Adjust Your Focus

It’s hard to argue with the fact that you get what you focus on. It’s not only conventional wisdom, but it’s been proven time and time again. Most everyone has heard of the Pareto Principle … known to most as the 80/20 Rule. Let’s add another formula to your repertoire. It’s the 95/5

The most productive people will focus on their challenges, limitations, barriers, and problems only 5% of the time. And when they do so, that time is focused on overcoming these negative restraints. They invest 95% of their time and energy on identifying and creating resources to pursue responses and solutions to removing those restraints.

Ross Perot (computer billionaire, philanthropist, and independent Reform Party candidate for U.S. president in 1992 and 1996) was a man who lived by this principle, practiced it in every aspect of his life, and taught those he mentored to do the same. In the book, Irreconcilable Differences: Ross Perot Versus General Motors, we learn that he was the founder of Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in Dallas, Texas. Perot was refused 77 times before he got his first contract. The company ultimately became a multibillion dollar corporation employing more than 70,000 people.

Perot sold EDS in 1984 to General Motors for $2.5 billion. He retained ownership in the company, which made him GM’s largest individual stockholder and a member of the board of directors. Perot applied his 95/5 focus at GM, butting heads with GM head Roger Smith almost daily.

The all-talk, no-action philosophy of GM at that time in history looked much like the reverse of the 95/5 Principle. Perot simply couldn’t tolerate such ignorance. He was best known for this observation of the GM culture:

“When someone sees a snake at EDS, we kill it! When someone sees a snake at GM, the first thing they do is form a committee on snakes. Then they bring in a team of outside consultants on snakes. They write a strategic plan for getting rid of snakes. Then six layers of managers delegate someone to kill the snake.”

Perot knew that if you don’t kill the snake when it’s small, you might be dealing with a monster later.

Perot was so insistent on this strategy that he became a thorn in GM’s side. In 1986, GM bought out Perot’s stock for $700 million! Two years later, he started a new computer service company, Perot Systems, which operates in the United States and Europe. Historians claim GM would be much better off today had they heeded the suggestions of Perot at that time rather than buying him out.

To be successful, focus much less (5%) on the challenges, limitations, barriers, and problems and much more (95%) identifying and creating resources to pursue responses and solutions to removing those restraints. You’ll find the results phenomenal!

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

One thought on “Adjust Your Focus

  1. Perot, Back On the Charts

    By David S. Broder
    Sunday, June 15, 2008; Page B07

    Sixteen years after he shook up American politics by launching an impromptu campaign for president, Ross Perot is about to dip a toe back into the public debates. And, yes, he’s bringing his charts with him to make his point.

    Beginning today, people who go to will find the Dallas billionaire waiting to challenge them on one of his favorite subjects — the “ruin” he says America is courting with its spendthrift ways.

    “We are right at the edge of the cliff,” the voice with the unmistakable Texas twang informed me when I called him the other day to find out about this latest venture. “We can’t go on spending money we don’t have.”

    . . .

    Current polls show that fewer than 1 percent of the voters call the budget deficit one of the country’s major problems.

    Part of the reason is that politicians of both parties are laboring to disguise the reality from public view. Both President Bush and the Democratic Congress have issued budgets this year that claim to achieve balance in 2012 — just four years from now.

    But those budgets are based on blue-sky assumptions that have no grounding in the real world. When I asked Perot what he made of them, he replied, “It’s an election year. What would you expect them to say?”

    In recent weeks, when I have found myself in conversations with former comptroller general David Walker and other economists who know how grim the long-term budget picture really is, I have mused aloud, “We need Ross Perot back.” Turns out, he was quietly preparing his return. He took some of the basic work done by Walker and others and had professionals turn it into 35 very clear charts and link them on a Web site with an equally simple narration.

    . . .

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