Richard Koch on Mastering the 80/20 Principle, Achieving Unreasonable Success, and the Art of Gambling (#466)

Photo by Daniel Park

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can be very creative about it.”

— Richard Koch

Richard Koch (@RichardKoch8020) is an entrepreneur, investor, former strategy consultant, and author of several books on business and ideas, including four on how to apply the 80/20 principle in all walks of life.

His investments have grown at 22 percent compounded annually over 37 years and have included Filofax, Plymouth Gin, Belgo, Betfair (the world’s largest betting exchange), FanDuel, and Auto1. He has worked for Boston Consulting Group and was a partner at Bain & Co. before joining Jim Lawrence and Iain Evans to start LEK, which expanded from three to 350 professionals during the six years Richard was there.

In 1997, Richard’s book The 80/20 Principle reinterpreted the Pareto Rule, which states that most results come from a small minority of causes, and extended it beyond its well-known application in business into personal life, happiness, and success. The book, substantially updated in 2017, has sold more than a million copies, been translated into roughly 40 languages, and become a business classic. It was named by GQ magazine as one of the top 25 business books of all time.

His new book, published on August 13, 2020, and available in the US in December, is Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve itIn it, Richard charts a new map of success, which he says can propel anyone to new heights of accomplishment. High success, he says, does not require genius, consistency, all-round ability, a safe pair of hands, or even basic competence—but it does require the nine key attitudes and strategies he has identified.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by Boll & Branch, Vuori Clothing, and Athletic Greens. More on all three below. 

#466: Richard Koch on Mastering the 80/20 Principle, Achieving Unreasonable Success, and The Art of Gambling


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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear another episode with an investor who has a unique perspective on the world? Listen to my conversation with Howard Marks, in which we discuss unintended consequences, the state of the COVID-19 economy, higher-signal sources of information, crowded versus uncrowded opportunities, and much more.

#431: Howard Marks on the US Dollar, Three Ways to Add Defense, and Good Questions



  • Connect with Richard Koch:

Website | Twitter


Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.

  • Richard begins with a non-story story involving wines and spirits, chat show reinvention, Michael Parkinson, Windsor Castle, and David Bowie.
  • Why I’ve made the rare exception for Richard with my “I don’t give quotes for books” policy.
  • What secrets were revealed to Richard in Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries?
  • What’s Richard’s own peculiar talent, and how did he discover it?
  • How is it possible for Richard to be somewhat hopeless with numbers, yet have such a good investing track record? Here’s where the star principle comes into play.
  • How did Richard decide on a bet size of $1.5 million in a certain investment?
  • In his book The Star Principle, what does it mean when a business can “segment itself?”
  • What are the principles that govern the constitution of Richard’s own portfolio?
  • Richard fills us on the circumstances surrounding his firing from BCG and what happened afterward when he met Bill Bain.
  • What is the growth share matrix (aka the Boston box)?
  • What did Bain and Company appreciate about Richard that was not appreciated at BCG?
  • What was the result of being asked to behave like a partner at Bain and Company nine months before Richard could officially be announced as one?
  • What has Richard picked up from the book Perspectives on Strategy by BCG that makes it a recommended read? What are some additional titles that make the cut?
  • Why does Richard consider principles better than knowledge, and how did his book The 80/20 Principle come to be?
  • What makes Richard most happy? How does he ensure he’s allocating his time and energy appropriately to optimize that happiness?
  • The two types of journaling I enjoy compared to Richard’s journaling style.
  • Who has more fun in life: adventurers or controllers?
  • What was the spark that prompted Richard to write his new book, Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It?
  • How does Richard define success, and what are the nine landmarks he’s found present in 20 people he considers successful?
  • Landmark one: self-belief (and what you might do if you lack it).
  • Landmark two: Olympian expectations.
  • Landmark three: transforming experiences. (And if someone hasn’t had a transforming experience, is it possible to engineer one?)
  • Landmark four: one breakthrough achievement (and how this differs from the other landmarks).
  • Landmark five: make your own trail.
  • Landmark six: find and drive your personal vehicle.
  • Landmark seven: thrive on setbacks.
  • Landmark eight: acquire unique intuition.
  • Landmark nine: distort reality.
  • How do these landmarks often reinforce one another?
  • What Nelson Mandela did to acquire unique intuition during what could have been the bleakest time in his life.
  • The annual question Richard asks himself in lieu of committing to new year’s resolutions.
  • Parting thoughts.