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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: Book Summary

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In this book summary of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, you’ll find my notes, high-level ideas, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

The Happiness Project Summary

Each person is different, and that’s why each person’s happiness project should also be different.

According to research, genetics comprises about 50% of happiness levels, life circumstances is 10 to 20%, and the other 30 to 40% comes from the thoughts and actions of the individual. This means you can improve how happy you feel.

Some action steps to boost energy include going to sleep earlier, exercising better, organizing your surroundings, tackling an annoying task, and simply acting more energetic.

To improve your love life, stop nagging, don’t expect to be appreciated, fight fair, don’t dump on them, and show your love.

Gretchen found more happiness in work by launching a blog, enjoying failure, asking others for help, working smart, and appreciating the present.

Singing in the morning, acknowledging people’s real feelings, holding and sharing happy memories, and spending quality time on projects are a few ways to get more happiness out of being a parent.

You’ll find more enjoyment in leisure when you allow yourself to find more fun, joke around, do unexpected things, and begin a collection.

Finding joy in friendships can be improved when you remember birthdays, are generous, show up, don’t spread rumors, and make an effort to make new friends.

Money can make you happier when you modestly splurge, purchase things you need, don’t keep score of purchases, and give up something you don’t need to buy.

Reading about other people’s catastrophic personal events, keeping a gratitude journal, and imitating a spiritual giant can help your soul connect with the eternal aspect of life.

Passion and happiness go together, so the author Gretchen Rubin wrote a novel, made time for her passion (reading), forgot about the results, and mastered a new technology to become happier.

Mindfulness affects happiness, so meditation, thinking about why you make decisions, stretching the mind in new ways, and keeping track of what you eat may boost your mood.

Laughing more, having good manners, being positive, and finding a safe escape are likely to give you a good attitude and happy heart.

Putting all of your habits together is the true test for maximum happiness, though it is so worth it.

Gretchen’s best tool in her happiness project was her resolutions chart, which evaluated and reminder her of the month’s resolutions.

The whole point of doing a happiness project is to take action so you change and actually become happier for the long-term. Taking action is a necessity here.

Mini Summary

Spending significant time and energy on your happiness isn’t selfish. It can actually be the best for everyone because it improves your life and the lives around you.

Your daily habits influence your happiness far more than an activity you do once every month or so. Focus on improving your daily rituals is the surest way to become happier.

You don’t have as much time as you think because life is short. So you have to prioritize the things that matter to you and make you happy, before it’s too late.

Three Favorite Quotes

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

“When I find myself focusing overmuch on the anticipated future happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself to ‘Enjoy now’. If I can enjoy the present, I don’t need to count on the happiness that is (or isn’t) waiting for me in the future.”

Action Steps For You

I always recommend you go a step farther and actually read the entire books I summarize—not just the summaries—though you probably need to prioritize reading this one above all. We’re talking about your happiness after all.

Your first action step is to order this book and read about the author’s own happiness project. During her experiments, you’ll pick up creative ideas that will add to your happiness.

Then begin your own happiness project:

1) Reflect on what makes you happy, plus what puts you in a bad mood.

2) Think of specific, concrete actions that improve your happiness.

3) Keep your happiness resolutions for as long as you live (or until they change).

Then I believe you need to make a consistent effort to check in on your happiness. This could be monthly, weekly, or even daily. Just set up a reminder on your phone or in a note that gets you to check in on how you’re feeling and why.

Whether you’re a 1 out 10 on the happy scale or a 9 out of 10, I took this book as a direct sign I need to prioritize more of my happiness. And so do you!

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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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