Bless Your Pea-Picking Heart!


I only saw pea plants growing in a field one time I can recall in a field in Northern France.

They seemed to me then to be too small, too humble, for the role they have played in history.

Gregor Mendel, a 19th century Catholic Monk and scientist in what was then the Austrian Empire (now the Czech Republic), did a bunch of experiments with pea plants that were the foundation of our current knowledge of human genetics.

Now I trip over little old Pisum sativum again.  This humble plant played a role in the genesis of a whole other set of theories (statistically proven) that dominate our lives more than we realize.

Vilfredo Pareto, sometime in the late 19th century, noticed that in a bunch of pea plants, a small number of pea plants produce most of the peas.

James Clear traces scientific and logical thinking that followed.  He cites from multiple sources evidence that proves a small advantage over the next guy translates into a significant advantage within a group.

It is hard not to notice that human beings live in groups.

The first time I heard of anything resembling this was in a business seminar, some years ago.  Although some variant of practicing medicine has been my bread and butter since I made it to alleged adulthood, I am so rich in ideas that we have nurtured the dream of doing something original, changing the world, and all of that.

In some seminar destined to lead to the above, I first heard about the “80/20 rule.”  Twenty percent of any group is going to end up responsible for 80% of the action, no matter what kind of “action” we are talking about. Twenty percent of the audience is responsible for eighty percent of the sales. About twenty percent of the pea plants provide about eighty percent of the peas. About twenty percent of my practice is responsible for most of the phone calls and problems of other sorts.  Clear — in the link given — reviews the mathematics beneath this.  He starts by saying some people have fortunes that seem to increase beyond imagination while others seem to be losing the little that they have.

The answer here is that a small and consistent difference between people if it remains enough to propel folks in one direction or the other, becomes enough to account for wild differences among people.

This idea is certainly consistent with how I actually want to be able to see life on earth.

People who behave in suboptimal ways will surely get their “comeuppance” or “just desserts” if they continue to behave in the same way.

People who perform small acts of kindness on a daily basis will receive great rewards.

This feels right and good.

So go out there and be good.

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