The 99/1 Rule

In software we often talk about the "90/10 rule". That is, to get ninety percent of the benefit for ten percent of the cost. It turns out that there are many problems for which partial solutions are cheap and full solutions are expensive. Rather than spending all our resources to fix one problem completely and leave nine others untouched, sometimes it is wiser to fix all ten problems partially.

Sarah McLachlan addresses the same phenomenon in her song, World On Fire. Except, sometimes, with charity it is more like the "99/1 rule". Even without favorable exchange rates between countries, sometimes a little thing can make a big difference. (The butterfly effect to the geeks.) It is better to do something, even if it is only a little thing, than to do nothing at all.

As we enter the holiday season, let us look for little ways to help out. If you feel moved to send $100 to a village in India, by all means go ahead. But let us also look for the little ways to help out. Maybe it is dropping a $5 toy in the Toys for Tots box at work. Maybe it is playing Secret Santa at work and giving someone a gift card. Maybe it is washing your partner's car while they are taking a nap.

Next year we can address about the big things. This year, let us address the little things.


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