The 10 per cent rule to mastering the secrets of marketing and business success

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You’ve undoubtedly heard about the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, a key concept in evaluating priorities (and a clue about which things you should ditch right away.) I’ll add another concept, which I originally learned back in 1986 from motivational guru Brian Tracy: The 10 per cent excellence rule.

It is this: If you want to achieve anything significant in life, make sure whatever you do, you are in the top 10 per cent. This can be in your technical field or speciality, or in a key aspect of business, including, of course, marketing.

The concept behind theĀ 10 per cent rule is that while luck and external forces outside your control still have a major impact on your life and business success, if you can put yourself in the Top 10 (per cent) of your chosen activity, your strengths will be great enough to allow you to successfully rebound from bad luck. You may not end up a superstar (because in that rarefied environment luck and external circumstances often conspires with natural talent just a few really talented people to achieve greatness) but you will certainly land on your feet because you will have the ability to implement a successful Plan B if things go wrong.

Tracy pointed out the importance of this concept with an observation of depression-era conditions, when unemployment reaches 30, 40 or 50 per cent. If you have the skills and talents in your field to put you in the top 10 per cent, do you think you would remain unemployed for long, even in the harshest environment? Most likely, you would team up with some colleagues with strong talents and start your own business, if necessary. You would survive.

If you are asking: “How do I know/get to this rarefied place” you should look for some clues; notably subjects where you have excelled without stress, which you enjoy so much that you’ll put in serious effort to achieve mastery (thin 10,000 hours or about five years full-time), and where you receive spontaneous responses or observations from peers indicating your talent.

(I have had many personality limitations, and at times struggled with the simplest tasks as a budding journalist, but could always write well, and peers at times would say: “Your work is at the level of the New York Times.” At the end of my time in Africa, when an accredited full-time foreign correspondent offered me a strong reference letter (without asking) I knew I had reached the top 10 per cent level in journalism. I never got a job on the New York Times, but am reaching 65 with a satisfying life as an independent publisher.)

Take some time to think about the activities, interests, values and priorities and think about how you can make your 10 per cent strengths the foundation of your marketing and business. It doesn’t matter what they are — they will help you propel to success and a rewarding life. And I think, except if you are in a very small unfortunate minority, there is some aspect about your life and circumstance where you can climb to the Top 10 summit.

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