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Book Summaries

Switch by Chip & Dan Heath: Book Summary

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In this book summary of Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, you’ll find my notes, high-level ideas, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

Switch Summary

Your brain and mind aren’t the same. Sometimes you know what to do but do the opposite—so information alone isn’t enough to consistently create a change of behavior.

Your willpower runs out over the course of the day. Keep that in mind as you go through your day.

“Change is hard because people wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.”

What appears as resistance to do something is often a lack of clarity of what to exactly do. Specifics and concrete guidance is very important to change.

The way to change behavior is to direct the mind, make an emotional appeal, and shape the environment.

The rational person’s biggest fault is overanalyzing and spinning their wheels without going anywhere—it’s a double-edged sword because usually analyzing helps them make good decisions.

Focusing on small bright spots is a way to believe that change is possible. That belief is enough to produce real change over time.

Small changes can often solve a big problem. That’s why people will get in the way when they look for the big solution, because they miss the small changes.

Ambiguity is the enemy of change. If people don’t know what to do, they will fallback on their old habits. Clarity is crucial to eliminating resistance to change.

Knowing the destination is a powerful method for change because it inspires both the rational (who gets to know where you’re going) and emotional part of a person (who gets to know why).

“We’re all loophole exploiting lawyers when it comes to our own self-control.”

Negative feelings only motivate a specific action in the short-term. It’s not ideal for long-term change and growth. What’s best for long-term change is to inspire open minds, creativity, joy, and hope.

A genius way to motivate people’s emotions is to get them to feel like they’re closer to completion than they think. To inspire hope for the emotional part of the person, set up small wins that are meaningful and within immediate reach. This snowballs over time to produce big wins.

People are more likely to change if the change aligns with the identity they desire and they’re confident they can do it.

Sometimes it’s not the person, but the situation at fault. So tweak the environment and see how they respond.

Look for ways to encourage habits, this way it doesn’t take a bunch of decision-making and energy out of the individual to make behavioral changes.

Help change spread and it will soon be contagious, making it easier for everyone else to change.

“Change isn’t an event; It’s a process.” And you need to be persistent to keep the process going.

Mini Summary

Successful changes in behavior have three things in common: 1) the person gains crystal-clear direction, 2) their emotional side is committed to the change, 3) they shape the path by making the surrounding environment more supportive to their change.

Knowledge isn’t enough to make most people change. They need to desire to change and feel that it’s possible.

The way to make change last is to reinforce and encourage progress, and stay persistent.

Three Favorite Quotes

“Knowledge does not change behavior,” he said. “We have all encountered crazy shrinks and obese doctors and divorced marriage counselors.”

“When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different once you get there.”

“Failing is often the best way to learn, and because of that, early failure is a kind of necessary investment.”

Action Steps For You

Your first action step is to identify what you need to change to live a more satisfying life. If you have solid self awareness, you can do this on your own. But some of you may be better off asking a close friend or family member what they think you should change.

Don’t think about the steps yet or how hard it will be, just spend a few minutes identifying what you want and need to change. Many times this is the thing you want to change least, because it will draw you the most out of your comfort zone.

First, script the important moves and have a clear destination.

For example, if you want to start a YouTube channel, some important moves would be to define your subject, decide what camera you’re going to use (built-in computer camera, phone, or fancy camera), and decide how many times you’re going to post each week. And then the destination could be to get to 20,000 subscribers after one year, or make $1,000 a month off of YouTube advertising in two years.

Then, do what you need to to feel the desire for change and get emotionally attached.

For example, knowing you want to find success on YouTube isn’t often enough. But knowing you want to grow a YouTube channel to become a full-time entrepreneur (identity), move out of your parent’s place (positive consequence), or travel the world filming (identity and consequence) is going to motivate the emotional part of you.

Next, improve the environment, build habits, and get others involved in your change.

So for building the YouTube channel, it’d be wise to designate a certain space as your spot for YouTube to improve the environment of your change. One helpful habit would be to designate certain times throughout the week that is reserved strictly for recording. And you could persuade a group of friends to start their YouTube channel and have a healthy competition to make producing new videos contagious.

And lastly, get started with small steps, one foot in front of the other.

Praise yourself when you do well and don’t harp on the failures—they’re a sign of progress. Then stick with it and learn from your experience as you go. Continue the process. For this example, keep posting new YouTube videos and trusting that you’re going to get better over time.

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Book Summaries

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli: Book Summary

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In this book summary of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, you’ll find my notes, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

The Prince Summary

When you know that trouble is looming, you can easily and effectively deal with it. But if you wait until it surprises you then you’ll react too slow and the result is finished, you won’t be able to do anything about it.

A key principle of politics is to not let others grow too powerful or you will be the one who sets up your own downfall.

Things that come quickly and grow fast are often the first to go when a storm hits since they don’t have any roots, structure, or foundation to rely on.

To stay in power, you either need to win over people or destroy them to the point where they can’t retaliate. If you slightly damage them, they’ll come back with revenge and threaten your power.

Never underestimate the power of public support. It’s easy to be swayed, won, and lost, but you need it if you’re to get or remain in a powerful position in most cases.

The nobles want to oppress people and the people’s desire is to escape oppression. You’ll be stronger and safer if the people elect you king compared to the noble’s electing you king. Winning public support is huge to stay in power.

If you don’t have enough resources or money to defend yourself, and you rely on others, you’ll always have a weakness when things go wrong. Powerful states can rely on their own resources to defend a long attack.

Don’t hire mercenaries because they are cowards in times of war and paying them a salary isn’t enough to get them to have the loyalty to die for you. Reaching a deal to get another ruler’s army to fight for you (auxiliary armies) are always useless because you lose, or win and are at their mercy.

“In fact, the thing most likely to bring about a ruler’s downfall is his neglect of the art of war; the thing most likely to win him power is becoming an expert in it.”

A wise leader will work hard during peacetime to strategically prepare for every possible outcome so when tough times come, they’re ready to execute.

Machiavelli argues rulers it’s beyond the realm of possibility to be both loved and feared. Rulers should seek to be feared than for this better ensures their power and safety.

Successful rulers are both wise like the fox and ferocious like the lion. They can channel both their mental acuity and dangerous side to get the job done.

The absolute best way for a ruler to win respect is from major military victories (achievements) and incredible personal qualities.

Choose your ministers wisely, because they can loyally support you if their needs are met but if they have selfish ambitions then they’ll turn on you at their best chance to.

Mini Summary

A ruler must establish their power on solid foundations or they’re bound to fail and lose power, their position, and sometimes their life. Solid foundations include good laws and a strong army, but it all starts with a strong army.

It’s far greater for a ruler to be feared than loved. For if he’s loved and things get dangerous, people will turn their back on him. But if he’s feared, people will fear the consequences of turning their back on him and thus remain loyal. (A ruler can’t have his people hate him though, that’s dangerous.)

A ruler is in trouble when his subjects (army, nobles, or people) feel hatred or contempt against him. It’s seemingly impossible to hold power at this point. To avoid this, don’t show extreme cruelty or weakness.

Three Favorite Quotes

“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”

“Men in general judge more by the sense of sight than by the sense of touch, because everyone can see but few can test by feeling. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are; and those few do not dare take a stand against the general opinion.”

“The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”

Action Steps For You

I could have gone 100 different ways in recommending an action step from The Prince. That’s why you should read the short novel yourself—it’s a unique read.

But let’s focus on Machiavelli’s thought that wise rulers who want to remain in power must surround themselves with helpful counsel.

This is crucial since you’re going to need other people if you’re going to succeed in life on a large scale.

So look around your life. In your job and even with your friends, are you surrounded by people that positively influence your life or ones that are all self-ambitious and look out for only themselves?

Do the people around you give you solid advice or does doing what they say come back to blow up in your face?

Do you 100% trust those you work with and your friends?

How do your coworkers and friends respond when you’re personally in times of trouble? Is it a helping hand or do they laugh and say, “Good luck with that.”

If you lost your job this second, who would support you and who would distance themselves?

Those are the questions you need to ask yourself if you want to avoid being burned down the road.

Machiavelli, and I would agree, that you need to surround yourself with solid counsel. Find wise coworkers. Meet real friends who enjoy your success, not fake friends who are entertained when you fail.

Because most often, you’re only as prosperous as the counsel you keep around you. A ruler, a janitor, and everyone in between could heed this action step just as well.

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Book Summaries

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich: Book Summary

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In this book summary of The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, you’ll find my notes, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

The Accidental Billionaires Summary

Luck can play a significant role in how successful or rich people become. Eduardo Saverin was lucky to meet and befriend Mark Zuckerberg of all people he could have met at Harvard.

The phrase “it pays to be in the right place at the right time” couldn’t be truer when it comes to the cofounders of Facebook. All it took is missing a meeting, living in a different hall, or living in a different dorm and the odds are they don’t join Mark with Facebook.

Many hackers and computer nerds think differently about justice and fairness than traditional organizations do. In Zuckerberg’s mind, he was doing less than shoplifting by borrowing pictures of Harvard classmates from the school’s databases.

It’s a 10x, 100x, or 1,000x advantage to be the first adopter of something (in this case a social network exclusive to Harvard students). Everyone else will always be playing catch up to the company or individual who makes the first big land grab and gets popular for it. Speed kills!

If you enter a business agreement with someone, no matter how early in the process, make sure the expectations are clear and legally binding. Too much to lose by being lazy or relaxed about it.

Mark Zuckerberg is a great entrepreneur because he has incredible focus where he can ignore any distraction (including sleep) to stay on task. He was a workhorse on the computer in the early days of Facebook.

A business that knows how to manufacture virality by getting their customers family and friends to join them is going places. Facebook added users like it was nobody’s business, virality is a main reason why.

It’s wild that after Facebook took off, Mark Zuckerberg seemed more famous than Bill Gates during Gates’ speech that Mark attended.

Unless you’re ok with losing control, it’s a huge mistake to live in a location different from where all the other founders and employees are working on the company. (Bad move by Eduardo to be alone in New York while the rest of the team is in California.)

Your ownership of the company should come down to how much you produce in value to benefit the company.

Often people who have it good (like being students at Harvard) turn out successful, but they don’t become revolutionaries in their industry. Seems like a risk-taker who has the mindset he has nothing to lose has the opportunity to think riskier and take bigger chances. Zuckerberg wasn’t the average college student afraid to risk really good for something unbelievable.

Choosing to please your parents instead of following your intuition can leave you unhappy, less successful, and feeling miserable with regret.

Sean Parker was the reason Mark Zuckerberg met Peter Thiel, Facebook received $500,000 in seed money, and stayed afloat until it became a money-making machine. Your connections or lack of them can make you or break you in business.

When you feel you’re wronged in business with your intellectual property being stolen, the first option is to get it back. The second and least attractive option is to sue.

As companies with friends grow to become massive, the friendship is tested to the point where it often breaks. There’s something about money and power that can destroy relationships. Trust is also harder to come by with more on the line.

Even if they helped your business grow rapidly, employees who threaten the company can’t stick around. It’s too much of a liability for operations and company culture.

Mini Summary

Brilliant results come when you have the ingredients of genius innovation, brilliant mentorship from the people around you, and a tireless work-ethic. Facebook was built from the blood, sweat, and tears of Zuckerberg and his team.

To build a monster company like Facebook, it takes 100% commitment, ruthless decision making, and you’re going to piss a few (or a lot) of people off. There’s no way to play nice with everyone and build a company to that magnitude.

Though it all started from the humble grounds of a dorm room, Facebook is now one of the world’s most unimaginably successful companies. It goes to show that innovation can happen anywhere at anytime, so keep your eyes open.

Three Favorite Quotes

“To guys like Mark, time was another weapon of the establishment, like alphabetical order. The great engineers, hackers – they didn’t function under the same time constraints as everyone else.”

“That was the thing about VC money. It was awesome—until it wasn’t.”

“Having been a part of two major companies—and witnessed many more successes and failures—he knew that the most important aspect of a start-up was the energy and ambition of the founding players. If you were going to do something like this—really do it, really succeed—you had to live and breathe the project. Every minute of every day.”

Action Steps For You

Admittedly this book is harder to give you action steps since it’s not a traditional personal development book. Though there are a few key takeaways you can implement in your life to reach your dreams.

First, it all starts with drive. Zuckerberg’s hunger to not only build Facebook, but make it such a great user experience that college students would share it with their friends was second to none.

This guy is an animal who put Facebook above eating, social life, and sleeping.

Now I would question, and possible discourage Mark Zuckerberg’s unhealthy sleeping habit, but the fact he stayed hungry to his mission above all else is commendable.

How committed are you to your cause? Does it come before your social life, peer pressure commitments, weekly comforts, and relax time? If you have big aspirations, you need to put your mission ahead of things that people with less ambition spend their time on.

Second, look who Zuckerberg had around him to build Facebook to what it is today. I’m talking power players like Sean Parker (started two billion dollar startups), Steve Chen (later founded YouTube), Peter Thiel (cofounded PayPal), Matt Cohler (later cofounded LinkedIn), Dustin Moskovitz (later founded Asana), and Adam D’Angelo (later founded Quora).

Mark is a stud and had brilliant people around him. Those two forces combined makes for an insanely successful company, aka Facebook.

Who are the people you hang around? Are they helping you move closer to your dreams or are they holding you back?

The truth is in your results right now. So if you’re not making progress, find better friends. Your entire perspective and results will change once you’re around people who support you.

If you don’t like Zuckerberg or these action steps, this book is extremely interesting from the controversial plot alone. You can learn more about it below.

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Book Summaries

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: Book Summary

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In this book summary of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, you’ll find my notes, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

Big Magic Summary

Behind all creativity is the critical question do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you. People are hoping and counting that you do. Please bring them into the world!

The goal to produce creative work isn’t to be fearless, because that’s reckless and crazy. Anytime you do creative work your mind will also feel fear because the result is unknown. So when you learn to let your creativity and fear coexist then you green light your ability to create in a healthy manner.

Ideas will come and go for you to say no or yes to depending on your gut feeling about it. You’ll do your best work when you cooperate fully with inspiration and its mysteries, whether it works with you or you choose to faithfully let it go.

“You do not need anyone’s permission to live a creative life.” It’s your birthright to make any kind of creative art you imagine for the sake of just doing it. Keeping this in mind will help you live a creative life.

If what holds you back is the thought that your work wouldn’t be original since someone else has already done it then consider this, “Most things have already been done—but they have not yet been done by you.” Aim to be authentic, not original.

The real difficult work as a creative is not the bursts of inspiration, it’s the moments when things aren’t coming naturally and easy but you stay committed and persevere until you find that next moment where it doesn’t feel like work to be creative.

If you want to ensure your creative work remains free and safe, then keep your day job until you’re guarantee you can live off of your creative work. Too many people put the pressure on their creative work to pay the bills and then go bankrupt or kill their creativity.

“Done is better than good.” Make this note a habit you replay in your mind to put out more work.

Trust that your creative work loves you as much as you love it. It’s a reciprocal relationship since this inspiration came looking for you and needs you to get out in the world. That’ll help you look at your work as love instead of suffering. (This mindset will also improve your quality of life.)

Seek curiosity over passion if you want to live a creative life. Passion comes and goes randomly. But you can choose to follow tiny curiosities and see where they lead.

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.We are terrified, and we are brave.Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.“

Mini Summary

Get comfortable enough with your fears so that they only remind you what you’re doing is important and so they don’t get in the way of you creating art or following your passion. Let your fears and passion coexist, not go to war against each other.

Just give yourself permission to start already without overthinking and ruining it for yourself before you begin. Creating in the beginning with no expectations of being amazing is how you get good in the future. Everyone starts from somewhere small, so it’s ok if you do too.

Perfectionism is the silent murderer of all creative work that whispers you and your work is not good enough. Relieve yourself of it by taking care of yourself or you’ll never find your inner treasurers to share with the world and yourself.

Three Favorite Quotes

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”

Action Steps For You

Like many of these book summaries on personal development, at the core is this idea that you need to give yourself permission to be creative.

So if you know in your heart of hearts that you’re fixed on being a pianist, writer, singer, poet, painter, actor, etc., then you must sneak in time each day to act on it. Love yourself by letting yourself pursue this.

Who cares if people don’t support you? Why bother if you might fail? That’s part of life.

Regardless of the odds of success or how much money you’ll make doing it, it’s a misfortune for you and the world if you don’t share spend the time to bring out your talents and see what comes of it.

Instead, make a promise to always follow your creative passion and when you stick to it, you’ll get the reward from what you become in the process.

It’s better to treat your fixation on this like a love affair where you sneak time in each day to pursue it.

The reason to live a creative life is not about external rewards and material conquests, but about working on your craft by being persistent with daily activity.

For example, the author of this book, Elizabeth Gilbert, made a promise to write every single day in her twenties (sometimes for as little as 30 minutes) and she fulfilled this commitment.

She worked side jobs to support herself before her writing could a decade later. But she never stopped creating. And during that time ideas came and left her, until she found the right ones that inspired her to bring them to live, like her world-famous book Eat, Pray, Love.

Also, creating work doesn’t have to be stressful. Keep that in mind and stick with your day job until it’s absolutely certain your creative outlet can support your lifestyle.

When you don’t put pressure on your creativity, your creative love stays with you the rest of your life. But too much pressure and expectations can cripple your creativity before it has a chance to fly.

What’s your action step? Give yourself permission to create big magic.

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