Classic Book Review: Living the 80/20 Way
In Richard Koch’s previous book, The 80/20 Principle, he explained with numerous examples how 80 percent of results come from just 20 percent of causes or effort. For example, 80 percent of sales usually come from less than 20 percent of customers, fewer than 20 percent of drivers cause more than 80 percent of traffic accidents, and so on. In his latest book, Living the 80/20 Way, Koch examines the fundamentals of personal success and shows readers how they can apply his “less is more” and “more with less” ideas to their best 20 percent for better success with money, work, relationships and the good life.
Living the 80/20 Way does more than show readers how to do things differently: It also shows them how to “do less in total.” Koch explains that if we do more of the things that bring us joy, we can do fewer things in total and still transform our lives. Convinced that anyone can benefit by working less and fulfilling their passions more, Koch writes that rebalancing your life not only creates greater health and happiness, but it can also lead to far greater success.
Koch starts his book by explaining how the way most of us organize our personal and social lives is a mistake; we should live to work instead of working to live. His point is that if we have more self-confidence and the right philosophy, we can accomplish more than we do now, enjoy the work we do more, and spend less time working so we can spend more time with our families and friends. Koch writes that if we apply the 80/20 principle to our lives as individuals, “we could enjoy life much more, work less, and achieve more.”
A More Productive Way
According to the 80/20 principle, a small minority of causes leads to a vast majority of results. Koch writes that if we know what results we want, we can look for a more productive way to get those results. He explains that if readers apply the 80/20 principle to the way they organize their private and social lives, they can make more money, gain more status, get a more interesting job and make life more exciting.
Koch writes that getting more with less delivers on two promises:
- It is always possible to improve anything in our lives, not by a small amount, but by a large amount.
- The way to make the improvement is to ask, “What will give me a much better result for much less energy?”
Although expecting more with less might seem to be unreasonable, Koch writes that this is exactly the reason why improvement is possible. By deliberately cutting back on what we put into a task and yet asking for much more, we force ourselves to think hard and do something different. He explains that this is the root of progress.
Koch writes that the trick to getting more with less is picking activities offering a higher reward for less energy.
Throughout Living the 80/20 Way, Koch asks many questions that force the reader to question the way he or she spends time. “Could you spend more time on the things you enjoy, even without quitting your day job? Could a hobby, interest or sideline in your life blossom into a new career?” Koch urges readers to find out by spending more time on the things they enjoy. By trying out new projects while you are still working at your normal job, he writes, you can experiment with different ideas until one clicks.
Another idea found in Living the 80/20 Way is the dismissal of time management. We should manage those things that we are short of, such as money, he explains, and since we are not short of time, it is inappropriate to try to manage it. Instead of managing our time so that we can speed up, Koch writes that we should look to “time revolution” to slow us down and help us to do fewer things. Instead of writing a “to do list,” we should make a “not to do list.” Act less and think more, he writes. “Stop doing anything that isn’t valuable, that doesn’t make you happy.”
One of the primary points that Koch repeatedly returns to is the idea that the present moment is where we need to live. By confining ourselves to the present moment and enjoying it, he writes, we can be proud of our past and hope for our future. “The 80/20 view of time makes us more relaxed and ‘connected.'” Once we are connected, Koch shows us how we can focus on our best 20 percent and find the personal power, happiness and success that are waiting there to be sparked into life. ~
Why We Like This Book
Living the 80/20 Way offers readers a shortcut to their personal destinations by presenting the questions that need to be asked along the way and providing a philosophy that can be applied to each step. By emphasizing focus and enjoyment while discussing work and success, Koch presents a road map that can help anyone get farther on his or her personal journey to success in business, life and relationships. Vivid stories about those who have embraced his lessons help to make them more actionable.
Marissa Mayer knows how to throw a party. The controversial CEO of Yahoo! once threw a flannel-themed Christmas party at her Palo Alto home (she also has a penthouse apartment in the Four Seasons) that featured not only shipped-in snow but also a backyard ice-skating rink almost large enough for NHL games. At some point during the party, as recorded in Nicholas Carlson’s book Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!, a pajama-clad Mayer climbed aboard a mini Zamboni she had rented for the occasion, and set out to smooth out the ice that had become cut up by her ice-skating guests. “It was a comical, cheerful scene, and another host might have laughed and waved at her guests as she rode the funny-looking Zamboni in her pj’s,” Carlson writes. “Not Mayer. She was very serious. Sitting on top of the big machine, she concentrated on the ice beneath her. She wanted to smooth over every inch. She was going to get the job done herself and be excellent about it.”
As Carlson describes in his book, the Christmas scene reflects the personality of Mayer: hands-on, serious and driven to excellence — which in the minds of many Yahoo employees and former employees translates, writes Carlson, into “micromanaging, bottlenecking and dictatorial.”
In many ways, the cover of this book is misleading. Despite the photograph of Mayer and her name in bigger type than the rest of the title, this is, surprisingly, more a book about Yahoo than about Mayer. After a brief prologue, readers don’t run into Mayer again until more than 130 pages later, when, in part II of his book he describes Mayer’s early life and career at Google. Part III of the book returns to the behind-the-scenes battles between activist shareholders and Yahoo executives that dominate much of the early part of the book. Marissa Mayer finally enters the Yahoo! building for the first time nearly 250 pages in, giving Carlson less than 100 pages to cover Mayer’s two years (so far) at the helm of Yahoo!
In those 100 pages, Carlson narrates in engaging detail the ups and downs of Mayer’s first two years at Yahoo! For example, Mayer sent shock waves in the progressive hi-tech industry when she abolished Yahoo’s work-at-home policy. At the same time, Mayer replaced employees’ Blackberries with more up-to-date smart phones, and, in a bid to introduce transparency, started staff meetings in which she and her executives answered questions from employees. Mayer bet heavily on mobile apps and on digital magazines, hiring Katie Couric and others to create momentum that never materialized. On a more positive note, she acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion, a record for a social media company at the time and an acquisition that in some ways has helped keep Yahoo! relevant.
A number of Mayer’s problems seem self-inflicted, including, according to Carlson, her inability to hire effective executives and her unfeeling interactions with her subordinates. The dictatorial, micromanaging style, as many employees see it, can demoralize a workforce whose morale, according to Carlson, is already badly hit by another Mayer initiative, the quarterly performance reviews (QPRs) that have echoes of Jack Welch’s infamous rank-and-yank employee policies at GE. Inevitably pitting employee against employee, the QPRs discourage collaboration and encourage cut-throat competition: it’s better that your colleague looks bad and gets the bad reviews; otherwise it will be you.
Mayer had an enormous advantage as she began her new position as CEO: a guaranteed two years in which the company’s financial health was assured by Yahoo’s prescient stake in the groundbreaking Chinese company, Alibaba, whose anticipated IPO in the fall of 2014 netted Yahoo a cool $8.3 billion windfall. (Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba, now worth $39.5 billion, was spun off into a separate company in January 2015, after the book was published.)
The question remains whether Mayer can make Yahoo! into the dominant Internet player it once was. Marissa Mayer, Carlson writes, points to the five years that Steve Jobs took to revitalize Apple, with the creation of the iPod. Is there an iPod equivalent in Yahoo’s future? For Carlson, the verdict is still out. The outcome depends in large part on the patience of the activist shareholders who pushed out several CEOs prior to Mayer.