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Summary: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

I’m a fan of Mike Michalowicz, the author of many good business books including ‘The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.’ In this book he tells the story that I summarize below as a way to illustrate his point.

Here’s my summary:

Imagine this, you’ve just used the office toilet. (#2)
You go to grab the TP and realize there’s only a few tattered sheets remaining on the roll.

Beginning to panic, you consider your three options:

  1. Yell out for help. (too embarrassing!)
  2. Do the hunched over shuffle of shame and hope to find TP nearby, then rush back toilet to finish what you started. (Horrible!)
  3. Manage with what you’ve got.

You go with the final option. The book now goes into great detail describing a dramatic scene in which you are scouring the room to get an inventory of options when you see the wastepaper basket that’s within a stretched toes’ grabbing range. You drag it to you and examine the contents. A used Kleenex (viable!), a Q-tip (yikes!), cotton balls (workable!), dental floss (no way!).

The scene ends with you walking out of the bathroom ‘fresh as a daisy’ after figuring out how to use the torn up cardboard roll and 3 tattered sheets in conjunction with the cotton balls and Kleenex to get the job done.

Sure, that’s a bit gross, but it presents a point I like to remind myself over and over – in business, and in life. It’s a message that I hope to pass on.

  • The less you have of something critical, the more important it becomes to use it wisely. When you have fewer resources, you will be forced to be thoughtful, creative and innovative. You will be careful with how you use what you have. The next time you use the toilet, you will not tear through the roll like there’s no end. And you will likely check ahead of time to make sure there’s plenty of TP before doing your business.

And, the opposite is also true.

  • When our resources are plentiful, we tend to be wasteful and uninventive.

This is true with everything – love, food, money, and especially toilet paper.


“Feel what it’s like to truly starve, and I guarantee that you’ll forever think twice before wasting food.”

— Criss Jami, Killosophy

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