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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 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 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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