# The Three Graphs That Explain 99% Of Everything

**Quote**

“There are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns. Patterns hidden by patterns. Patterns within patterns.

If you watch close, history does nothing but repeat itself.

What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher. What we can’t understand we call nonsense. What we can’t read we call gibberish.

There is no free will.

There are no variables.”

Chuck Palanhiuk, Survivor

**Summary**

There are three basic graphs that can explain the vast majority of things in life—from historical events, to current trends, to personal happenings and so on.

## The Set-Up

No, the title of this post is not hyperbolic.

By the end of this article, I will prove to you that the absurd proposition that most of what happens in the world can be explained by only three simple graphs is not as ridiculous as it seems.

**The Bell Curve**

Here is the graph in its detailed form.

If you’re not familiar with what standard deviations are, they are measures that demonstrate how spread out a data set is.

68% of data points are within + or – 1 standard deviations of the mean in a normal distribution/bell curve. This means the data does not vary to an extreme extent.

Here is the graph in its simplest form.

One way or the other, you have surely encountered this graph at some point in your life.

It is primarily used to describe the normal distribution of some trait across populations or samples. The x-axis represents the measure of whatever trait, and the y-axis represents the frequency within a population.

The most common example is that of the distribution of IQ’s (the traditional measure of intelligence) across populations.

It’s fairly self explanatory, but 68% of people have an IQ that falls in between 85 and 115.

This goes back to our conversation on standard deviation. Within plus or minus one standard deviation from the mean, so 100+15 and 100-15, you can find 68% of the entire population. Most people are average.

Below 85 is what would be considered dumb. Above 115 is what would be considered smart. 100 is the exact average IQ.

These cut offs are not perfect. You would be hard-pressed to pinpoint the difference between someone with an IQ of 110, and an IQ of 120.

IQ also does not demonstrate itself outwardly 100%. There are people who are successful, well-read, and extremely hard-working that would come across as someone with a high IQ, but are surprisingly average or even below. Conversely, you might come across ignorant, lazy, and uneducated people who technically are intelligent on paper.

Both tails are extremely rare. It is unlikely you will meet many people who are actual geniuses, to the same proportion that you would meet people who are mentally handicapped.

Not a perfect one to one, but very similar.

This graph merits an explanation. It depicts the way in which the body reacts to stress. The x-axis depicts the three phases in which the body undergoes when dealing with a stressful event (these events can be daily stressors or chronic stressors). The y-axis depicts the resistance the body has to the stress.

As you can see the body slowly builds up resistance to stress, but if the stressor remains for a long enough time, the body becomes exhausted. This is known as burn-out. And burn out ends at the tail.

Here is a user-generated graph of the distribution of diets in the US.

**The Exponential Growth**

Here is a graph of how your blood glucose levels react after a sugary meal.

Here is a graph of the average pay in the financial industry. Small dips and peaks, but the broader trends mirror the previous graphs.

And if you really wanted to, you could zoom in and argue that the smaller peaks and dips are just scaled down versions of the larger graphs.

**The Pareto Principle**

**The Exceptions**

I love the article! However your conclusion got me thinking. I felt like you could have had an entire section devoted to explaining more about why these patterns happen.

My own theory is that nature can either follow patterns or follow chaos. The quickest example I can think of is the Fibonacci sequence. It’s commonly seen throughout all of nature. It follows a strict pattern in the way your examples fit within these three graphs. For your exceptions, I would pose that sometimes nature simply doesn’t follow sequences, and that itself is a pattern. It instead follows a pattern of chaos.

Thank you.

Yeah, I was unable to fully articulate why all these patterns repeated themselves across various topics.

I do like the duality of what you’re proposing however—that nature follows one singular pattern, but the pattern it follows is of controlled chaos. An interesting thought for sure. I’d also love to hear more about the Fibonacci sequence, because now that I think of it, that is also present in many things.