Find Your Unique 20 Percent Spike


Being different is a good thing.  We all have unique skills we bring to the table.

The key is finding your unique 20 percent spike.   Your 20 percent spike is your super power.  It’s that skill that people can count on you for.

Maybe for you it’s writing.  Maybe it’s figuring out the business of things.  Maybe it’s designing things.   When you know what your unique 20 percent spike is, you know your most powerful tool for creating impact or earning a living.

In The 80/20 Individual: How to Build on the 20% of What You do Best, Richard Koch writes about finding your unique 20 percent spike.

You’re Unique

You’re one of a kind.  Use your unique experience to figure out your unique spike.

Via The 80/20 Individual:

“This is vital, but often neglected, truth.  Of all the billions of people on earth, only identical twins have the same generic material. 

And even identical twins have different experiences, inclinations, partners, and emotions.

Yet we spend most of our lives denying our individuality, trying to pretend that we are just like everyone else.  Isn’t that weird?”

Creative Individuals Make Fewer Concessions to Reality

Creative individuals live life on their terms.

Via The 80/20 Individual:

“Creative individuals are different.  They embrace their individuality more than others do.  They are aware of it.  They give it more head-room. 

They cultivate it.  They know where it can be used most effectively.  Creative individuals have less need to fit in.  They make fewer concessions to ‘reality,’ a reality defined by other people.”

Progress Depends on Creative Individuals

Creative people change the world.

Via The 80/20 Individual:

“George Bernard Shaw knew this: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world.  The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”  Now, replace ‘unreasonable’ with ‘creative’.”

Start By Thinking About Yourself

In work and life, unleash your best by leveraging your 20 percent spike.

Via The 80/20 Individual:

“If you want to create, you first have to find and nurture your 20 percent spike.  If you want to create a new business, don’t start by thinking about the business.  Start by thinking about yourself.”

Key Take Aways

Here are my key take aways:

  • Differentiate yourself.  Use your unique experience or strength to differentiate.  For example, maybe you’re a writer that knows how to make laugh.  Maybe you’re a consultant that excels at big, hairy challenges.  Maybe you’re a teacher that knows how to light people’s fire.
  • Move the ball forward.  Use your unique strengths to change the game.  Creative people change the world.  Change the world using your spike.  Better yet, change YOUR world, using your unique 20 percent spike.
  • Use your spike as a launch pad.  Whether it’s a business, a hobby or a way to get leverage on the job, use your unique 20 percent spike as a springboard.  It’s your unique advantage.

The power of a unique 20 percent spike is that it’s both a way to differentiate in an overcrowded space, and it’s a way to get leverage in a skills-for-hire economy.

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Photo by Muffet.


  1. Great tips on this post. I like all 3 points you made, my favorite is the second one, “move the ball forward.”

    Thanks for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than NO Action

  2. I’ve been thinking about reading this book and I’m so glad you focused on it in this post. So interesting! You’ve provided some great info here and it’s definitely gotten me thinking about my 20%!

  3. Hi JD – I’m really enjoying the articles you’re writing on this topic, so I think I’ll get that book to read while I’m on vacation. Reading your articles is making me believe that anything is possible.

  4. Hi J.D.,

    This is a great piece of wisdom to share especially in our world today! There is such an abundance of everything and sometimes it is hard to stand out. But we all have that uniqueness, we just have to reach in for it, find it and expose it. We should not be afraid of it either.

  5. Thanks for the book idea, it is now on my list of books to be read (eventually). I think that each of us needs to find our unique 20% spike. If not we will spread ourselves too thin and focusing too much on what is not ultimately helpful.
    I am trying to identify my own unique 20% spike. It is difficult since there is so much that interests me that I feel I am neglecting other things that might be my unique 20% spike.

  6. Hi J.D.,
    I love this idea, and it’s also like a light bulb has went off for me. While I’ve thought much about the whole idea of being unique, and how we should embrace our uniqueness, something about hearing this idea of the 20% spike is really driving this point home – thanks much. Inspiration I needed today…

  7. @ Giovanna

    It’s such a simple metaphor, but it’s evocative.

    @ Positively Present

    It’s one of those books that had a big impact on me early on. You can get a lot out of it and it’s full of great ideas. The author was ahead of his time.

    @ Cath

    Thank you. I think you’ll really enjoy it. I think anything really is possible with the right technique.

    I had some more thoughts on this actually. I think a real key is to know what your natural strengths are — the ones that are baked in. This compliments your skills and experience. You continue to grow your skills and experience, but your natural strengths can accelerate things. You can also fall back on them whenever you get stuck.

    @ Evita

    Thank you. You put it well — reach in for it, find it, and expose it. It’s one thing to know your strength and it’s another to leverage it, and let others know you’ve got it.

    @ Sean

    One thing that helps me is to test my results against some objectives. The biggest thing that helped me though was asking my sounding board. I have a circle of folks I periodically ping for feedback and they give me good insight.

    @ Lance

    I love the metaphor of the 20% spike. It puts a fine point on it. It’s like saying, sure there’s a bunch of stuff I’m good at and unique, but here’s my super power. It’s my best give I can share to create value.

    In fact, I thought more about this today and realized that while information artistry is one of my strengths, my super power is getting results. Not just for myself, but I make others great and I can make teams more effective. It hit me as I was doing an email productivity brownbag for the XBox team today.

  8. This is so inspirational, and it really shows how we should all embrace being different. It is what makes us all so special.

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