Book Review: 10x is Easier Than 2x
The book seems to be saying that it is easier to grow your business 10x than it is to double it, and this loosely is the thesis, but the terms are used very inconsistently. Sometimes, 10x literally means 10 times as big, and 2x means twice as big, but other times 10x means radical change and 2x means incremental change. Like many authors who want to sell their philosophy, Hardy uses a lot of vague generalizations and anecdotal evidence to support his case. (Dan Sullivan is listed as the author, and Dr. Benjamin Hardy as the co-author, but it’s quickly apparent Dr. Hardy wrote the book, incorporating a lot of what Sullivan teaches.) It is true that sometimes the good can be the enemy of the best, and radical thinking is sometimes required to make a transformation. Often, however, continuous improvement can make a very large difference over time. Hardy believes it is not worthwhile to focus on opportunities for 10% improvement because there are so many, but this is exactly the reason incremental improvement can be so powerful. Seven tweaks that each change profitability by 10% compound to double profits. Double four times and you are sixteen times as profitable. In the field where I have the most familiarity, compounding investment returns is extremely powerful. Earning an extra percent or two per year over decades is a much better path to building wealth than gambling on potentially life-changing speculations. The other factor that the author calls out without realizing that it contradicts his main thesis is that often being just a little bit better can have outsized gains. A competitor who is 10% better than others will likely win a huge amount of business or being able to command price premiums well above the 10%. Hardy cites James Clear of Atomic Habits as an example of how to go for 10x, but criticizes Clear’s approach of upgrading small habits to transform oneself, opting for huge transformational action over small improvements. “2x thinking” is presented as the enemy that must be defeated. Having a hero (10x) and a villain (2x) makes for good storytelling, but for most people, doubling their business is good thing, not a bad thing. I found this sloppy use of language a bit off-putting. There was also a lot of repetition in the book. It felt like it could have been quite a bit shorter. On the plus side, Hardy spent a good part of the book summarizing his ideas from another of his books, so a reader can get the insights from two books while just reading one.
Hardy is clearly well-read and does a good job of citing and summarizing other good authors. Other than curating a lot of good ideas (from books I’ve already read), however, Hardy didn’t add much besides some stories of particularly successful people.
Despite its flaws, the book was thought-provoking, and an easy read. The basic premise is that the Pareto Principle is powerful idea. 20% of our activities drive 80% of our success. We should stive to spend as much of our time as possible on those 20% activities and delegate or streamline the 80% that is less effective toward our growth. As we progress and transform ourselves, what was the 20% may become our 80% that we need delegate to focus on the new 20%. Much of what most of us do is low-value work that could be delegated, automated, streamlined, or just simply ignored.
One good point is that incremental change can be relatively easy, but transformational change is hard. We have to give up things that we may enjoy, or that have even become part of our identity. Sometimes it takes radical surgery and extreme devotion to get to the next level, but the rewards are disproportionately large.
Another insight is that we may be better off to focus single-mindedly on the one thing that will make the biggest difference than on dozens of things that we’d like to improve. It may be harder at first, but over time it simplifies the vision.
Hardy stressed the need for psychological flexibility to transform ourselves. “Psychological flexibility is moving toward chosen goals even when it is emotionally difficult. You acknowledge and accept your emotions, but they don’t control you.” He suggests we use the 10x mindset as a filter to determine what we are going to do. Only do the things that lead to a dramatically improved life. “10x isn’t about more. It’s about less.” Mercilessly cut the activities that only keep us where we are. Incremental growth can be had with incrementally more effort, but effort alone won’t lead to 10x growth. By necessity we will need to change what we do to reach that level of effectiveness.
Commitment is a powerful concept for transformation. Dan Sullivan says, “Nothing happens until you commit.” Sometimes to get from where you are to where you want to be, you have to jettison practices or services that are working, but that won’t take you very far. This can be hard when we base our identity on what we are currently doing. It feels like we are letting part of ourselves go, but this is essential to self-transformation.
One of the case studies summarizes 10X thinking well: “Think exponentially, which means thinking both much bigger and non-linearly. Hyper-focus on quality over quantity, and get really good at what you do. Build a team to handle everything else so you can focus on achieving quality in your craft.”
The point of 10x is to have more freedom. We excel in what we do so we can build the life we want. Along the way, we attract other high performers in search of freedom. To achieve 10x we need to focus on our unique ability – that which we enjoy and excel at. Be the best at that one thing. This gives us freedom from all the other things we had been doing, and frees up time for other endeavors. To do this effectively, we need to focus. Hardy suggests having no more than three activities in a day. Rather than doing a little of everything every day, we can have days dedicated to a specific activity or type of activity so that we don’t incur the inefficiency of task-switching. It is important to also have thinking days to hone the 20% and creatively move forward, as well as recovery days so that intense focus on working days can be maintained. Rest may look wasteful, but it’s not. It’s an important part of peak performance.
To truly drive exponential growth, a person must inspire a team of people who believe in the vision and do their part to make it happen. It is very difficult to become great without a team. “Frank Sinatra doesn’t move his own pianos.” Hardy suggests building a self-managing company. The founder then is able to continue reaping the fruit of the effort while being freed from day-to-day management. The conclusion sums up the book well, “If you’re serious about 10x, then freedom is the language and operating system that will get you there. Your own freedom as well as the freedom of everyone else who joins you on your 10x adventure.”