#10 Downshifting, lesson 2: At the top it’s often boring, lonely and cumbersome

Impression from a relaxed road-trip at the black sea coast / Turkey
Hardly possible for a stressed top-manager

Practical example for down-shifting:

Didn’t everybody tell you, you ought to make it to the top by any means if you can? That the top is where you have power, where you are free, where you have control and the like?

Forget it, that’s complete bullshit.

The truth is:

On the way to realizing the last bit of your entire maximum potential, you will have a lot of trouble, as you will have no reserves at the end. You will be stuck in political games or annoying clients you never have imagined, you will have bad sleep and no free time left as all your resources have to go into your career. You will lose valuable social ties, your health will decline and you might even find out that you cannot enjoy things anymore, which you used to like before.

This is the old 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the work can be done with 20% of your effort; the last 20% of the work require 80% of the effort.

So whoever tells you that you must always give 100%, let him do so if he wants but don’t follow his advice, because typically the additional returns aren’t worth the trouble.

Better downshift:

Find out the max level you could reach in your job (that will be determined by your education, your cleverness, your skills, but also by your social status, maybe your looks, your connections and so on). Do this in a realistic way, don’t cheat yourself and don’t count on luck, “justice” or some other act of god.

Now take that maximum potential and subtract one level from it. This (or less) is what you should aim for. E.g. if you really think you could become a senior executive if you give 100%, you should better target being a lower grade executive and in return spend only let’s say 50% of your effort.

If you think you could be number 2 in your area of business, you should target being number 3 or 4 and save a lot of effort because the last mile is always the hardest.

This holds true for private matters as well. If you could squeeze in visiting 6 cities on your holiday trip, try to do only 3 or 4.

That way you will reach your goals relatively comfortably as you always have back-up resources at hand and your skills and nerves will not be stretched too much.

And you might very often find that with only 20% effort you can reach 80% of your maximum potential. No joke!




7 comments on “#10 Downshifting, lesson 2: At the top it’s often boring, lonely and cumbersome

  1. mevrocket says:


    Firstly, congrats on your English, it’s not that bad!

    2ndly, I found you on the MMM site. I read these kind of sites because a few years ago I got into quite serious financial trouble, happily I’ve almost finished working my way out of that mess. In the mean time, I think I’m having a mid life crisis. A lot of what you have to say does resonate with me. I want to be happier not necessarily richer, although that would help!!

    This post grabbed me the most though, especially the 80/20 rule. I’m fed up with my job. It’s reasonably well paid, but I’ve progressed as far as I can, so there’s not really any hope of promotion, besides, as you infer, that often means simply more work. Instead, I’ve decided to set up my own business, and I think this rule will stil apply. If I can get 80% of the legwork done with 20% of the effort, then that’s pretty much a no-brainer, so thanks for that, I think your 80/20 rule is going to be invaluable.

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Thanks a lot, great compliment, coming from a native speaker!

      Keep us updated how your own business proceeds and what pros and cons you find, compared to employed work.
      An own business is something I am considering for the future as well, but for the time being I’m not there yet…

      • mevrocket says:

        I certainly will, but to start with, I am starting it up in my spare time as it won’t bring in enough to support me and my family straight away, so keeping the job on for now makes sense. Also, it’s an internet based business meaning I don’t have to pay out for renting an office just yet!

        Regarding your 80/20 rule, I have started looking at outsourcing my work. For example, (and I’m not saying you should), but you can find highly skilled writers in a developing countries that will write articles for $5 or less (whatever that is in euros). In the UK, $5 equates to about £3 or about 15-20 mins of my time. To write a good article usually takes me about an hour and a half!

      • mrwoodpecker says:

        Sounds like a good plan to start in your spare-time.
        Let me know how the outsourcing works out. I sure heard about this option but I wonder if it really works in practice or if you have to spend too much time reworking…

  2. […] the pleasures life has to offer at little costs if you have a bit of spare-time. You understood the 80/20 rule, saying that 80% of the result are reached by 20% of the effort and that the remaining 20% of […]

  3. […] 4) “For a long time I did not have so much fun as at this party tonight” Boom! Another surprising buster! I mean, this guy had it all and was involved in all sorts of fancy social events! And the party at my mom’s was not special at all. No villa, no fancy views, no spectacular evening dresses. But a lot of people who knew each other for a long time and had a lot of laughing, open talks, fun and relaxation. And particularly relaxation and open talk was apparently the thing he missed in 95% of his typical social events. Not surprisingly, he said people there are extremely political, always double-thinking what to say and whom to please, and merely pretending to have fun than really having it. He said most of this social events were more like work than like free time. I can imagine very well! […]

  4. […] increased commuting time. And it would be a much more challenging job than today, meaning that any 80/20 effort scheme would not work anymore but quite likely frequent stressful times would be part of the […]

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