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Book Summaries

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller: Book Summary

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In this book summary of The One Thing by Gary Keller, you’ll find my notes, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

The ONE Thing Summary

“Going small is a simple approach to extraordinary results, and it works. It works all the time, anywhere and on anything. Why? Because it has only one purpose—to ultimately get you to the point.”

People often believe lies, that they think are truths, which get in their own way of success.

None of your to-do items and decisions matter equally. One always trumps another in terms of importance and results, consistently pick that one.

“Sometimes it’s the first thing you do. Sometimes it’s the only thing you do. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.”

Their problem isn’t not enough time in the day to get things done, it’s the attempt to try to do too many things in 24 hours. Focus on one task at a time and don’t multi-task—that will only slow you down and waste time.

Since it takes about 66 days to establish a new habit according to science, focus on that one thing and nothing else. Then you’ll make the hard thing in your life easy because you’ll have disciplined yourself to do it. And not only the thing you’ve trained yourself to do becomes easier, but also the other things in your life as a result after you’ve established that habit.

You don’t have an unlimited amount of willpower each day. It comes and goes, so use it wisely, live healthy, and do your most important task to start the day so you never miss it because of lack of willpower.

You’ll be most successful when you counterbalance your personal  life and work. Don’t neglect one of them for too long or you’ll eventually have a problem.

Aim for big achievements because that will get you to think big and take big actions. Mimic what other people have done and don’t be afraid to fail. You have to strive to live a big life, otherwise you’re living small and capping your own potential for no reason.

“Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.” This leads you to answer the Focusing Question: What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

To be successful, ask the Focusing Question in all areas of your life: spiritual, relationships, personal, health, work, and finances.

You want to pursue a big and specific goal. And the way you accomplish it is in two parts. At the minimum you research what the best do and take the same action, and secondly you look for the trend or what to do in the future to get ahead of everyone.

The way to be happy is to live a life of purpose. Find what drives you and chase that! If you’re unsure, then try something interesting and see if it’s your purpose or not over time. If it’s not, go back to the drawing board until you find your why for life.

Set out a large time block of four hours each day to do your one thing. Make this time uninterrupted and without your phone or email. It has to be all focused on putting effort into your one priority. Say no to smaller priorities that suck from your time.

Aim to become a master, the best, an expert, at your one thing. And put in the commitment and work ethic that a master would put in to their craft. This mindset will push you to do more.

Just keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, because slow progress over time builds up momentum. That’s how you build toward extraordinary success!

You’ll live a satisfied life if you take actions to ensure you don’t live with regrets. No regrets makes for a beautiful existence.

Mini Summary

The majority of your results comes from the minority of your work. Your goal is to focus most of your time—every day—on the one, single activity that gets you the most results. Do this until it becomes a habit you don’t even have to think about.

Think big. Act big (through thousands of small actions). Live big. You won’t have regrets when you do that.

The path to extraordinary results is through connecting purpose, priority, and productivity. When you have those three aligned and working together, nothing can stop you from rising to the top.

Three Favorite Quotes

“If everyone has the same number of hours in a day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others? How do they do more, achieve more, earn more, have more? If time is the currency of achievement, then why are some able to cash in their allotment for more chips than others? The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small.”

“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls– family, health, friends, integrity– are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”

“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”

Action Steps For You

You have to commit to discovering your one thing and then pursuing that every day. That’s how you’re going to live a fulfilled life and make progress by leaps and bounds.

So what is your one thing that interests you more than anything else in your career, for example? What do you want to accomplish above all?

Once you’ve got that in mind, create a success list of milestones you need to do to reach your one thing. These should be clear, individual actions you can take from start to finish.

For example, if your one thing is to be location independent so you can travel the world, your list of milestones or dominoes could look like:

  • Find a domain name
  • Build a website with an email capture
  • Publish two blog posts a week (or podcasts, or YouTube videos)
  • Send one email a week to subscribers
  • Write a book
  • Sell coaching
  • Sell an online course

(You’d want to be more specific of when you’re going to get these done and have a longer success list, but this list paints a decent picture.)

And then do whatever it takes to solely focus on those milestones and ignore the unnecessary, little things that distract you—meetings, emails, less-important tasks, phone interruptions.

If you have a 9 to 5 job, block off four hours each night to focus on the specific action you need to do to move forward.

The secret is simple once you go all the way in with it. Eventually enough dominoes will fall, your progress will build on itself, and your one thing will be so close you can taste it.

And remember your one thing applies to all aspects of life. Let it be a bright light in your work, health, relationships, finances, and overall happiness.

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Book Summaries

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Book Summary

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In this book summary of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you’ll find my notes, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

The Great Gatsby Summary

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Money alone doesn’t create happiness. Tom and Daisy are incredibly wealthy but stuck in a depressive marriage because of Tom’s unfaithfulness.

It’s in the best interest of the man and the woman that they think long and hard before they marry someone and regret it. Both Tom and Daisy and Wilson and Myrtle made the wrong choice—then had to live with the consequences of an unhappy marriage.

Gatsby is a people pleaser who wants to ensure everyone has a good time at the lavish parties at his mansion, and cares that his name holds an excellent reputation in the city. But he doesn’t desire to get too close to anyone.

Money attracts a whole bunch of fake friends, freeloaders, and haters. People who never met Gatsby are calling him a murderer or Germany spy, yet they show up to his parties.

“Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that green light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.”

In the anticipation of a moment, our imagination can be so high in the clouds that when the magical moments comes, it’s impossible for it to live up to the hype of our minds. Gatsby’s fantasizing about meeting Daisy again overshadowed the real her to a degree.

As much as you want to and people spend the rest of their lives trying to, you can’t repeat the past. No one can. It’ll never be the same as you envision it.

If you run a shady business like Gatsby where you have to make deals behind closed doors, it’s most often going to catch up with you. You’ll always have to look over your shoulder with the fear of getting caught.

It’s a dangerous game to make love to someone else’s wife. Gatsby got caught and then Tom used that anger to put an end to Gatsby’s life by insinuating he ran over Myrtle.

“What was the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her the great things I was going to do?” I totally disagree with this statement from Gatsby. The fun is doing the things, not talking about them—that’s too short-term.

Gatsby paid for tying his sole identity into getting Daisy back. It’s not wise to attach all of your identity to someone else’s feelings about you.

Your legacy and how you made people feel becomes clear at your funeral depending on how many people show up and what they say about you. Gatsby had thousands of people go to his parties, but couldn’t get a soul to show at his funeral.

Gatsby built his success on hard work and habits. While not the most ethical business, he did hustle to be able to profit and afford the lifestyle he desired to capture Daisy’s attention again.

Mini Summary

Gatsby and Daisy could have lived happily ever after, if Gatsby had enough money and a wealthy family backing to support their future. But he didn’t, so they broke up and she married Tom—leading Gatsby to spend every day after trying to jump classes and enter high-society. But Gatsby could never full escape the consequences of the class he was born to, and his desperate pursuits ultimately led to his death.

Life is better when you try to make the most of the present. Always looking back on the past leads you to make bad decisions and ends up in tragedy. Gatsby could have been a great man who lived into his old age of glory if he let go of memories of Daisy.

Gatsby sought wealth to win Daisy back and prove his worth to himself, but in the end it left him hopeless and with nothing but material possessions. He’s left with no wife, no close friends, and no peace after Daisy officially chose Tom. Money helps, but ultimately it doesn’t buy happiness by itself. Gatsby would say the same.

Three Favorite Quotes

“A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”

“He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.”

“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning——So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Action Steps For You

Gatsby made the impeccable mistake of living his life backwards. Every action was meant to correct his past deficiency with Daisy, a lack of wealth and prestige, and it cost him his life.

What this tells me is we have to accept the past and move on. We can’t change it. It is what it is.

Let’s take the lesson learned and move on to be the best version of ourselves. Let’s find hope in an undiscovered and unknown future. Let’s live the most out of our one life going forward.

Specifically, if your high school sweetheart broke it off in college, you can be hurt and feel all the emotions you need to feel. But don’t carry that pain with you 5 years later. There’s a whole new world of guys or girls that would do anything to be with you. With your blinders on, you won’t be able to see anyone but your ex.

If you were bullied in middle school, don’t carry that depression into your thirties. Accept the fact you went through an unfortunate and awful time that you didn’t deserve, but then appreciate the toughness that helped you get through it. You still are so young so work towards finding happiness in the present, in the now, today and every day going forward.

Or if you’re gray and old with broken family relationships that haunt you, you’re still breathing so there’s still time to heal those relationships. Make the call to your estranged daughter. Apologize. Tell them you want to work towards reconciliation and put the past behind you too.

The best thing you can do for yourself and everyone around you is to live in the present and give all of your energy on a daily basis. The past is the past, the rest of your life is now.

Gatsby couldn’t get over the past—aka Daisy—and it broke his heart.

Your life can have a better ending than Gatsby’s, if you choose to love yourself and move on.

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Book Summaries

Napoleon by Vincent Cronin: Book Summary

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In this book summary of Napoleon by Vincent Cronin, you’ll find my notes, valuable lessons, and important action steps.

Napoleon Summary

Napoleon felt strongly in favor of the oppressed and against any form of tyranny.  Napoleon Bonaparte believed personal happiness came from acting on behalf of your community to better their lives.

After losing his first siege, Napoleon learned the power of quick decision making, seizing the moment, and striking when there’s a favorable advantage.

Napoleon aimed to be a true man of the people by not declaring his personal religion on them, but instead he gained insight to understand the majority desires of the French people—Catholicism—and then made that the decree.

While most generals would send a part of their army one by one in war, Napoleon outsmarted them by sending his footmen, cavalry, and guns all at one faction and destroying it, then moving onto another faction. Opposing generals didn’t know what hit them until they lost the battle.

If you’re outnumbered, you need to win based on strategy and skill because you won’t win in a normal attack. Napoleon thrived at winning when undermanned.

Deciding it best for France, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor and it worked because he had the support of the entire French army.

Using friends of all classes and nobility, France ruled the French Empire significantly well given its large responsibility. He improved French streets, architecture, finances, and the pride of the people.

Napoleon’s impatience in his 1812 invasion of Russia cost his army big. If he waited until after the nasty winter, he would have most likely destroyed Russia and agreed to a favorable peace treaty with them.

Napoleon’s philosophy is if you risk nothing, you win nothing. (I love this!)

Presenting yourself with confidence inspires confidence in your organization and others. It’s a powerful skill to master. Napoleon used this after his Russian defeat to stay in control of the government.

“Napoleon’s inflexibility could have never stemmed from so feeble a thing as personal ambition; it was rooted in the principles of the Revolution. The conclusion is that Napoleon not, more than most men, ambitious for himself; but he was very ambitious for France an he embodied the ambitions of thirty million Frenchmen.”

Napoleon put France’s honor above France’s interests and went to war against the continental powers of Russia, Prussia, and Austria. This united opponent caused his military downfall.

One of Napoleon’s fatal flaws was that he didn’t understand human nature. It’s this reason his sister lands defected to his enemy, the Parisians when it came time to defend Paris, and his most important general during treaty talks.

There’s often a favorable moment in war where the fate of each side can be determined. Act decisively and win it, or wait too long that the battle becomes a tie or loss.

You can’t win forever and all good things come to an end. After two captures, Napoleon finally dies as a prisoner in the English territory of St. Helena at 51 years old.

Mini Summary

Napoleon sought power not for his personal ambition, but to protect France’s republic and right to liberty, equality, and fraternity. Those were the motivations for his foreign and domestic decisions. And this truth led him to unmatched bravery and iron willpower as he ruled the battlefield and government.

Napoleon goes down in history as one of the best military generals ever based on his operational army formations, quick decision-making, using strengths against opposing army weaknesses, and having individual factions of his army work together in unison. He used his innovative military strategy to expand France into one of the greatest empires Europe had seen in that time and a beautiful country.

Napoleon changed the landscape of Europe forever based on his accomplishments, wars with nearly every European country, military style, and his improvements to cities. After coming from a middle class family, he made the most of his life and his legacy lives on to prove it.

Three Favorite Quotes

“The Maddalena affair left a lasting impression on Napoleon. It taught him, as only failure could, the difficulty of combined operations. It taught him the importance of speed, of the ‘favorable moment’ when men are tensed for action, and the enemy surprised. It taught him the vital importance of firmness in a commander, and of discipline in the ranks.”

“At dinner Napoleon talked of his campaigns, and confided the secret of success: ‘the essential thing is to be afraid last’.”

“I have a good job, ruling the Empire. I could be in Paris, enjoying myself, lazing about… Instead, here I am with you, camping out; and in action like anyone else I can be hit by a bullet… I’m trying to rise above myself. Everyone in his own station must do the same. That’s what greatness means.”

Action Steps For You

Napoleon was a man of strong-willed convictions. He genuinely would die for France, his honor, and his family. That’s what drove his career choice and eventual success.

What irrefutable truth do you hold? What’s your why? What’s your northern star that will propel you forward during the victories and also trials?

Knowing who you are and your central truth is going to help you reverse engineer what it is you want out of life. By discovering your mission, you’ll have a strong foundation to rest on instead of weak desires.

And secondly, how can you use that to build yourself an accomplished career that you’re forever proud of? If it’s not clear, this route is the opposite of taking a soul-sucking-job solely for the money.

It’s aligning your passion to become the best version of yourself. It’s denying yourself in the short-term to build yourself a happy future. It’s looking back on your life with proud honor, not poor man’s disgrace.

Napoleon did it. I’m working towards. Why don’t you start today?

P.S. It wouldn’t hurt to read this book to get a clearer idea of his personal convictions and how they empowered him to be France’s all-time greatest leader.

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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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