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Book Summaries

The Art Of War by Sun Tzu: Book Summary

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In this book summary of The Art Of War by Sun Tzu, you’ll find my notes, high-level ideas, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

The Art Of War Summary

To win war, you need to deceive the enemy by appearing weak when you’re strong, and strong when you’re weak.

Strike fast and do everything you can to secure a quick victory. Even if you win a war, but it takes too long, the benefits are limited and the toil is too big on the army and nation back home.

Use the resources of the enemy to supply your army and to better support your people and country back home from sacrificing their wealth.

“The Skillful Strategist defeats the enemy without doing battle, captures the city without laying siege, overthrows the enemy state without protracted war.” You can win everything and suffer no losses if you play with strategy instead of brute aggression.

To ensure victory, you have to first measure, estimate, calculate, and compare the enemy to yourself to see if its favorable.

The practice of leading a few individuals applies the same to leading a giant army. And a skilled general is proficient in getting the most out of their resources to defeat the enemy.

The most effective way to attack is to surprise the enemy and hit their weak spot. You can overcome lack of numbers when you have superior strategy that hammers the other side’s weakness and divides it into confused pieces.

Position matters a great deal to winning. Protect your army in valleys, have your back protected, camp high so you can fight downhill.

Concentrating strength and having a confident team is enough to win.

“The Wise Warrior, when he moves, is never confused; When he acts, is never at a loss.”

Never do any action out of spite or anger. Only take action when there is something to gain, otherwise be patient if there isn’t.

Mini Summary

The most critical factor to a winning strategy is in the planning stage, where you must calculate your strengths and weaknesses against the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. Only then can you properly decide if it is advantageous to attack, or stay put or flee.

The best offensive move to victory is to psychologically destroy the enemy before the actual war takes place, and take them over in peace with no killing necessary. Take their mind and heart out of it and the enemy has no chance.

Keep your own formation, intentions, and army as invisible and unknown as possible, while trying to pick up intel on your enemy so you know precisely how to attack. Deception is how you win, and also how you overcome being outnumbered. Being transparent is what will lead to destruction.

Three Favorite Quotes

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

Action Steps For You

It’s safe to assume none of you are army generals making battle plans. But don’t think these lessons don’t apply to your life. I guarantee they do.

You face battles every day on your journey to success whether you recognize it or not.

For example, it’s a battle between you and the other 100 candidates who are all gunning for the same job. It’s also a war between you and the interviewer to convince them that you’re the one they want to hire.

Once you get the job, you compete with your coworkers to get the promotion and win the free vacation to Australia. In the chaos of war are clients, proposals, and meetings you need to navigate and go on the offensive to close deals.

And if you run your own entrepreneurial business, the principles from The Art Of War almost apply in a one-to-one relationship.

For example, here’s one principle from Sun Tzu, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”  During a market recession when there’s less money, there’s still plenty of opportunity to pick up market share and expand while everyone is downsizing.

So what’s the main action step? I believe it’s this: Work on identifying your strengths and weaknesses, so you utilize your strengths to put yourself in the best position to succeed.

Although you’re not in a literal war, you are fighting for living life on your terms and not settling.

So take success as serious as you would take war. And implement these strategies from The Art Of War to be victorious.

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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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