"What Was the 20% of This Book That Has Influenced Me Most?"



From: "Business Course I" by Gary North
Lesson 50


Most of this post will be background. That is, I will use the assignment as a pretext to review The Breakthrough Principle of 16x by Richard Koch.

First Impressions

The gist of the book is contained in the subtitle: "Real Simple Innovation for 16 Times Better Results."

Sounds like bluster. I have read a lot of bluster. It went in one ear and out the other.

The back cover lists these claims:

Trust me - you were born creative.
And you have the capacity for breakthroughs.

  1. Discover why your "not to-do's" count more than your "to-do" list.
  2. Stop feeling stressed and scattered.
  3. Tap into your passion and prime talents.
  4. Get 16 times better results ... without trying harder.

Incredibly, this pamphlet sized book delivers on these claims.

31 Pages of Text

Most speed reading courses encourage you to pick out something like 80% of a book's value from 20% of its text. For example, a course may teach:

  1. Read the conclusion.
  2. Read the introduction.
  3. Read the conclusion again.
  4. Go to each chapter, read the first and last paragraphs.

I tried that approach with this book, but was incapable.

Welcome to 16x

In this short book, Koch delivered on his own advice: it contains as many golden nuggets as a conventional book five times larger. This book already is the 20%.

16x includes eight chapters plus an Endnote of exactly 3 pages each. Altogether, the book totals 31 pages of text. Read this book and you are literally reading Koch's 16x wisdom.

"Wait, what? The 'Pareto Principle' rule is well documented but 80 is only 4x of 20. Where does 16x come from?"

Read on...

Most of Your Activities Are a Waste of Time

Consider a real world example. Suppose there are 100 bull elk in an area, and 100 cow elk. If mating strictly folowed the 80/20 rule, 20 bulls would fertilize 80 cows. That is, on average a "successful" bull would father 4 calves while only one calf would be fathered out of four "unsuccessful" bulls."

Four of the former averaged 16 calves while four of the latter, a single calf.

The 20% are not four times as productive as the 80%. They are 16x.

This is simple math. As long as the 80/20 rule is in effect, so is the 16x rule.

Key Takeaway: Identify the productive and pleasurable 20% of your life. Actively diminish the rest. Now live a life 16x more happy.

Koch offers the following "Breakthrough Principles" by which to optimize the 20%:

  1. Focus. Focus. Focus.
  2. Defy the Tyranny of Routine.
  3. Do it Your Way.
  4. Recruit the Support of Potent Allies.
  5. Recycle the World's Best Ideas.

Koch's 16x was a compelling book. The implications changed my life. See below for specifics.

Here Is "the 20% of This Book That Has Influenced Me Most"

As stated, the book is meta. The entire book is the 20% of a conventional book that has influenced me the most.

That said, in reality the 80/20 rule is recursive. The 20% of the 20%, or 4% is 256x more powerful than the bottom 80%.

pareto image credit
Pro tip: Learn to love the logarithmic.

This message was missing from the book: the principle in nature is not stepwise from 20% to 80%. It is a continuous, logarthmic function.


Quantifying the inevitable results of the 80/20 premise struck a chord with me. The claim of 16x better results in life struck me as bluster at first. But the math convinced me that - so long as the 80/20 premise holds - then 16x is inevitable.

Extrapolating, let's apply the 20% of the 20% to the herd of elk, calling it "Double Pareto."

DoublePareto: (20%)(20%) = 4%. Four bulls sired 64 calves.

And, next level:

TriplePareto: (20%)(20%)(20%) = 0.8%. One bull sired half of all calves!

Major Takeaway: All of this is direct fallout of 80/20. As such, here is the DoublePareto that influenced me most.

"Recruit the Support of Potent Allies"

My takeway here is

The #TriplePareto of 16x

On a single page, Koch lists the triple-Pareto "10 Great Business Ideas of All Time." They are truly great and have influenced me. There is no better way than to list them verbatim.

  1. Market Leadership. Be the biggest of your type.
  2. Low Cost Volume. Be the cheapest.
  3. Build on Your Strengths. Make your best attributes even stronger.
  4. Delegate. Train a lower cost person.
  5. Self-Service. Make the customer do the heavy lifting.
  6. Subtract Something. Differentiate by deleting.
  7. Create a New Niche Category. Split an existing category into two.
  8. Personalize. Let customers tailor your offering.
  9. Do It Faster. Use speed to justify a higher price tag while lowering production costs.
  10. Do It Smaller. Go "little" to reduce costs and increase convenience.

Finally, my #QuadruplePareto takeaway? One sentence: "Build on Your Strengths." At times it seems I should branch out into new areas and expand the scope of my activities. This has its rewards. But I should never neglect the things that come easy for me. In fact, I should limit efforts that are drudgery and double down on that which flows like water.


Here is a brief mention of the 20% of the tripe in this book: counter factual adoration of Churchill. The only accurate part of Chapter 4 was the first paragraph: Churchill was a failed politician. During WWI "he sent a large force to Galloli in Turkey. The troops were massacred as soon as they arrived. He went on to become the worst Finance Minister in living memory ... he was an alcoholic, and prone to spells of deep depression."

The rest of the chapter is mythology. Koch goes on to make non-sequitors about how to approach one's work and "Focus is magical."

Change But Don't Change. Do It Your Way But Copy Others' Ideas.

Chapter 5 starts out with "We're all creatures of habit" and claims "none of us really likes change." What? I really like change. There are people out their who like change so much they are pathological. Ask Imelda Marcos if she likes to change her shoes.

Paragraph two claims, "Of couse, some of our habits are valuable." So which is it? Routine habits are "valuable" or "tyranny"?

The point of the chapter is that one should apply one's efforts in an intelligent manner, not just because it is the routine, or worse, that that it's more comfortable than confronting change. But the logic is failed.

Chapter 6: On the surface "Do It Your Way" appears as a major contradiction with Chapter 8: "Recycle the World's Best Ideas."

But learn the author's intent and it makes sense. "Do It Your Way" seeks to leverage your greatest talent and motivation.

Yet it is inefficient to create an entire structure from scratch. No, do not invent the wheel. Look at all the wheels around you - there are many - and copy the best tried-and-true which appeal to you.

To reiterate, the pamphlet/book itself equates to 16x gold nuggets from an average sized self help book.