The Other 90% : Book Review; V5 Issue 1

Title: The Other 90% 
Author: Robert K Cooper
Publication details: Crown Publishers, a division of Random House Inc., 2001
Number of pages: 320 pages

“Have I given my best at it?” This is a question that Robert K Cooper the author of the book ‘The Other 90%’ makes the reader reflect on right at the beginning of the book. Conventional science has proven that human kind does not even use one thousandth of its capabilities; and there is no doubt that human kind can scale greater heights if even a small fraction of this untapped capabilities are put to use. The author believes that the opportunity to go beneath and beyond conventional thinking and self–imposed limits exist for each of us by knowing and practicing simple but effective steps. In his book he proposes techniques that will help existing and aspiring leaders to make a subtle difference in the way they think, act and react towards making them successful in their business and personal endeavours.

The four key stones for tapping the unexplored capabilities and to undertake a search for the other 90% are:-

  1. TRUST (building and sustaining exceptional relationship)
  2. ENERGY (increasing the calm effectiveness under pressure)
  3. FARSIGTHEDNESS (envisaging and creating the future)
  4. NERVE (exceeding expectations) 

For each of these four key stones the author gives mostly simple and practical mechanisms, techniques and suggested theories, drawn from his own personal life experience, his learning from his grandfather and inspirations drawn from great people such as Lance Armstrong, Mother Theresa, Thomas Edison, Richard Branson, Galileo and many many others.

The ‘Trust key stone’ is an exploration into oneself, into one’s capabilities and also the feel that one exerts upon the people who one works with and leads. By possessing original ideas, using all the 3 brains a human being has (scientifically as explained by the author – gut in the intestine, feel of values and goals in the heart and the intellect in the brain), valuing others and living the life by setting trust as your greatest asset (like a lighthouse), one can have great stepping stones to tap the remaining 90%.

While talking about the ‘Energy key stone’ the author explains how the greatest energy of a cyclone lies in the central calm epicenter. It is imperative to understand the right amount of energy required for completion of any task. Techniques such as being quick without rushing, tapping on natural talents for excelling in life and maintaining a balance in emotions are learning modules. However, the most important point focused in the ‘Energy keystone’ is to ‘live the life.’ Spending time with family gives you more energy by putting more life in your day. Following this lesson will continuously replenish the energy we need to tackle bigger things in life. And more importantly this energy bank can give a continuous and perennial flow, if there is a good dosage of humor in one’s life. The author says, “Every single day, humor is a gift of energy. It startles us out of our routines. It puts things in perspective. It brings us closer together. It helps us face difficult times.”

“Little plans have no power to stir your blood” – Dreaming big is essentially not only just daring. The suggestion of the ‘Farsightedness key stone’ is based on research indicating that most successful and happy people have developed skills to keep looking farther ahead than they have to. The author’s lesson on ‘Extending the Time Horizon’ focuses on this topic. By relating the memories from the past to current realities, current potential and navigating towards desired results by altering and adjusting the course with regular plans, one can achieve that big dream eventually.

Nerve is explained as “an approach to life characterized by courage, exploitation and spirit.” This keystone encourages one to rise above adversity and challenge the boundaries of possibility in one’s life. Practical approaches suggested in this module includes – how to develop the skin of a rhino and soul of an angel, climbing one’s own mountain by shaping the edges of your own competitiveness and caring as if everything depends on one’s caring.

The lessons in this book provide a variety of practical ways to excel in a pleasure filled world with greater grace, ingenuity and empathy. The only requisite for the practitioner is to know what they are and when to use them. The revolutionary explanation of competitiveness in this book will certainly inspire every reader to unlock his/her vast untapped potential for leadership and life. 

" Competition is not in comparison with what others do, rather in excelling in one’s own capabilities and performance. "

Most of his work is useful and much of it is original. Cooper successfully ties together the physiological, mental, and social aspects of his topic. And although his personal accounts are quite frequent, they are mostly short and touching. Most of the content is the type of stuff you either immediately internalize or you do not internalize, rather than carrying it with you as an assignment. An exception is the admonition to frequently ask yourself what you've done lately that was exceptional and what exceptional things you plan to do in the near future. Another point I found especially useful was to know what your main values are. It sounds obvious but he takes it to another level by showing how people frequently are not living according to their values. Usage of famous quotations at the end of every chapter, exemplary combination of art and science and insights to little known techniques make this book truly a life guide.