The Right People and The 80/20 Rule

In one of my earlier articles entitled What’s So Cool About A Talking Frog? I emphasized the importance of taking the time to appreciate life and surround ourselves with the people who bring us joy. That leads to the question: how do we consciously identify the people who bring us joy and then focus our time and energy on these people – the right people?

The right people are those people whose energy is predominantly positive. These are people whose words, actions and intentions are focused on making the world a better place. Their nature is to focus on building instead of tearing down. They view human interactions as opportunities to put smiles on other people’s faces, to increase others’ confidence and sense of self-worth, and to warm their hearts. Put briefly, interacting with the right people makes our day better and inspires us.

Contrarily, the wrong people are those whose energy is predominantly negative. These are people whose words, actions and intentions have the general effect of tearing down instead of building. They view human interactions as a competition instead of collaboration. Their actions have the effect of taking care of themselves often times at the expense of others.

So who in your personal and professional life are the right people? Is it your spouse or partner, your children, a co-worker or your manager? Are you generally aligned with this person, have respect for them and consider them to have qualities such as ethical, intelligent, principled and honest?

And who fits in the wrong category for you? Which people do you consider to have qualities such as dishonest, selfish, untrustworthy and mean? Who has a tendency to drain you of your energy and inspiration and might even negatively impact your own self-confidence?

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Reason often makes mistakes but conscience never does. 

Henry Wheeler Shaw, American writer and humorist (1818-1885)

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The more experience we have in life, the more adept we are at identifying the right people. If we can do this successfully the next step is the critical step: don’t be fooled.

What is meant by “don’t be fooled?” It’s the 80/20 Rule.  In other words, don’t be surprised when someone who is 80% positive does something negative. Even the positive people in your life will disappoint you from time-to-time. They might be critical of you and express it in a way that you didn’t really appreciate. They might not do what you expected or lashed out at you at a moment when they were weak or exhausted.

Conversely, don’t be surprised when someone 80% negative does something positive. They might sometimes offer you compliments, lend a helping hand or show you support. Those moments do not overtake their general nature and do not make them worthy of your time and energy.

The reality is that none of us are perfect and we will do things that are contrary to our nature. However, it is important to make sure that we keep these “minority actions” in their proper perspective by not turning the 20% into the 80%. In other words, just because someone who is 80% positive does something negative doesn’t make them a negative person. Contrarily, just because someone who is 80% negative does something positive doesn’t make them a positive person.  We must be careful that we do not make the 20% the 80% in either scenario.

These thoughts come with a warning: the goal isn’t “zero tolerance” of the negative. If one avoids all of the nicks and bruises that can come from being exposed to the 80% negative people, too many people who are actually 80% positive will have been prematurely cut-off. Rather, the key is to recognize the 80% negative as quickly as possible and extricate yourself from them and these situations so you can go back to dedicating your time and energy on the positive and good.

May we all spend our time with the people who bring us joy and happiness – people who personally and professionally inspire and motivate us by focusing with positive energy on making the world a better place.