I'm looking for a powerful way to describe the fact that -after performing a certain activity- there are only two possible outcomes:

1) It's a great success (only in 20% of cases)

2) It's of no or little use and can even do you some harm (in 80% of cases)

I would like to use this description to convince people that they should do everything they can to ensure their efforts result in outcome number 1.


I would like to use this in the context of writing online content: 20% of content generates 90% of engagement. So if you are going to create an online publication, you'd better give it some serious attention so it ends up at the right side/staple that actually generates engagement.

I've considered:

Your work will either end up at the 20% 'staple' that does it all or at the 80% 'staple' that does you no good at all.

Yet, it feels like that description lacks power and elegance.

I'm open to phrases, expressions, idioms and metaphors. Ideally, it creates a feeling of urgency and it is easy to understand/picture for almost any reader.

I've found this other topic, but I don't think it's a duplicate. Although the topic starter is also asking for an idiom with high contrast in possible outcomes, my outcome number 2 is not negative per definition: it can be slightly positive. Therefore, the suggestions 'going all in' (where you lose it all), 'double-edged sword' and 'high risk/high reward' don't cover it.

  • We need more context, but I've attempted to give you an answer below.
    – David M
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 1:27
  • 1
    Thank you @DavidM. I've added the context in which I would like to use it. Does this help for coming up with suggestions?
    – RWB
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 3:59

1 Answer 1


Thank you for your edit. This paragraph will better fit the context you've provided.

Remember, the top 20% of your content drives 90% of the interest in your site. The other 80%, at best generates little interest and, at worst drives interest away. So, always strive to be writing that 20%, and in the end all of your content will be better for it.

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