Superhuman Social Skills by Tynan: Notes

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 “People will decide how much time to spend with you primarily based on how they feel when they’re around you”.

“You want to be the person who any of your friends can introduce to anyone they know and be sure that it will make them look good”.

To stand out, find positive attributes that most people don’t have and then build them.

The Five Big Ideas

“How we portray ourselves to others will define their experience of who we are”.

“Being a net addition is different than just not being a net negative. Being simply neutral is often a negative, as you are taking up an attendance slot that could have been used by someone else who could have been an addition. It’s important to proactively add to social situations”.

Build a social circle that will both challenge and support you, depending on what you need at the time.

“There are four main channels being communicated on at all times: content, meta, emotion, and status”.

“A master of communication must be able to have two major conversations (content and meta), while maintaining two minor conversations (emotion and status)”.

Superhuman Social Skills Summary

“How we portray ourselves to others will define their experience of who we are”.

“We change all the time, usually in imperceptible increments, so why not guide that change?”

“Being a net addition is different than just not being a net negative. Being simply neutral is often a negative, as you are taking up an attendance slot that could have been used by someone else who could have been an addition. It’s important to proactively add to social situations”.

“By ensuring that you’re always a net addition, even if you’re not a huge one, you will dramatically increase the number of events to which you are invited”.

“The goal is to build a social circle that will both challenge and support you, depending on what you need at the time”.

“There are four main channels being communicated on at all times: content, meta, emotion, and status”.

“Content is what we think of when we talk about communication superficially”.

“The meta channel is the undercurrent of the conversation. It’s the meaning behind the meaning– the implication”.

“Sometimes meta can be read in isolation, but it usually requires context”.

“The emotion channel is more of a passive signal than an active channel”.

“And last, the status channel is constantly sending out clues about our relative status”.

“A master of communication must be able to have two major conversations (content and meta), while maintaining two minor conversations (emotion and status)”.

“The meta channel may be the most important of the four”.

“The key thing to understand about the meta channel is that it’s running all the time”.

“The point of the meta channel is that it allows for shades of gray not afforded by the content channel”.

“Communicating on the meta channel also allows people to save face”.

“The first step to communicating on the meta channel is to constantly ask yourself why people are saying the things they say”.

“By making predictions and checking their accuracy later, you’ll begin to calibrate your brain”.

“Think about what you’d like to communicate, and decide whether it’s better to do it on the content channel or the meta channel. Which will make the other person feel more comfortable? Which will give you more options? Which gives them more options?”

“A lot of conversing is taking the other person on an emotional journey. You think about where they are emotionally, as well as where they want to be, and you use the emotional channel to guide them there, or keep them there if they want to stay in the same place”.

“When you join a new friend group, you want to understand the hierarchy. As an outsider, it’s important to maintain the harmony of the group, and not disturb it”.

“Understanding someone’s status is understanding how they view their place in the world”.

“A lot of status is communicated nonverbally with body language and eye contact”.

“Talking about how high-status you are actually conveys low status”.

“Vocal tone also communicates a lot about status”.

“However, much of status is about what you will and won’t accept from yourself and others. That can’t be faked, but it can be changed”.

“Disagreeing with everything is even worse, but expressing your own opinion in a clear and appropriate way conveys that you have the ability to think for yourself, even in the presence of strong outside influence. You will be given respect for doing this”.

“Be aware of what others are communicating on the status channel, and avoid mannerisms or habits that accidentally convey lower status”.

“When you are introduced to someone or put into a social situation where people don’t know you, your first goal should be to convey as quickly as possible what makes you interesting and worth knowing”.

“First impressions are made quickly and endure as subconscious biases for a very long time”.

“Your primary tool for conveying who you are and making people interested is through your stories”.

“When someone’s getting to know you, and you want to become friends with them, choose a story where the details highlight your positive attributes”.

“When telling a story, you should have three primary phases in order: the setup, the buildup, and the payoff”.

“If you don’t feel like you have a lot of interesting stories, a good exercise is to take a sheet of paper and write the letters of the alphabet down the left side. Then come up with a short description of a story that begins with each letter”.

“There is an important rule that must be observed during all conversations, especially those involving banter: always give the other person an out”.

“In every conversation you have, you should maintain eye contact eighty percent of the time or more”.

“Studies show that, while controlling for other variables, eye contact causes people to like and trust each other more”.

“Your goals in a conversation are to make sure that the other person enjoys themselves, to allow them to learn about you, and for you to learn about them”.

“When you’re taking conversational responsibility of a group, it is your obligation to make sure that everyone is involved in the discussion”.

“Remember that there’s a difference between someone liking you and someone being impressed by you. Impressing can alienate, but you won’t run into any problems making people like you”.

“However you define yourself, add ‘happy and positive’ to the beginning of that description, and be that version of yourself”.

“People will decide how much time to spend with you primarily based on how they feel when they’re around you”.

“One of your top social priorities should be helping others meet their future best friends”.

“Among your first thoughts upon getting to know someone should be: who do I know who would love this person? Who of the people I know would they love?”

“You want to be the person who any of your friends can introduce to anyone they know and be sure that it will make them look good”.

“Choose friends not because of what they can do for you, but because you love who they are”.

“One easy way too stand out is to find positive attributes that most people don’t have and then build them”.

“Be extremely vigilant about when you tell someone that you’re going to do something. Make it a personal goal to follow up as soon as possible and to never fail to do it”.

“If you are consistently honest, even at the risk of inviting disagreement, your friends can trust everything you say, including the good things”.

“Honesty takes bravery because it makes you vulnerable to criticism from others”.

“A leader has one main function: to further the interests of the group”.

Buy The Book: Superhuman Social Skills

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The Copywriter’s Handbook Summary

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A copywriter is a salesperson behind a keyboard.

Copy should be urgent, unique, ultra-specific and useful.

Your performance as a copywriter is based on sales generated, not originality.

The Five Big Ideas

For copy to convince the customer to buy a product or service it must get attention, communicate and persuade

“The word free is the most powerful word in the copywriter’s vocabulary.”

Four out of five readers will read the headline and skip the rest of the ad.

“When writing testimonial copy, use the customer’s own words as much as possible. Don’t polish his statements; a natural, conversational tone adds believability to the testimonial.”

Ask yourself, “Who is my customer? What are the important features of the product? Why will the customer want to buy the product? (What product feature is most important to him?)”

The Copywriter’s Handbook Summary

“A copywriter is a salesperson behind a typewriter.” – Judith Charles

For copy to convince the consumer to buy the product, it must do three things:

Get attention



Your headline can perform four different tasks:

Get attention

Select the audience

Deliver a complete message

Draw the reader into the body copy

“The word free is the most powerful word in the copywriter’s vocabulary.”

Powerful attention-getting words:

How to






Last chance





“Grade your performance as a copywriter on sales generated by your copy, not on originality.”

“When you write a headline, get attention by picking out an important customer benefit and presenting it in a clear, bold, dramatic fashion. Avoid headlines and concepts that are cute, clever, and titillating but irrelevant. They may generate some hoopla, but they do not sell.”

“According to David Ogilvy, four out of five readers will read the headline and skip the rest of the ad.”

“Ogilvy recommends that you include the selling promise and the brand name in the headline.”

“Remember, as a copywriter, you are not a creative artist; you are a salesperson. Your job is not to create literature; your job is to persuade people to buy the product.”

“When writing testimonial copy, use the customer’s own words as much as possible. Don’t polish his statements; a natural, conversational tone adds believability to the testimonial.”

The “4 U’s” Copywriting Formula

Urgent. “Urgency gives the reader a reason to act now instead of later. You can create a sense of urgency in your headline by incorporating a time element. A sense of urgency can also be created with a time-limited special offer, such as a discount or premium if you order by a certain date.”

Unique. “The powerful headline either says something new, or if it says something the reader has heard before, says it in a new and fresh way.”

Ultra-specific. “Boardroom, a newsletter publisher, is the absolute master of ultra-specific bullets, known as ‘fascinations,’ that tease the reader into reading further and ordering the product.”

Useful. “The strong subject line appeals to the reader’s self-interest by offering a benefit.”

“When you have written your headline, ask yourself how strong it is in each of the 4 U’s. Use a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = weak, 4 = strong) to rank it in each category.”

Questions to Ask Yourself

Who is my customer?

What are the important features of the product?

Why will the customer want to buy the product? (What product feature is most important to him?)

11 Tips for Writing Clear Copy

1. Put the Reader First

“Think of the reader. Ask yourself: Will the reader understand what I have written? Does he know the special terminology I have used? Does my copy tell her something important or new or useful? If I were the reader, would this copy persuade me to buy the product?”

“One technique to help you write for the reader is to address the reader directly as ‘you’ in the copy, just as I am writing to you in this book. Copywriters call this the ‘you-orientation’”.

2. Carefully Organize Your Selling Points

“When you write your copy, you must carefully organize the points you want to make.”

“The headline states the main selling proposition, and the first few paragraphs expand on it. Secondary points are covered later in the body copy. If this copy is lengthy, each secondary point may get a separate heading or number.”

“The organization of your selling points depends on their relative importance, the amount of information you give the reader, and the type of copy you are writing (letter, ad, commercial, or news story).”

“Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. And then, tell them what you told them.” – Terry C. Smith

“Before you create an ad or mailer, write down your sales points. Organize them in a logical, persuasive, clear fashion. And present them in this order when you write your copy.”

3. Break the Writing into Short Sections

“If the content of your ad can be organized as a series of sales points, you can cover each point in a separate section of copy.”

“If there is no particular order of importance or logical sequence between the sales points, use graphic devices such as bullets, asterisks, or dashes to set off each new section. If you have a lot of copy under each section, use subheads (as I’ve done in this book).”

“Paragraphs should also be kept short. Long, unbroken chunks of type intimidate readers.”

“When you edit your copy, use subheads to separate major sections. Leave space between paragraphs. And break long paragraphs into short paragraphs. A paragraph of five sentences can usually be broken into two or three shorter paragraphs by finding places where a new thought or idea is introduced and beginning the new paragraph with that thought.”

4. Use Short Sentences

“(D. H. Menzel) found that sentences became difficult to understand beyond a length of about 34 words.”

“To make your writing flow, vary sentence length. By writing an occasional short sentence or sentence fragment, you can reduce the average sentence length of your copy to an acceptable length even if you frequently use lengthy sentences.”

“Train yourself to write in crisp, short sentences. When you have finished a thought, stop. Start the next sentence with a new thought. When you edit, your pencil should automatically seek out places where a long string of words can be broken in two.”

5. Use Simple Words

“In advertising copy, you are trying to communicate with people, not impress them or boost your own ego. Avoid pompous words and fancy phrases.”

“Small words are better than big words whether you’re writing to farmers or physicists, fishermen or financiers.”

6. Avoid Technical Jargon

“Don’t use jargon when writing to an audience that doesn’t speak your special language.”

“Don’t use a technical term unless 95 percent or more of your readers will understand it.”

“Don’t use a technical term unless it precisely communicates your meaning.”

7. Be Concise

“Unnecessary words waste the reader’s time, dilute the sales message, and take up space that could be put to better use.”

“Rewriting is the key to producing concise copy.”

“Avoid redundancies, run-on sentences, wordy phrases, the passive voice, unnecessary adjectives, and other poor stylistic habits that take up space but add little to meaning or clarity.”

8. Be Specific

9. Go Straight to the Point

“If the headline is the most important part of an ad, then the lead paragraph is surely the second most important part.”

“Start selling with the very first line of copy.”

“The finished copy should sell from the first word to the last.”

10. Write in a Friendly, Conversational Style

“People enjoy reading clear, simple, easy-to-understand writing. And the simplest, clearest style is to write the way you talk.”

“John Louis DiGaetani recommends this simple test for conversational tone: ‘As you revise, ask yourself if you would ever say to your reader what you are writing. Or imagine yourself speaking to the person instead of writing.’”

11. Avoid Sexist Language

“Copywriters must avoid sexist language. Like it or not, sexist language offends a large portion of the population, and you don’t sell things to people by getting them angry at you.”


“Ending a sentence with a preposition adds to the conversational tone of the copy.”

“Sentence fragments help keep your average sentence length to a respectable number of words. And sentence fragments can add drama and rhythm to your copy.”

“Beginning a sentence with and, or, but, or for makes for a smooth, easy transition between thoughts.”

“An occasional one-sentence paragraph provides a change of pace that can liven up a piece of copy.”

“Highlighting and underlining can make words and phrases stand out in print advertising and promotion as well as in schoolbooks. Many readers skim copy without reading it carefully, so an underline or highlight can be useful in calling out key words, phrases, paragraphs, and selling points.”

“One of the most effective techniques for writing subscription copy is to present the publication’s content as a list of bulleted items, e.g., ‘7 ways to reduce your heating bill this winter.’”

“Be specific about the problem; be vague and mysterious about the solution. Plus, do it with a twist, hook, or unusual angle.”

Before you release copy to the client or the art department, ask yourself these questions:

Does the copy fulfill the promise of the headline?

Is the copy interesting?

Is it easy to read?

Is it believable?

Is it persuasive?

Is it specific?

Is it concise?

Is it relevant?

Does it flow smoothly?

Does it call for action?

“The first step in writing copy that sells is to write about benefits and not about features.”

“A feature is a descriptive fact about a product or service; it’s what the product is or has. A benefit is what the product does; it’s what the user of the product or service gains as a result of the feature.”

“According to AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), the copy must first get the reader’s attention, then create an interest in the product, then turn that interest into a strong desire to own the product, and finally ask the reader to buy the product or take some other action that will eventually lead to a sale.”

“In ACCA (Awareness, Comprehension, Conviction, Action), consumers are first made aware that the product exists. Then they must comprehend what the product is and what it will do for them. After comprehension, the readers must be convinced to buy the product. And finally, they must take action and actually make the purchase.”

“The copywriter creates a picture of what the product can do for the reader, promises the picture will come true if the reader buys the product, proves what the product has done for others, and pushes for immediate action.”

“The Motivating Sequence”

1. Get Attention

“This is the job of the headline and the visual. The headline should focus on the single strongest benefit you can offer the reader.”

2. Show a Need

“The second step of writing copy that sells, then, is to show the reader why she needs the product.”

3. Satisfy the Need and Position Your Product as a Solution to the Problem

“Once you’ve convinced the reader that he has a need, you must quickly show him that your product can satisfy his need, answer his questions, or solve his problems.”

4. Prove Your Product Can Do What You Say It Can Do

“It isn’t enough to say you can satisfy the reader’s needs—you’ve got to prove you can.”

5. Ask for Action

“The last step in any piece of copy should always be a call for action.”

“False logic, a term coined by my friend, master copywriter Michael Masterson, is copy that, through skillful writing, manipulates (but does not lie about or misrepresent) existing facts. The objective: to help readers come to conclusions that these facts, presented without the twists of the copywriter’s pen, might not otherwise support.”

“According to Reeves, there are three requirements for a USP (and I am quoting, in the italics, from Reality in Advertising):

Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Each must say, ‘Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.’

The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer.

The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions, i.e., pull over new customers to your product.

“One popular method is to differentiate your product or service from the competition based on a feature that your product or service has and they don’t.”

“Malcolm D. MacDougall, former president and creative director of SSC&B, says there are four ways to advertise seemingly similar products:

Stress an underpublicized or little-known benefit.

Dramatize a known benefit in a compelling fashion.

Dramatize the product name or package.

Build long-term brand personalities.

“Study your list of product features and benefits. Then look at the competition’s ads. Is there an important benefit that they have ignored, one you can embrace as the Unique Selling Proposition that sets your product apart from all others?”

“The secondary promise is a lesser benefit that the product also delivers.”

“Your copy should reach prospects on three levels: intellectual, emotional, and personal.”

To reach your prospects on all three levels—intellectual, emotional, and personal—you must understand what copywriter Michael Masterson calls the buyer’s “Core Complex.” These are the emotions, attitudes, and aspirations that drive them, as represented by the BFD formula, which stands for beliefs, feelings, and desires.

Beliefs. What does your audience believe? What is their attitude toward your product and the problems or issues it addresses?

Feelings. How do they feel? Are they confident and brash? Nervous and fearful? What do they feel about the major issues in their lives, businesses, or industries?

Desires. What do they want? What are their goals? What change do they want in their lives that your product can help them achieve?

“Before you write your copy, it’s a good idea to review the reasons why people might want to buy your product.”

22 Reasons Why People Might Buy Your Product

To be liked

To be appreciated

To be right

To feel important

To make money

To save money

To save time

To make work easier

To be secure

To be attractive

To be sexy

To be comfortable

To be distinctive

To be happy

To have fun

To gain knowledge

To be healthy

To gratify curiosity

For convenience

Out of fear

Out of greed

Out of guilt

“The more expensive a product is, the more copy you generally need to sell it.”

“Copy that sells the product directly off the printed page or screen (known as “one-step” or “mail-order” copy) usually has to be long, because it must present all product information and overcome all objections.”

“People who are pressed for time, such as busy executives and professionals, often respond better to short copy.”

“Products that people need (a refrigerator, a fax machine) can be sold with short copy because . . . well, the prospect has to buy them. Products that people want but don’t have to buy (exercise videos, self-help audio programs, financial newsletters) must be “sold,” and require long copy to do so.”

“Short copy works well with products the prospect is already familiar with and understands.”

How to Write Persuasive, Fact-Filled Copy for Your Clients

Step 1: Get All Previously Published Material on the Product

“You should spend a lot of time printing out and reading the client’s Web site, or at least the pages pertaining to the product you are promoting.”

“By studying this background material, the copywriter should have 90 percent of the information he or she needs to write the copy.”

Step 2: Ask Questions About the Product

What are its features and benefits? (Make a complete list.)

Which benefit is the most important?

How is the product different from the competition’s? (Which features are exclusive? Which are better than the competition’s?)

If the product isn’t different, what attributes can be stressed that haven’t been stressed by the competition?

What technologies does the product compete against?

What are the applications of the product?

What problems does the product solve in the marketplace?

How is the product positioned against competing products?

How does the product work?

How reliable is the product? How long will it last?

How efficient is the product?

How economical?

How much does it cost?

Is it easy to use? Easy to maintain?

Who has bought the product and what do they say about it?

What materials, sizes, and models is it available in?

How quickly does the manufacturer deliver the product?

If they don’t deliver, how and where can you buy it?

What service and support does the manufacturer offer?

Is the product guaranteed?

Step 3: Ask Questions About Your Audience

Who will buy the product? (What markets is it sold to?)

What exactly does the product do for them?

Why do they need the product? And why do they need it now?

What is the customer’s main concern when buying this type of product (price, delivery, performance, reliability, service, maintenance, quality, efficiency, availability)?

What is the character of the buyer? What type of person is the product being sold to?

What motivates the buyer?

How many different buying influences must the copy appeal to? (A toy ad, for example, must appeal to both the parent and the child.)

“If you are writing an ad, read issues of the magazines in which the ad will appear.”

“If you are writing direct mail, find out what mailing lists will be used and study the list descriptions.”

Step 4: Determine the Objective of Your Copy

This objective may be one or more of the following:

To generate inquiries

To generate sales

To answer inquiries

To qualify prospects

To generate store traffic

To introduce a new product or an improvement of an old product

To keep in touch with prospects and customers

To transmit news or product information

To build brand recognition and preference

To build company image

To provide marketing tools for salespeople

Here are 10 criteria that an ad must satisfy if it is to be successful as a selling tool:

The headline contains an important consumer benefit, or news, or arouses curiosity, or promises a reward for reading the copy

The visual (if you use a visual) illustrates the main benefit stated in the headline

The lead paragraph expands on the theme of the headline

The layout draws readers into the ad and invites them to read the body copy

The body copy covers all important sales points in logical sequence

The copy provides the information needed to convince the greatest number of qualified prospects to take the next step in the buying process

When you sit down to write your ad, ask yourself: “What do I want the reader to do? And what can I tell him that will get him to do it?”

The copy is interesting to read

The copy is believable

The ad asks for action

Buy this book

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Through The Language Glass Summary

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Through The Language Glass explains how the language you speak fundamentally alters your reality and how nature, culture and language have all been intertwined all throughout history.

Guy Deutscher is an Israeli linguist, who’s dedicating his life to the critical investigation of the origins of human language. There are two main camps in language theory: the nativists, who argue that language evolved mainly due to our anatomy changing (for example our eyes getting better at recognizing colors) and the culturalists, who believe language is a reflection of societal circumstances.

Prior to Guy’s book, your opinion was mostly a matter of choosing sides. Now, however, there’s a third option: that both are right, and that we need a new theory altogether.

After researching the work of many great linguists before him, Guy Deutscher arrived at some interesting conclusions about how language really shapes our perception of the world.

Here are 3 lessons you can learn from looking through the language glass:

You can estimate how connected a society is by looking at the complexity of its language’s grammar.

Language changes how we think, depending on the rules it gives us.

Nouns with genders are one way in which language shapes our perception of the world.

Ready to learn more about how you think, based on what you say? Here we go!

Lesson 1: You can see how close-knit a society is, based on the grammatical complexity of its language.

It’s impossible to say whether one language is more difficult to learn than another. German and Chinese, for example, have a reputation of being hard to pick up, but in reality, this highly depends on what languages you already speak.

A lot of Dutch people speak excellent German, for example, because it’s not that different from their native language, and it’s sure easier for Asians to learn Chinese, than for Americans, who haven’t even got similar sounds that they’re used to in English.

What you can say though, is how complex an aspect of a certain language is, for example its grammatical structure. When Guy did this, he found out that the complexity of a given language’s grammar often reflects its social structure.

In general, the more complex a society gets, the simpler its word and grammatical structure becomes.

This happens because as societies get bigger, more interactions between strangers occur, and people often have to pass on information without having much context about who they’re talking to. More words, specific phrases, dialects and accents are the consequence of this, to make it easier to establish that context with a targeted set of words.

For example, in the sentence “the two went back there” the word “there” refers to a physical location 99% of the time. But in the language of a small island society, “there” might be used not just for places, but also for events, people or even a certain time. If everyone knows each other and the shared context and information is huge, it’s easy to infer which of the four meanings the word takes on, but if you’re talking to a stranger, that might not be specific enough.

Lesson 2: Depending on what language requires us to say, our thinking changes.

These grammatical rules not just affect how easily we can pass on information, but also how we think in the first place, because they change the requirements the words we speak have to meet.

For example, it’s absolutely normal to say “it rains” in English, but in Hebrew, there’s no verb for “raining” as an activity. They just say the equivalent of “the rain falls.” Similarly, the ancient Nootka tribe of Vancouver Island has no way of saying “the stone falls.” Instead, they have a verb for that, saying “it stones down.”

The rules of a language change how you express ideas and how you express ideas changes how you think.

Take German, Spanish, or French, for example, all languages in which the gender of nouns for living things is specified within the noun. If I say “mein Mitbewohner” (my roommate) in German, this male version instantly tells the listener that I’m talking about a guy – something you wouldn’t be able to tell from the English version “my roommate,” which is gender neutral and requires more explanation.

Lesson 3: People, who speak languages with gendered nouns, perceive the world a lot differently, depending on those genders.

Interestingly, this effect doesn’t stop at living things. In fact, German has three different noun markers: male, female and neutral, and every noun in the language is assigned one of the three. Spanish only has male and female, and sometimes, the two languages use a different one for the same noun.

For example, the word “bridge” is female in German (“die Brücke”) while it is male in Spanish (“el puente”). When researcher Toshi Konishi investigated how this changes peoples’ perception of the described item in the 9os, he found that the adjectives people used to describe a bridge matched the gender of the word in both languages. Germans would say bridges are beautiful, fragile, slender and peaceful, while Spanish people might think that same bridge is dangerous, sturdy, long and big.

This even affects how well you can remember the thing in question, for example a “Barbara bridge” would be easier for Germans to keep in mind, as it’s a female name, while Spanish people could better remember a bridge named “Bernardo.”

My personal take-aways This was sure an out-of-the-box read! I had some real aha moments here. Considering most people speak over 15,000 words per day (!), it’d sure be wise to learn more about how your language changes what happens in your brain and what comes out of your mouth, don’t you think? A good read

TED Talks Notes

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 TED Talks is an instruction manual to become a great public speaker and deliver talks that are unforgettable, based on over 15 years worth of experience of the head of TED, the most popular speaking platform in the world.

Chris Anderson’s had his ups and downs. Riding the entrepreneurial wave all the way through the dot-com bust where he built Imagine Media and a little website called IGN. At its peak, his company employed over 2,000 people. And then the bubble burst. For about 18 months, Chris saw his bank account decline by about $1 million – a day!

Having founded a private non-profit organization a few years before, Chris decided to go all in to that – and bought the existing TED conference in 2001, leaving his prior company to take care of it full time.

The abbreviation stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and the conference is held annually in Vancouver, Canada, with TEDx being independently organized events under the franchise, which happen all over the world. Since 2006, all talks have been put online at, where they’ve been viewed over one billion times by 2012, including many famous speakers, such as  Bill Clinton, Bono, Bill Gates, Larry Page and many nobel-prize winners.

In this book, Chris lays out his recipe for great public speaking, crafted from over 15 years of working with people to deliver world-class speeches about ideas worth spreading.

Here are 3 lessons learned from TED Talks:

  • Make eye contact and show that you’re human by being vulnerable.
  • Use a five step process to explain complex ideas.
  • Think about what to wear, but not too much – make it comfy!

Want to overcome the #1 fear of humans? Let’s do this!

Lesson 1: Pick a few people in the audience to make eye contact with and show your vulnerability.

Every audience, every talk is different. Even if you use the same slides and deliver the same speech 100 times, it’s never quite exactly the same. The people will always be different, so of course you have to adapt to changing audiences.

Some things, however, help with any public speech. Two of these things, according to Chris, are:

Making eye contact.

Showing that you’re vulnerable by sharing something personal.

Both of these things are aimed at making your talk more personal. The reason it needs to be, is that we tend not to trust strangers to protect our own worldview. But if you open up and show others your human side, you’ll disarm the audience, gain their trust and they’ll be more receptive to your ideas.

People can often tell truth from lies and confidence from nervousness just by looking at your eyes, so taking their gaze head on earns you their trust. And if you let down your guard by turning red or sharing a personal story, so will those listening to you.

Only then do you have a real shot at delivering a life-changing speech.

Lesson 2: Explain complex ideas in five steps.

Over the years, Chris has watched, organized and prepared hundreds of TED talks, some of which tackle very complicated topics. Those, that are successful in getting their ideas across to listeners, follow a simple five-step process, says Chris. Let’s look at what this would look like if you tried to explain willpower.

Find your audience’s starting point. You need some common ground, something to make your talk relevant to everyone in the room. To do this with a topic like willpower, you could start with: “Man, I’m glad I’m the first speaker of the day, because since all human willpower is limited, you couldn’t pay attention to me if I was the last one, even if you wanted to.”

Make them curious. Give them an interesting fact or mental image, for example by saying that their willpower works like a soda dispenser: the more decisions you make, the less you have left.

Go over your concepts one at a time. Don’t tell them all at once about how food, exercise and motivation affect willpower. Take it one idea after another.

Use metaphors. An empty willpower tank is like a discharged battery. By tying new ideas to well-established ones, you help people understand your points.

Give lots of examples. This’ll make your speech vivid and memorable. For example if you tell them the story of how you went grocery shopping hungry after a long day at work and bought a lot of candy, because you couldn’t resist, they have something to explain willpower to their friends with, after your talk ends.

Pretty straightforward, right? So is dressing for the occasion, by the way.

Lesson 3: Make sure what you’re wearing is comfortable and reflects who you are.

Here’s your dress code for any public speech you ever do in one line: Wear what makes you feel comfortable.

Sure, picking an outfit deserves some thought, but it’s definitely not worth stressing out over. Just ask if there’s a dress code at the event already, because sticking to it is the easiest way to pick an outfit, and makes sure you won’t stand out like a sore thumb, because you’re wearing orange when everyone else wears black (which makes people judge you as a weirdo, before you even open your mouth).

If there isn’t, just be sure to wear neither all black or all white in case your talk is recorded, because you’ll look like a floating head or light bulb, respectively.

Other than that, if you feel awesome in a suit, wear that, and if you’re comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans, then go for it. Feeling comfortable on a stage is hard enough as it is, and your outfit is a big part of that – no dress code in the world is worth giving that up.

My personal take-aways

There’s a reason for the format TED talks are in. The stage, the lighting, the red dot, the 18-minute time limit, they designed it this way on purpose. It’s safe to assume that Chris knows what makes for a good talk, so if you’re in a position where you have to (or want to) present to an audience one day, then grab yourself a copy of this one!

Talk Like Ted Notes

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Talk Like TED has analyzed over 500 of the most popular TED talks to help you integrate the three most common features of them, novelty, emotions, and being memorable, into your own presentations and make you a better speaker.

Carmine Gallo is a communications coach and speaker, who left the world of TV news, where he was a journalist and anchor, in 2009 to focus on speaking, consulting, and writing books.

His most popular books are about Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs, and analyze his way of communicating and presenting. Talk Like TED is his newest book, where he breaks down what makes the most popular TED talks so great.

These are the 3 lessons I learned from reading the summary:

Persuasive presentations have logos, ethos and pathos.

You can make your presentation memorable by sharing extreme moments and novel statistics.

The ideal presentation is 18 minutes long and covers 3 topics.

Let’s get cracking!

Lesson 1: Persuasive presentations have logos, ethos and pathos.

After learning a lot about what influences and persuades people yesterday, today we’re taking it to the next level. Gallo says that communicating in a persuasive way can be traced back all the way to Aristotle.

Back in ancient Greece he established 3 modes of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos.

Ethos is about who the speaker is, and how much of a credible source he or she is to talk about the topic.

For example a college professor for health psychology has a much easier time talking about willpower than a high school student – you’d simply trust the professor more because of their authority.

But you can also just demonstrate that you have mastered the topic of your TED talk by showing statistics, or benefit from being introduced by another authority in your field.

Logos is how convincing you can make your argument by backing it up with data. Statistics, facts, research findings, credible sources, all of these will help you make your point, and further enhance your ethos as well.

Pathos is the last, but most important of the 3. It is about establishing an emotional connection between you and your audience.

Sympathy and empathy are both words, which have been derived from the word pathos, and they are 2 great places to start. But the strongest emotions always come from stories, which is why storytelling should be a substantial part of all of your presentations.

Whether you share personal stories, stories from friends or how a big brand did something really cool for their customers, keep bringing those metaphors.

Gallo says the perfect talk consists of 65% pathos, 25% logos and 10% ethos.

Lesson 2: Sharing extreme moments and novel statistics will make your presentation memorable.

People have bad memory these days, so it’s your job to make your talk unforgettable and help them remember it. Sharing extreme moments in your story can help achieve that.

For example Scott Dinsmore told a story about an open water swim, where he thought a child was drowning, only to find out that the kid was disabled and had still mastered the challenge.

Similarly, Bill Gates unleashing a bunch of potentially deadly mosquitos stuck in people’s heads for quite some time.

Another factor that helps us remember things is when the information is new. But it doesn’t have to be actually new information, it’s enough if you present information in a new light.

For example, it’s often hard to grasp how fast things really grow, when we talk about exponential growth, but a really enlightening way of explaining it is trying to fold a piece of paper to reach the moon.

Joe Smith used the same concept to teach people how to use less paper towels, by showing the audience how we could save half a billion pounds of paper each year, if everyone just used 1 paper towel less per day.

So think about some cool and novel stories and statistics to spice up your presentation and your audience will remember it for a long time.

Lesson 3: Your presentation should be 18 minutes long and cover no more than 3 topics.

We remember information not in single units, but in chunks, which is why 24122014 is much tougher to remember than 24/12/2014.

Research has been updated from estimating we can remember up to 7 things at once to rather 3 chunks.

That’s why your presentation should build it’s core message around 3 topics or distinct points, which help you drive home the overall point.

Structure it from the top and then go deeper to see which stories and facts you can best use to convince the audience of what you have to say.

TED talks also lie right in the middle of the ideal presentation length of 15 to 20 minutes with an 18-minute rule, established by the creators to get people to really condense their message and keep listeners engaged.

My personal take-aways

If you’ve even watched so much as a single TED talk, you probably know how addictive they are. This book not only breaks down why, but also gives you plenty of great examples (and more talks to watch).

The whole idea of the 3 modes of persuasion was completely new to me, and while I knew about the 18 minute rule of TED talks, I had no idea why. I will definitely use the extreme and novelty approach for my next presentation or webinar,

Reading Like A Writer Summary

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Reading Like A Writer takes you through the various elements of world-famous literature and shows you how, by paying close attention to how great authors employ them, you can not only get a lot more from your reading, but also learn to be a better writer yourself.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the metaphysics of reading and writing, for example speed reading and analytical reading. Although the title of this book suggests it’s aimed at people, who want to write literature themselves, it’s also beneficial for readers, since it can help you understand the stuff you’re reading a lot better.

Published in 2006 by Francine Prose, who’s published over 30 books in both fiction and non-fiction, together with Harper Collins, this book takes examples from over 100 pieces of tried and true literary classics and shows you how to make sense of them.

Here are 3 lessons to help you become a better reader (and writer):

  • Think of possible synonyms to understand the author’s point.
  • Pause after paragraphs, because they’re the most personalelement of writing.
  • Pay attention to action, thoughts and dialogue, since one ofthem will dominate the others.

Ready to read in the big leagues? Here comes the pep talk you need!

Lesson 1: Try to think of synonyms the author could’ve used to understand more.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are around 170,000 words, currently used in the English language. Google says it’s over a million. It of course depends on what counts as a word and what is commonly used (as opposed to just being mentioned a few times in a narrow context).

Regardless, choosing words is hard, and it’s what authors spend most, if not all of their time on. Therefore, you can bet there’s a reason behind every single one they chose.

Take the first sentence of The Alchemist, for example:

“The boy’s name was Santiago.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Coelho didn’t say “There was a boy named Santiago.” or “Santiago was a boy.” He said “The boy’s name…”, which instantly tells you something about the perspective of the book and narrator: she’s someone with a lot of information to share, but is in a position somewhat distant to the book’s events. Using “The” also indicates that Santiago will be a piece in a big puzzle, more likely to be reacting to what’s going to happen, as opposed to proactively doing things on his own accord.

A great exercise is to try and think of synonyms the author could’ve used, for example why someone would say treasure instead of gold, creature instead of bird or hasten instead of rush.

This will help you understand the point the writer is trying to make and get in his head as to why he made the word choices he did.

Lesson 2: Take a breath after each paragraph to learn more about the writer’s personality.

If you’re Sherlock Holmes, trying to unravel the mystery of three novels by three authors, which sound awkwardly familiar, and are the cause of a copyright lawsuit, here’s where you should start looking at: paragraphs.

Why paragraphs?

In a paragraph, all the emphasis lies on the first and last few words. Therefore, every paragraph instantly tells you what the author thinks is important. It’s like listening to someone talk and paying attention to which words they pronounce more clearly, slowly, and maybe even repeat for emphasis.

The best way to catch these accents of importance and reflect on them is to think of paragraphs as literary breathing guides. When you start a new one, you slowly breathe in and then gradually exhale as you read on and on, before coming to a full exhale upon the last word.

Breathing in sync with paragraphs will give your reading a nice rhythm, and also show you what makes a good paragraph: too many one-liners and you’ll feel hectic and breathe shallowly, too many drawn out walls of text and you’ll hardly be able to catch your breath.

Pretty cool, huh?

Lesson 3: Actions, thoughts and dialogue reveal characters’ intentions, but one will likely overshadow the others.

What makes characters in books come alive are the same things that determine how our own lives unfold: what we think, what we say and what we do.

You might think that having to pay attention to what characters think about, how they talk and which words they choose and how they handle their lives and the book’s events might be obvious, but it reveals a lot about how writers approach writing stories and telling their message.

For example, The Little Prince is based almost entirely on dialogue. The prince has encountered many strange people on his journey, and talking to them has led him to new insights. As the prince then recounts his own story to the man in the desert, the latter again draws conclusions based on those, which he shares with the reader, also by directly talking to him.

Other books, like Harry Potter, focus a lot more on the main character’s thoughts and internal workings and the actions that they take based on them.

Look at the mix of actions, thoughts and dialogues in the books you read, and you’ll see beneath the characters’ and author’s surface – maybe it’ll inspire you to write your own.

My personal take-aways

Totally fascinated by this stuff. Can’t wait to learn more about it. The cool thing about improving even just one tiny thing in how you read is that it lasts forever and makes all your future reading better because of it. I highly recommend learning more about these topics, and this book is a great place to start!

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t Summary

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 Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t combines countless lessons Steven Pressfield has learned from succeeding as a writer in advertising, the movie industry, fiction, non-fiction, and self-help, in order to help you write like a pro.

This is the best book I’ve read about writing so far. With a 50-year writing career under his belt, Steven Pressfield sure has a thing or two to share about what makes a good sentence, paragraph and book. What’s more, since he’s succeeded in various fields, you’ll learn to approach from various angles.

Sometimes, you need to think like a marketer or screenwriter, other times you’d best wear your novelist hat. Pressfield delivers 119 lessons in his usual, clear-cut, no-BS, witty style, which have already changed my writing style several times over this year. I feel like it’s helped me constantly learn as I write, because it’s a form of deliberate practice.

In today’s world, this is more important than ever. Your writing can never become stale, because what writing succeeds changes every day. Hence, the following 3 lessons will help you stay relevant for years to come:

  • If you don’t have a concept, don’t start writing.
  • Find the problem your text solves and it’ll be easier to get it on paper.
  • Break everything you write into three parts: beginning,middle and end.

Ready to fix the sobering fact that Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t? Here we go!

Lesson 1: Every piece of writing must have a concept.

Steve started his writing career as a copywriter when he was 19. One of the first things he learned in the world of slogans is that each campaign must put a unique spin on an existing idea. Everyone hates commercials and most people even hate reading, so whatever you float in front of their eyes better cause strong emotions.

Whether the reaction is “interesting,” “outrageous,” or “wow,” the perspective you provide has to temporarily shut out all other perspectives by approaching a known issue from a completely different angle. An example Steve makes is that number two players in big industries, like fast food, the soda market or rental cars, can turn their silver medal into gold by embracing it. That’s why 7Up calls itself the “uncola” and Avis promises to “try harder.”

In the same vein, when diamonds were first marketed as a token of eternal love, this allowed them to displace all other rare commodities in the jewelry market. After all, if you’re not proposing to someone you’ll love forever, what the hell are you doing?

Before you write the first line, come up with a concept.

Lesson 2: Writers solve problems.

Thousands of hours of writer’s block are caused around the world each and every single day by two seemingly simple questions:

What do I write about?

How am I going to say what I want to say?

Much Resistance can be eliminated by replacing those two with one, much simpler question: What’s the problem here? When you think of your writing as a way to solve a problem, you’re well on your way towards the solution, because the solution always lies within the problem itself.

For example, the problem of the companies we talked about was that their product was good, but not selling as much as their main competitor. Once you see you’re trailing behind, you can think about what to do with that. You could openly admit it and state how you plan to win, or distance yourself from playing that game altogether.

All writing solves problems, whether it shows us how to make a lasagna in seven easy steps or transforms our sense of self through an epic, 700-page journey. Figure out the problem and you’ll find the solution.

Lesson 3: Three-act structure applies to all writing.

Boy loses his father, evil servant takes the throne, orphan prince grows up and wins it back. That’s The Lion King. And, with a few tweaks, a sub-plot in Lord of the Rings, Aladdin and Prince of Persia. All fantastic stories with the exact same three-act structure. That’s how universal this idea is.

From Aesop to Plato to Shakespeare to George R. R. Martin, all great storytellers through the ages have used the holy trinity of writing structure: beginning, middle and end. Steve argues that, like the Hero’s Journey, three-act structure is how we connect with stories on the level of the soul, and, therefore, not optional.

Whether you call it hook, build, and payoff, setup, progression, and punchline, or beginning, middle and end, the rules remain the same. Every story, every piece of text, must pull us in, string us along, and then reward us with a grand finale. The first part kicks off the story and makes us curious as to what’ll happen. The second act puts the villain on the scene, with events getting darker and darker until, in the last act, the hero saves the day.

This applies to fiction, non-fiction, page 17 news articles and anything in-between. The characters can be humans, animals, or constructs of the mind. Everything is variable, as long as you stick to the path that all of the world’s greatest writers have followed you before.

My personal take-aways

If you’re a writer, especially a young writer, get this book. You’ll learn all the most important fundamentals you haven’t heard of, and then some. If you’ve honed your craft for a while already, and have consumed all the classics, Steve might not tell you anything new, but it’ll be a refreshing reminder of core writing concepts nonetheless. This belongs in every writer’s arsenal, in my opinion.

Buy this book

How To Talk To Anyone Summary

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 How To Talk To Anyone is a collection of actionable tips to help you master the art of human communication, leave great first impressions and make people feel comfortable around you in all walks of life.

One of the greatest things about knowing yourself well is that you can tell other people how you function. Give them an instruction manual, so to speak. One of the worst things about doing so is that they then tend to box you in. Whenever I tell people I’m an introvert, they somehow expect me to never leave the house. That’s nonsense, of course.

Human behavior lies on a spectrum. Always. And besides each situation being different, you can also train yourself to change. Like Leil Lowndes, who turned from a shy school teacher into a flight attendant, actress, cruise director, and later even coach, talk show host and speaker! How To Talk To Anyone is one of her many books on communication, highlighting 92 of her best tips for being successful in human relationships.

It’s a very practical how-to guide, so let’s see some of the specific advice she has to offer:

A seamless introduction will almost always lead to a fluent chat.

Emulating people and empathizing with them makes it easy for them to become your friend.

Praise is useful, but keep your most specific compliments to family and close friends.

Ready for a rapid-fire session of quick communication hacks? Let’s get to it!

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Lesson 1: Smooth introductions tend to turn into good conversations.

The part we sweat the most when meeting new people is always the first ten seconds. Often, that’s the only part we’re sweating. If you’ve ever talked to a stranger, you know this is true. Once you’ve gotten over that initial hurdle, things usually go just fine. That’s why Leil suggests simply skipping that first, potentially awkward part. How? By getting an introduction!

If you’re at an event, ask the host to introduce you. You’ll both know them, which makes for an instant connection. Another option is to ask the host for a few details about the person, which you can use to strike up a conversation. Or just linger close by and observe their other conversations until you can drop in. Introverts could also bring a flashy conversation starter, like a dashing outfit or a gimmick, as well as smile, nod, and wave.

And if you’re trying to replicate this online, email introductions work well, if a mutual acquaintance makes them. I use them all the time. There, you can even use whatever information you find to show you’re prepared, which is called the briefcase technique. Oh, and if you’re the host, make sure you help your guests do the same!

Lesson 2: Mimicry and companionship are two powerful ways to form a connection.

The easiest way to get people to like you is to keep them talking about themselves. But while it’s nice that you don’t have to say all that much, eventually it’ll be your turn, or maybe you love to talk too. So what else can you do once the introduction is made? Two powerful tools, Lowndes says, are mimicry and companionship. Here’s what she means:

First, people will subconsciously feel comfortable around you if your and their movements are the same. If they use their hands a lot, use yours too, and so on. Another thing I tend to do naturally is to use the same words to describe the same things. What’s more, if you know they like something, use vocabulary from that area, for example call them “mate” if they enjoy sailing.

Second, showing people you’re on the same page goes a long way. I tend to interject affirmations like “yes” and “uh-huh,” but Leil suggests full sentences are better at achieving the same. If you can refer to you and your conversation partner as “we” and “us,” that’s also a win. Saying “how do you like our new cinema” puts you on the same team, an in-group, if you will. This will also lead to in-jokes quickly, which are one of the best ways to strengthen bonds over time.

Nothing like a running gag to keep spirits high, ain’t that right?

Lesson 3: The better you know someone, the more specific you should be in your praise.

One of the most common tips to get along well is to give people compliments. That’s true, but according to Leil, there are some misconceptions around the idea of praise, especially when it comes to when and how to deliver it. As a rule of thumb, the more you know and appreciate someone, the more detailed and frequent you can be in telling them.

For example, if you’re working together with someone for the first time, tell a mutual colleague to let them know they did great. If you do it personally, make it indirect, for example by stating their achievement as a fact and then asking them how they did it. Or ask for their opinion, which is something that makes us feel valued every time.

If you know someone well, like a close friend or someone you’re keen on dating, you can commend them for their performance right after an important event. And for the most special people in your life? Highlight their best, specific traits you admire. Maybe it’s their sense of humor, maybe it’s their humility, but life is short, so let those closest to you know why you love them in many ways.

My personal take-aways

As you can tell from my summary, How To Talk To Anyone is very practical, focused on little tricks you can try today. It’s important to not overdo it on books like these, because you’ll drown in tactics you’ll never employ, but the occasional experiment is very useful indeed. Give some of what we discussed a shot and if you feel ready for more, consider getting a copy of the book.

How To Read Literature Like A Professor Summary

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How To Read Literature Like A Professor shows you how to get more out of your reading, by educating you about the basics of classic literature and how authors use patterns, themes, memory and symbolism in their work to deliver their message to you.

I randomly came across this book, and found out it was really popular. I’d love to help you read more and better, and my gears are constantly churning how I can help you do that (hit me up if you want to hear my product ideas so far). Summarizing this book is surely a good start.

Thomas C. Foster is an English professor (surprise), and he uses many examples from classic books to show you how you can unlock what you read and figure out what lies beneath the basic level of the story. This book will not only make your reading more fun and more satisfying, you’ll also be able to harness what your learn in a much more professional way.

Here are 3 lessons to help you master the craft of reading:

  • Memory, symbols, and patterns are what hide the deepermessage in any book.
  • One of the most common patterns is the quest structure.
  • Look for universal messages in books to discover whichsymbols authors use.

Want to read literature like a professor? Let’s take a literature trip!

Lesson 1: Most books hide their message using memory, symbols and patterns.

The majority of people falls into the category of shallow readers. When they read books, they only pay attention to the basic story level, but not much more. If you want to go beyond that and actually interpret what you’re reading, Foster says there are three things you need to watch out for.

Memory. This has happened to you for sure. You’ve read a chapter in a book and thought: “Wait, don’t I know this scenario? Haven’t I read about this before?” Clever readers don’t brush off that gut reaction. Instead, they dwell on it and draw an actual comparison between what they just read and how it’s different from a similar book they’ve read in the past.

Symbols. The scar on Harry Potter’s forehead is much more than just a scar. Its shape, the way it hurts, the visions he has because of it. It stands for much more than an accident, it’s a symbol, and only if you can interpret it you’ll get the full picture of the story.

Patterns. Sometimes trivial and seemingly meaningless details pop up again and again. Just like the story itself most often follows a pattern, so do certain characters, items and even words people use. Authors often use patterns to communicate hidden messages.

But spotting these and interpreting them correctly is hard, so let’s look at two things you can do to improve.

Lesson 2: The quest structure is one of the most common patterns in literature.

One of the most universally applied structures in novels, which you can find anywhere in life (even in your latest trip to the grocery store), is the quest structure. It’s sometimes also called the hero’s journey and it always contains the five following things:

A quester

A destination

A stated reason to go

Some challenges along the way

An unexpected revelation

Take The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, for example. Santiago, a shepherd, is the quester. His destination are the pyramids of Egypt. He says his reason to go is that he must find his destiny and explore the vision from his dream (about a treasure in Egypt). Of course he faces many challenges on his journey, such as finding love, but having to leave it behind. At the end, there’s an unexpected revelation, showing Santiago that the treasure was right in front of him all along.

But if you run out of bread, and it becomes your reason to go to the grocery store, a destination, you become a quester too. A challenge might be to find a parking spot, or arrive at the store before it closes. Eventually, you’ll unexpectedly find you still have a loaf at home after you come back.

See, it has all the elements of a quest, even though it’s a very trivial scenario. Now you can pay attention and find the quest structure in other books and events!

Lesson 3: Look for universal messages in books to discover which symbols authors use.

Do you sometimes feel like books are a rip-off? That they’re just blatantly copying from another author? Well, actually it’s tough to find a book that doesn’t copy from a previous one. In truth, no book is 100% original, whether the author knows he or she is copying, or not.

This phenomenon is called intertextuality – all texts depend on one another – and it’s a good thing! When the same ideas appear again and again it turns them into symbols. You can then rely on interpreting them correctly, because the same symbol usually stands for the same idea.

For example, whenever a storm is seen on the horizon, this is usually a symbol for trouble lying ahead, whether in the form of an actual storm or a plot twist.

Often, the hero’s home is destroyed, and he or she has to start all over. This is usually meant to show that even in destruction, there is a liberating power.

Ask “What’s the universal message behind this event?” as you read, and you’ll be able to spot symbols and some of the big ideas, which have been around for centuries.

Note: Another thing that helps you develop this skill is reading a wide variety of books, especially classics, because these have popularized most of the symbols we use today.

My personal take-aways

I want more of this. More reading about reading. If reading a lot is good, then reading a lot about reading is great. Every tiny improvement you make in how you read will be with you for the rest of your life and therefore help you get more out of every next book you pick up.

This is highly recommended. It’s a great book and the summary on Blinkist is a very good starting point, with most of the big ideas explained well and plenty of examples.

Buy this book

How To Read A Book Summary

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How To Read A Book is a 1940 classic teaching you how to become a more active reader and deliberately practice the various stages of reading, in order to maximize the value you get from books.

Mortimer J. Adler was a popular American philosopher, author and educator, who worked at various prestigious universities, like Columbia and the University of Chicago, as well as educational institutions, like the Encyclopædia Britannica, and his own Institute for Philosophical Research. When he died in 2001 (aged exactly 98 and a half years old), he left behind a massive body of work in service of making philosophy more accessible to the masses.

One of his most popular pieces is this book, which teaches you how to get the most out of reading non-fiction, for example when you have to for school, work, or just plain want to get smarter. It dissects reading into its various stages and shows you how to think about information critically.

Here are my 3 main takeaways from the book:

Always inspect books before you read them.

Analyze a book’s main theme and the author’s intentions to get the big picture.

Question every book’s importance and logic.

Do you want to hone your reading skill so you’ll get more out of every future book you read? Let’s get to it!

Lesson 1: Do an inspectional read every time you want to pick up a new book.

Most people want to save time on books by learning how to speed read. I always tell them not to. To be okay with reading slowly. The one thing I’ve learned about saving time on books is that it doesn’t happen while reading. Where you save time is in deciding what you’ll read in the first place.

Sadly, a lot of non-fiction books don’t really warrant being read from cover to cover, and this is where what Mortimer J. Adler calls inspectional reading comes in.

The goal of an inspectional read is to answer two questions:

What is this book about?

What kind of book is this?

You can do this by skim-reading the following sections:

The title page.

The editor’s blurb.

The cover text.

The table of contents.

Introductory sections and important paragraphs of chapters that interest you.

After you’ve done that, you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether this book deserves your full attention. If you do decide to read it cover to cover, read it entirely, but don’t look up things you don’t understand. This is what slows you down and makes a book painful to get through. Even without understanding everything, knowing what the entirety of the text is about will help you dig deeper into these things later.

Lesson 2: Try to find the main theme and author’s intentions by analyzing a book in detail.

This is where analytical reading comes in. Once you’ve read the book, you can really analyze it. This is where taking notes, highlighting, summarizing and thinking long and hard about the content become your tools of the trade.

First, you should answer this question: “What was the author’s aim when he or she decided to write a book with this title?”

Looking at the title will not only make it dead-simple for you to categorize the book, for example into maths, history, how-to or self-help, but remembering the main goal of the book will later help you connect complex ideas back to the overarching theme.

Then, you can go on to unravel the book’s main theme, by trying to summarize its content in a few sentences and writing down all the different themes and sub-plots. It’ll help a lot to create a mindmap of how those relate to each other, so you can see how the various parts of the book relate to each other and the whole.

For example, A Christmas Carol is set in five staves. You could summarize it briefly by saying first, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner and warned about his future. Then, he’s shown the past, present and future by three ghosts, which causes him to change and go from greedy miser to generous giver.

In an x-ray, this plot would resemble the bones of the book, whereas the exact structure, potential sub-plots and other, recurring themes would be more like the book’s flesh. Important too, but useless if you don’t know what’s going on underneath.

Lesson 3: Ask more questions about books, critically thinking about their importance and logic.

Inspectional and analytical reading help you read more selectively and to understand what you read better. However, the most important lesson about reading books in general, I think, is this: Always question a book’s significance and logic.

Even if you select well, it does you no good to remember the content of a book that’s irrelevant, and even if you’ve understood everything correctly, that means nothing if the book’s logic is inherently flawed.

After you close and put down a book, ask these two things:

“Is this true?” and if it is,

“So what?“

Checking the book’s logic should come first, because if it doesn’t hold up, it’s obviously irrelevant. You can do that by checking if there are contradictory statements at different points in the book, if arguments are left incomplete, or if the book somehow fails to answer the main questions it poses.

Then, you can go on to criticize the book, but only if you’ve understood it well and aren’t emotional about it. For example, just today someone who’s vegan said my critic review of a book about a vegan diet was opinionated – which is of course an opinionated statement in itself, since he obviously felt emotionally offended by my review – not a good basis for judgement.

Don’t disagree on principle and don’t agree because it “feels right” – make up your own, objective mind, and then decide.

My personal take-aways

We’ve done a fair share of learning how to read faster, smarter and even like a writer. This helps you with the first two of these three things – highly recommended!

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