresh and different than the other stuff that’s out there?
  • Are we working with clients we love, who push us to be even better at what we are doing?
  • And are we completely connected to our purpose?
  • Do we love not only what we are doing, but how we are doing it?


  • Do we love the travel, the hustle, the schedule and the busyness?
  • Do we love saying “yes” to the things we’re saying yes to?
  • And do we have enough time and space to completely, whole-heartedly, and fiercely serve our clients?

If this is what busyness feels like, then YES, let’s create more of it.

But if we’re sacrificing impact, or relationships, or pieces of ourselves in order to be busy - then please, let’s stop.

If we’re doing a lot but with minimal impact - then please, let’s stop.

If we’re creating busyness in order to create the illusion of “being good,” then please, let’s stop.

Let’s step back and pause. Let’s reconnect to our purpose, and let’s reconnect to the reason we started doing this work in the first place.

Let’s redefine for ourselves what it really means to “be good” and let’s start doing that instead.