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The 1 Percent Rule - Getting 50% of Success, Wealth and Results | Vanguard Transformation

The 1 Percent Rule – Getting 50% of Success, Wealth and Results

Wealth, Power, Success with the 1 Percent Rule

If you liked my introductory article to the 80 20 rule, then you’ll enjoy this even more! Let’s get down to the bare bones, and take the Pareto Principle one step further, by extending it to the the 1 Percent Rule.

People who find themselves overwhelmed by complexity, overbearing tasks and too many subjects, are often the ones who don’t discriminate the essential from the unessential …  Between what is urgent and important, and what is dispensable and redundant.

To become truly productive, you need to have a clear mental images of which thing you should focus on right now. Consequently, you must distinguish those from what is irrelevant, useless, and can be put aside for later … Your brain should see a crisp line between the crucial 1% and the unessential rest.

I will tell you how the 1 Percent Rule came about, and I will give you a strategy for prioritizing tasks and learning materials, by the magnitude of effect they have on your results.

The Top 1% which Gets you 50% of Successful Results

Let’s say that there is a skill you need to master, a subject you would like to understand, or a language you want to speak. The Pareto Principle states:

“If you learn the crucial 20% of the material, that covers 80% of the total maximal results you would get.”

So, if we recursively apply the rule onto itself, we get the following. “Only 20% of the 20% of the things you learn, will account for 80% of the 80% of the results you get.” After we do the math behind it, this comes out:

“Only 4% of the things you learn, affect 64% of the results you get.”

We can take it one step further, and re-apply the principle onto itself, to narrow thing down even more. “Only 20% of the 20% of the 20% of the things you learn, will account for 80% of the 80% of the 80% of the results you get.” Mathematically, that means:

“Only <1% of the things you learn, affect 51% of the results you get.”

The Laser-Like Precision of the 1% Rule

The 1 Percent Rule cuts your workload in half, like a laser. By working intelligently, focusing on the 1% – you cut half of your work in just a few hours!

That is pure gold. It’s the laser beam precision and focused effectiveness of productive learning.

The 1 Percent Rule and Time Management

No need to grind a hundred hours, of intense study and practice, to learn a complex skill, ability or to work on a project. Instead, you can pick within those areas or subjects the critically essential 1%, learn it good, practice it well, and you will end up with half the work done, in only a few hours.

It is the 1% which gets you 51% of the results. You study and work for a very small amount of time, and still get halfway to success and mastery. Afterwards, you can polish and build up, but you get a very big head start.

The 1 Percent Rule says that in any given area of productivity, discipline or subject, there are a few fundamental principles that are very basic, overarching and deeply meaningful. And if you master them properly and internalize them at the deepest level of understanding (no superficial learning here), you can achieve half of the result you would get if you’d cover absolutely everything else.

How to Apply the 1 Percent Rule in Language Learning

Related to this topic, there is the empirical Zipf’s Law, which applies in any natural spoken language. It correlates frequency of any given word with its inverted rank.

Mathematically, that means that the most frequent word will appear twice as often as the second most frequent one, and three times as often as the third most occurring one.

The 1 Percent Rule - Zipf's Law

Time to pull up the calculator and do some math for language learning. The 1% Rule as it applies to word frequency.

The reason I mentioned about Zipf’s Law, is because it is mathematical proof of the 1 Percent Rule.

Let’s make a group of the most common words. We want to see how often they occur in a random text, compared to the rest of the words in the dictionary.

The English language has some 750,000 words.

According to Zipf’s calculations, there are 10 words which are used 25 % of the time:

“I, a, the, be, have, and, to, of, in, that” … Roughly one in every four words in any given news article, or book, is one of these ten …

Beyond those 10, there are the most commonly used 100 words, which comprise 50% of any conversation, or written material. These are pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, and helping verbs like: “did, do, would, could, should, like, love, must” and so on

The 50,000 most common words are used 95% of the time. The rest and overwhelming majority, which is 700,000, is only 5% of anything ever written or spoken in English. That is the 1% Rule in language.

The One Percent Rule for Learning a New Language

Apply the 1 Percent Rule and learn the most common words first. Master them, have them at the tip of your tongue, ready for instant utterance.

So, to wrap things up:

  • 0.0015% of the English words accounts for 25% of the language use.
  • 0.015% of the English words accounts for 50% of the language use.
  • … you understand what I am saying

In conclusion, to speak a new language, you only need to truly master, at the tip of your tongue just a few hundred or maybe a thousand words. These must be at the level of unconscious mastery …

For more on getting to unconscious mastery: The Four Stages of Competence – From Novice to Master

Just a few hundred, up to a thousand most frequent word … Not that much, and that does not take years to master, but months or weeks. You won’t win a Pulitzer Prize in Literature, but you will get by, with that arsenal in your vocabulary, and it will give you a basis to improve.

Wealth Distribution – Why does the 1% of Rich People hold 50% of World Wealth?

The 1 Percent Rule is the extended Pareto Principle.

Another good example of the rule, would be the fact that this recursive effect applies to the distribution of global wealth, as well.

Only 1% of the world’s population own 50% of the global wealth. That is what the law predicts and it is supported by the most other credible sources. Wealthiest 1% will soon own more than rest of us combined, Oxfam says: http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/19/…

The 1 Percent Rule in Global Wealth Distribution

The One Percent Rule explains the highly unequal distribution of global wealth. That is why 1% of the rich have as much money are the rest of the 99%.

They state that the accumulated wealth of richest 1% of the population, is equal to all the wealth of the other 99% combined: http://www.bbc.com/news/busine…

No amount of personal resentment will ever change that. It is mathematics, pure and simple. Whatever we do, the world will set itself back to that state of equilibrium, in accordance with the law.

So, let’s not start the Bolshevik Revolution just yet!

How to Work and Study Strategically for the Most Efficient Climb Up

I already gave you proof how the 1% rule applies to spoken languages and global wealth. Additionally, I showed you the mathematical reasoning. And now, we shall figure out how to use it when learning new abilities and when practicing.

My claim is this:

There is a fundamental 1% in any new skill, or subject will give you 50% of the success and results.

That also suggests a strategy, which you should use for optimal learning and comprehension, in the fastest and most efficient way possible.

Step 1 – Identify the Critical 1%

Figure out what is the most important 1% of the skill or subject that you are learning.

In the subject you are studying, or in the skill you are learning, these are the:

  • fundamental laws and principles of the discipline,
  • basic presuppositions
  • governing background
  • core ideas and concepts
  • standard drills and conditioning of the physical skill
  • most common movements and position in the sport discipline
The Extended Pareto Principle, or 80 20 Rule

The 1 Percent Rule applies to every area, discipline, skill, ability, function … from the classroom to the outside world.

You can apply this to anything, from classroom subject to physical outdoor skills.

From Shakespearean Literature to Online Poker.

From Quantum Field Theory to Zombie Apocalypse Survival Skills.

In calligraphy, tarot, and martial arts.

From reading people, to being a leader.

From dating and love making, to fighting.

What are the critical few core ideas and fundamental understandings, that comprise the top 1%?

They will basically get you 50% of the results, and cover 50% of all the groundwork – once you master them. Or, once you get a good understanding of them.

*** Note: The elusive 1% is not stacked together neatly in your manual, or whatever … It is dispersed throughout, and it can be really hard to find, so take an hour to get accustomed with what you are learning. You should get a feeling for what is truly critical and important stuff. The 1% will how itself if you are looking close enough.

Step 2 – Learn the 1% very good.

Focus on studying and practicing the top 1% … So that those fundamental understandings and core physical abilities become second nature.

If it is something intellectual, which involves memorization and thinking, understanding some rules, principles or new words from some language, then learn them as you normally would:

  1. Identify the 1% of the material
  2. Read what you highlighted,
  3. Take a break to criticaly think about it,
  4. Repeat it to yourself, trying to explain it out loud,
  5. … then read again and repeat until you get it right.

It is only 1% … That means 3 pages out of a 300-page technical book. By focusing on the 1%, reading it, and explaining it out loud, you create new experiences and frameworks of reference and understanding, in your brain.

Make sure you have rich internal experiences built around what you are studying. Especial after thinking about it and explaining it to yourself. Your brain must an internal map around the new ideas. This concept comes from NLP, and the theory says:

In order to truly understand something, you must have detailed, discrete, internal frameworks of reference, about that thing, in your mind.

These are maps and images in your mind, built around that thing.

The internal maps must be encoded in rich, visual, auditory, experiences, with feelings and sensations, so that they give enough refinement in your understandings.

If your images are fuzzy, most likely you are going to have trouble finding the details and small distinctions, which make the difference between novice and master. The richness of your internal movies and images, is what defines your level of expertise in the given subject.

NLP and Mental Images - The Pareto 1% Percent Rule

When the sky is clear, you can see every star and understand the mysteries of the cosmos. When your mental images are fuzzy, you have trouble seeing the whole picture, and understanding the details.

Knowledge must be grounded in experience; that is the idea I am going after. Free floating notions and words, repeated over, and over again, are the sorts of things that come in one ear and go out the other.

After reading and learning new information, you need to ground it down into experience. In other words, you need to translate it into sensory data: things you can see, hear, feel in your mind’s eye.

Basically, that means putting knowledge and information into experience. People forget words, but they remember powerful experiences. As a result, what you read and learn, you also need to translate into powerful mental movies, and resounding internal experiences.

Applying the 1 Percent Rule to Physical Skills

Let’s consider a physical skill or a dynamic drill, something like sports, driving, dancing, riding, playing … You must master the 1% and store it internally, in your muscle memory, as if it is your second nature. That way, you can repeat it in a moment’s notice, artfully and with precision – unconscious competence.

If it is some physical skill, like driving a car, hitting a golf ball, playing the guitar, make sure that you take the 1% of its basic drills and practice them until you reach master level grace, so it becomes a second nature … Something you can do at near perfection.

The One Percent Rule in Ballet

Physical skills have fundamental basic drills which are easily mastered when you learn them in separate chunks. You can apply the 1 Percent Rule on any physical activity, sport, art or competence. From ballet to flying a fighter bomber.

This is where the 1% of the skill should be at the 4th stage (unconscious mastery). You can fast-forward the time needed to get at this stage, by optimizing the quality of your practice, paying close attention to every little detail of the movement, giving it thought, and zeroing in on each micro-movement.

How to Apply the 1% Rule in Social, Relational, Emotional Skill

If the critical 1% of what you need is a state or feeling, then you need to approach things differently.

Let’s say I want to become a captivating public speaker, a charismatic entertainer, or a dynamic stand-up comedian.

And I give it some thought, and eventually, I conclude that my 1% is the following:

Whenever I get up in front of a crowd, I need to instantly feel a mixture of the most fun, outgoing, resourceful states I ever experienced in my life. That would help me the most in delivering a captivating speech.

I need to experience a fun, creative and high energy state, as if I’m surfing on top of everything! That kind of “going with the flow” state, like when you are in the moment.

Another much needed state is when I am talkative and expressive. And on top of that volatile mixture, I could sprinkle a dash of that “Not Giving a Crap about Anything” state of being.

Public Speaking and Confidence

Getting in a good state at will, can be the best of strategies sometimes – especially in public speaking, presentations, meeting people and making connections. The 1 Percent Rule in action.

So, I now know my 1% for public speaking – the emotional states I require. The next step is: learn them. Since I already named them, that gives me something to focus on, as opposed to not knowing where to start. And since I named them, that means that I already have an experience of how those states felt at one time, whenever I might have lived them, in my personal past.

I can access those experience and relive the states, associated in the fullest possible way, so that when I look through my own eyes, I see NOW what I saw back THEN, as I relive that experience, deeply and associated. Once I feel that emotion, in its most intense and purest form, then I can anchor it and transfer it on the stage, when I am in front of the audience. In NLP, we call the process anchoring.

NLP Anchoring a Confident Feeling

Anchoring a confident state with NLP.

I can repeat the process, as much as I need with visualizations and lots of other techniques. And I consider the 1% completed, when I can say for sure that if I go in front of an audience I can relive the state instantly and intensely and I behave accordingly. That is how you apply the 1 Percent Rule on emotional and internal skills.

Next Steps – Cascading Back Recursively on the 1 Percent Rule

I now have learned my top 1% of critical skills, which will provide 50% of the desired results. Let’s learn the 4% and then the 20% …

In public speaking, maybe the next 4% is voice tempo, calibration and paying attention to the crowd. Having learned 1%, you can perform at half the maximum capacity. Use that first half to help further your success in learning the second half.

  1. Decide which parts of the study material constitute the top 5%.
  2. Learn those parts, by applying the same guidelines as in step 2.
  3. Decide which parts of the study material constitute the top 20%.
  4. Learn those parts, by applying the same guidelines as in step 2.

Steps 3 and 4, are duplicates and they are simple expansions of the first two steps. So are the last steps, 5 and 6. They, complete the process, by enabling you to master the crucial 20% which will yield 80% of your results.

We cascade back up the 1 Percent Rule,  and return to the original Pareto Principle: What is the Pareto Principle – The 80 20 Rule Explained

The 80 20 Rule Explained - What is the Pareto Principle?

The most important 20% give most of the production, results, and effects.


That is a good learning strategy. I hope you try it – the proof of its effectiveness is based on a lot of real world examples, and it has a mathematical basis.

You start with 1% and get half the way. Then you learn the 4% and get even further. By the time you are done with the 20% of the work, you will have already achieve most of what can be accomplished. Use this strategy whenever you learn something. new, whatever it is.

The 1 Percent Rule is the fastest way of the Ladder of Competence: The Four Stages of Competence – From Novice to Master

Please share with us the results you get from applying this rule … Let me know your feedback about this article, or leave a comment below.

I thank the artists for their wonderful work:


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