Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins: Notes

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Awaken The Giant Within is the psychological blueprint you can follow to wake up and start taking control of your life, starting in your mind, spreading through your body and then all the way through your relationships, work and finances until you’re the giant you were always meant to be.

Sometimes I forget. I read the summary of a book like this and think “Man, I’ve heard a lot of this before.” But that’s because a) I read a lot of self-help books and b) the market has been flooded with them over the past 20-30 years. This makes it easy to forget to put each book into perspective.

Awaken The Giant Within was released in 1991 – the year I was born. If I imagine someone reading it some 25 years ago, this book can’t have felt anything other than groundbreaking. The strategies and techniques Tony Robbins talks about have long become standard practice, but he pioneered them.

Here are 3 lessons to help you feel more in charge of your life than ever before:

  • Associate bad habits with pain and good ones with pleasure.
  • Change the words you use to transform how you feel and dealwith problems.
  • Make up your own rules and communicate them to becomehappier.

Ready to wake up your inner giant? Let’s do it!

Lesson 1: Associate bad habits with pain and good ones with pleasure.

A very simple framework to look at the world is this: All of our actions are aimed at either avoiding pain or getting pleasure. Going to the job you don’t like is something you do to avoid the pain of not being able to pay rent. Listening to your favorite song should lift your mood. And so on.

You can use this framework to successfully break bad habits and establish good ones. You simply have to pair bad habits with pain and good habits with pleasure.

For example, if you want to quit eating chocolate, Tony says you should force yourself to sing a song you hate out loud every time you eat some. After having to sing a terrible song loudly at a packed restaurant even once, just because you ordered molten chocolate lava cake for dessert, chances are you’ll easily avoid the cocoa-packed candy from then on.

Eventually, you’ll have to replace your bad habit with a new, better, more positive one, in order to fill the void. This is a crucial part of habit change. A technique called temptation bundling can help you with it. The creator, Kathy Milkman, loved the Hunger Games audiobooks, but allowed herself to listen only while working out in the gym. As a result, she worked out six times a week, just to find out what happens!

Lesson 2: Use different words to end up in a different state of mind.

If you’ve ever seen Tony Robbins in action, you know he’s a powerful guy in every sense of the word. He’s tall, big, loud, and has a very positive aura. Something you might have not picked up on is his vocabulary. Tony always uses expressive and unusual language to reinforce positive emotions and play down negative ones.

He calls this transformational vocabulary and says it’s very important to watch your language, because the way you describe how you experience the world is a big and defining part of that experience. In the English language, there are over 3,000 words to describe emotions. Sadly, 66% of them are for negative emotions – twice as many as for positive ones!

So how can you use words to your advantage?

Reinforce good feelings with powerful words and play down bad emotions with less intense language.

For example, instead of saying that lying in the sun makes you feel happy, you could say: “I’m in complete bliss.” And instead of yelling “This piece of junk is annoying the crap out of me!” at your car that just broke down, you could say “Well, that’s a bit unfortunate.”

Pro tip: Use unusual words to make yourself laugh at tough situations. For example say: “I do feel a little irked at this.” when you’re really frustrated. Just hearing yourself talk out loud using such old-fashioned words will instantly put you in a better mood.

Lesson 3: Make up your own rules and tell other people about them to increase your happiness.

“I’m having a long day at work today, but I know I’ll feel great once I sit down on my couch after I come home.”

Have you ever thought something like this? I’m pretty sure you have. We all have our own little rules that determine what does and doesn’t make us happy. However, all too often we make up rules where we give away control. For example, “I’ll be so happy if my boss tells me I did a great job with this presentation.” is not a good rule to have, because you hand over your happiness to your boss – whom you can’t control.

So first, make up better rules. “I’ll be happy if I spend at least one hour of focused work on this event plan.” is a lot better than the rule above, because this is something you can influence.

Secondly, communicate your rules as much as you can, because you can’t possibly expect other people to have the same rules as you do. When you think your best friend is not a good friend, because she only calls you once a month, then that’s just your rule about thinking best friends call each other every few days. Tell her that that’s what you believe and she’ll tell you her rule, which then lets the two of you find a better solution that works for both of you.

My personal take-aways

Tony Robbins is always worth spending some time with, no matter in what format. Even 25 years later, this book still has a massive capacity to inspire you and give you actionable steps to start changing your life for the better, today. I especially loved using better language, because it’s an easy win.

Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

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Awaken The Giant Within Summary

The Book in Three Sentences

“Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards and believe you can meet them”.

“We must change our belief system and develop a sense of certainty that we can and will meet the new standards before we actually do”.

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently”.

The Five Big Ideas

“The three decisions that control your destiny are: 1. Your decisions about what to focus on. 2. Your decisions about what things mean to you. 3. Your decisions about what to do to create the results you desire”.

“By changing any one of these five elements—whether it’s a core belief or rule, a value, a reference, a question, or an emotional state—you can immediately produce a powerful and measurable change in your life”.

“Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure”.

“It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean”.

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear”.

Free Download: Download a free PDF version of this book summary. (Includes exercises not included in the post.)

Awaken The Giant Within Summary

“Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards and believe you can meet them”.

“We must change our belief system and develop a sense of certainty that we can and will meet the new standards before we actually do”.

“You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know”.

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently”.

“It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped”.

“Not only do you have to decide what results you are committed to, but also the kind of person that you’re committed to becoming”.

“If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in your life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve”.

“If you truly decide to, you can do almost anything”.

“Making a true decision means committing to achieving a result, and then cutting yourself off from any other possibility”.

“The three decisions that control your destiny are: 1. Your decisions about what to focus on. 2. Your decisions about what things mean to you. 3. Your decisions about what to do to create the results you desire”.

“It’s likely that whatever challenges you have in your life currently could have been avoided by some better decisions upstream”.

“Your Master System is comprised of five components: 1) your core beliefs and unconscious rules, 2) your life values, 3) your references, 4) the habitual questions that you ask yourself, and 5) the emotional states you experience in each moment”.

“By changing any one of these five elements—whether it’s a core belief or rule, a value, a reference, a question, or an emotional state—you can immediately produce a powerful and measurable change in your life”.

“Remember: Success truly is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is the result of experience, and experience is often the result of bad judgment!”

“In order to succeed, you must have a long-term focus”.

“God’s delays are not God’s denials”.

“Often, what seems impossible in the short term becomes very possible in the long term if you persist”.

“Remember the true power of making decisions”.

“Realize that the hardest step in achieving anything is making a true commitment—a true decision”.

“A critical rule I’ve made for myself is never to leave the scene of a decision without first taking a specific action toward its realization”.

“Make decisions often and learn from them”.

“Ask yourself, ‘What’s good about this? What can I learn from this?’”

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach”.

“Know that it’s your decisions, and not your conditions, that determine your destiny”.

“Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure”.

“For most people, the fear of loss is much greater than the desire for gain”.

“Why is it that people can experience pain yet fail to change? They haven’t experienced enough pain yet; they haven’t hit what I call emotional threshold”.

“If we link massive pain to any behavior or emotional pattern, we will avoid indulging in it at all costs”.

“It’s our neuro-associations— the associations we’ve established in our nervous systems—that determine what we’ll do”.

“Any time we’re in an intense emotional state, when we’re feeling strong sensations of pain or pleasure, anything unique that occurs consistently will become neurologically linked”.

“Most of us base our decisions about what to do on what’s going to create pain or pleasure in the short term instead of the long term”.

“It’s not actual pain that drives us, but our fear that something will lead to pain. And it’s not actual pleasure that drives us, but our belief—our sense of certainty—that somehow taking a certain action will lead to pleasure”.

“We’re not driven by the reality, but by our perception of reality”.

“Remember, anything you want that’s valuable requires that you break through some short-term pain in order to gain long-term pleasure”.

“It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean”.

“It’s never the environment; it’s never the events of our lives, but the meaning we attach to the events—how we interpret them—that shapes who we are today and who we’ll become tomorrow”.

“What are our beliefs designed for? They’re the guiding force to tell us what will lead to pain and what will lead to pleasure”.

“Whenever something happens in your life, your brain asks two questions: 1) Will this mean pain or pleasure? 2) What must I do now to avoid pain and/or gain pleasure?”

“The challenge is threefold: 1) most of us do not consciously decide what we’re going to believe; 2) often our beliefs are based on misinterpretation of past experiences; and 3) once we adopt a belief, we forget it’s merely an interpretation”.

“Global beliefs are the giant beliefs we have about everything in our lives: beliefs about our identities, people, work, time, money, and life itself, for that matter”.

“These giant generalizations are often phrased as is/am/are: ‘Life is…’ ‘I am…’ ‘People are …’.”

“If you can think of an idea as being like a tabletop with no legs, you’ll have a fair representation of why an idea doesn’t feel as certain as a belief. Without any legs, that tabletop won’t even stand up by itself. Belief, on the other hand, has legs. If you really believe, ‘I’m sexy’, how do you know you’re sexy? Isn’t it true that you have some references to support the idea—some experiences in life to back it up? Those are the legs that make your tabletop solid, that make your belief certain”.

“Sometimes we gather references through information we get from other people, or from books, tapes, movies, and so on. And sometimes we form references based solely on our imagination”.

“The strongest and most solid legs are formed by personal experiences that we have a lot of emotion attached to because they were painful or pleasurable experiences”.

“If you develop the absolute sense of certainty that powerful beliefs provide, then you can get yourself to accomplish virtually anything, including those things that other people are certain are impossible”.

“The most effective way is to get your brain to associate massive pain to the old belief”.

“New experiences trigger change only if they cause us to question our beliefs. Remember, whenever we believe something, we no longer question it in any way”.

“If you question anything enough, eventually you’ll begin to doubt it”.

“I’ve classified beliefs into three categories: opinions, beliefs, and convictions”.

“An opinion is something we feel relatively certain about, but the certainty is only temporary because it can be changed easily”.

“A belief, on the other hand, is formed when we begin to develop a much larger base of reference legs, and especially reference legs about which we have strong emotion”.

“A conviction, however, eclipses a belief, primarily because of the emotional intensity a person links to an idea. A person holding a conviction does not only feel certain, but gets angry if their conviction is even questioned. A person with a conviction is unwilling to ever question their references, even for a moment; they are totally resistant to new input, often to the point of obsession”.

“Someone with a conviction is so passionate about their belief that they’re even willing to risk rejection or make a fool of themselves for the sake of their conviction”.

“So how can you create a conviction? 1) Start with the basic belief. 2) Reinforce your belief by adding new and more powerful references. 3) Then find a triggering event, or else create one of your own. Associate yourself fully by asking, ‘What will it cost me if I don’t?’ Ask questions that create emotional intensity for you. 4) Finally, take action. Each action you take strengthens your commitment and raises the level of your emotional intensity and conviction”.

“The way to expand our lives is to model the lives of those people who are already succeeding. It’s just a matter of asking questions: ‘What do you believe makes you different? What are the beliefs you have that separate you from others?’”

“At the end of each day I ask myself these questions: What have I learned today? What did I contribute or improve? What did I enjoy?”

“NAC is a step-by-step process that can condition your nervous system to associate pleasure to those things you want to continuously move toward and pain to those things you need to avoid in order to succeed consistently in your life without constant effort or willpower”.

“We all want to change either 1) how we feel about things or 2) our behaviors”.

“There are three specific beliefs about responsibility that a person must have if they’re going to create long-term change: 1) First, we must believe, ‘Something must change’—not that it should change, not that it could or ought to, but that it absolutely must. Second, we must not only believe that things must change, but we must believe, ‘I must change it’. Third, we have to believe, ‘I can change it’.”

“Each time we experience a significant amount of pain or pleasure, our brains search for the cause and record it in our nervous systems to enable us to make better decisions about what to do in the future”.

“Any time you experience significant amounts of pain or pleasure, your brain immediately searches for the cause. It uses the following three criteria. 1. Your brain looks for something that appears to be unique. 2. Your brain looks for something that seems to be happening simultaneously. 3. Your brain looks for consistency”.

“So often we blame the wrong cause, and thereby close ourselves off from possible solutions”.

“The difference between acting badly or brilliantly is not based on your ability, but on the state of your mind and/or body in any given moment”.

“Emotion is created by motion”.

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear”.

“Our ability to change the way we feel depends upon our ability to change our submodalities”.

“You’ve got to be in a determined state in order to succeed”.

“I began to realize that thinking itself is nothing but the process of asking and answering questions”.

“Quality questions create a quality life”.

“A genuine quality of life comes from consistent, quality questions”.

“Questions accomplish three specific things: 1. Questions immediately change what we’re focusing on and therefore how we feel. 2. Questions change what we delete. 3. Questions change the resources available to us”.

“You and I can change how we feel in an instant, just by changing our focus”.

“One of the ways that I’ve discovered to increase the quality of my life is to model the habitual questions of people I really respect”.

“The words you habitually choose also affect how you communicate with yourself and therefore what you experience”.

“People with an impoverished vocabulary live an impoverished emotional life; people with rich vocabularies have a multi-hued palette of colors with which to paint their experience, not only for others, but for themselves as well”.

“Simply by changing your habitual vocabulary—the words you consistently use to describe the emotions of your life—you can instantaneously change how you think, how you feel, and how you live”.

“If we want to change our lives and shape our destiny, we need to consciously select the words we’re going to use, and we need to constantly strive to expand our level of choice”.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible—the foundation for all success in life”.

“All goal setting must be immediately followed by both the development of a plan, and massive and consistent action toward its fulfillment”.

“It’s not just getting a goal that matters, but the quality of life you experience along the way”.

“Remember, our goal is not to ignore the problems of life, but to put ourselves in better mental and emotional states where we can not only come up with solutions, but act upon them”.

“We must remember that all decision-making comes down to values clarification”.

“The only way for us to have long-term happiness is to live by our highest ideals, to consistently act in accordance with what we believe our life is truly about”.

“Many people know what they want to have, but have no idea of who they want to be”.

“Remember that your values—whatever they are—are the compass that is guiding you to your ultimate destiny”.

“Anytime you have difficulty making an important decision, you can be sure that it’s the result of being unclear about your values”.

“To value something means to place importance upon it; anything that you hold dear can be called a ‘value’.”

“So often people are too busy pursuing means values that they don’t achieve their true desire: their ends values”.

“The hierarchy of your values is controlling the way you make decisions in each moment”.

“We must remember, then, that any time we make a decision about what to do, our brain first evaluates whether that action can possibly lead to either pleasurable or painful states”.

“Most of us have created numerous ways to feel bad, and only a few ways to truly feel good”.

“How do we know if a rule empowers or disempowers us? There are three primary criteria: 1. It’s a disempowering rule if it’s impossible to meet. 2. A rule is disempowering if something that you can’t control determines whether your rule has been met or not. 3. A rule is disempowering if it gives you only a few ways to feel good and lots of ways to feel bad”.

“Once we design our values, we must decide what evidence we need to have before we give ourselves pleasure. We need to design rules that will move us in the direction of our values, that will clearly be achievable, using criteria we can control personally so that we’re ringing the bell instead of waiting for the outside world to do it”.

“If you ever feel angry or upset with someone, remember, it’s your rules that are upsetting you, not their behavior”.

“The ‘must’ and the ‘must never’ rules are threshold rules; the ‘should’ and ‘should never’ rules are personal standard rules”.

“Design your rules so that you’re in control, so that the outside world is not what determines whether you feel good or bad. Set it up so that it’s incredibly easy for you to feel good, and incredibly hard to feel bad”.

“The larger the number and greater the quality of our references, the greater our potential level of choices. A larger number and greater quality of references enables us to more effectively evaluate what things mean and what we can do”.

“Once again, it’s not our references, but our interpretations of them, the way we organize them—that clearly determine our beliefs”.

“The key is to expand the references that are available within your life. Consciously seek out experiences that expand your sense of who you are and what you’re capable of, as well as organize your references in empowering ways”.

“The way we use our references will determine how we feel, because whether something is good or bad is all based on what you’re comparing it to”.

“You are not even limited to your own personal experiences as references. You can borrow the references of other people”.

“Limited references create a limited life. If you want to expand your life, you must expand your references by pursuing ideas and experiences that wouldn’t be a part of your life if you didn’t consciously seek them out”.

“We all will act consistently with our views of who we truly are, whether that view is accurate or not”.

“As we develop new beliefs about who we are, our behavior will change to support the new identity”.

“If you’ve repeatedly attempted to make a particular change in your life, only to continually fall short, invariably the challenge is that you were trying to create a behavioral or emotional shift that was inconsistent with your belief about who you are”.

The Ultimate Success Formula

Decide what you want

Take action

Notice what’s working or not

Change your approach until you achieve what you want

Free Download: Download a free PDF version of this book summary. (Includes exercises not included in the post.)

Other Books by Anthony Robbins

Notes From a Friend

Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins

Recommended Reading

If you like Awaken the Giant within, you may also enjoy the following books:

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Siver

Secrets of The Millionaire Mind: Mastering The Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker

The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield

Buy this book-

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Are You Fully Charged Summary

Categories Personal growthPosted on

Are You Fully Charged shows you the three keys to arriving at work and life with a battery that’s brimming with happiness and motivation, which are energy, interactions and meaning, and how to implement them in your day.

Don’t you hate when authors tell you one thing in their first book and then try to sell you on the complete opposite idea in the next one? It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, I always feel gamed, sort of like they’re just in it for the money.

Tom Rath doesn’t do that. Instead, his books build on one another. Are You Fully Charged is his most recent one, and it incorporates what he learned and taught in Eat, Move, Sleep into a practice that goes beyond health and into happiness.

It is based on three things: meaning, interactions and energy.

I want to share 3 lessons about these chargers with you today:

  • The pursuit of happiness is our biggest roadblock on the way towards it.
  • Put your phone out of sight when talking to someone.
  • Try to take 10,000 steps a day.

Lead acid or Lithium ion, it doesn’t matter, by the end of this article, you’ll know how to wake up fully charged!

Lesson 1: The pursuit of happiness is our biggest roadblock on the way towards it.

There are many books, movies, and entire cultures built around the pursuit of happiness. It’s what fuels the American Dream (and life in most other Western countries), and while there’s a lot of debate around what it should look like, hardly anyone questions the premise itself:

Is happiness even something that must be pursued?

Well, Tom Rath isn’t “hardly anyone”, so he raises just that question. He believes thinking that, as long as we spend enough time chasing it, we’ll eventually find happiness is one of the biggest misconceptions of the 21st century.

You might have already learned that external motivation ruins internal motivation. But if Tom Rath is right, this means it actively makes you unhappier, instead of just not increasing your happiness.

He says happiness is simply a by-product of a meaningful life, which is centered around internal motivation.

I’m in a café right now. Let’s say the waitress can comfortably serve 50 people a day, then she can make all these interactions light and positive and find meaning in those. If her boss told her she’d get twice the money for serving 75 customers, she’d be forced to give less time to each one, and focus on efficiency, rather than politeness.

She might get the extra money, but that not only won’t make her happier, she’d also sap the meaning from her interactions and thus end up a lot unhappier than she was before.

Lesson 2: Hide your phone somewhere out of sight when talking to someone.

Have you ever seen two people in a restaurant, sitting opposite each other, each staring at their own smartphone? It’s a nightmare. The only thing that’s worse is when just one person stares at their phone, and leaves the other one hanging.

I’ve always tried to avoid using my phone in conversation, but this I didn’t know about, and it takes it one step further:

A 2014 study found that conversations, where no phone is visually present, are significantly superior to those, where a phone is on the table, in someone’s hand, or otherwise in sight.

This is called the iPhone effect, and it implies that even if people just see a phone while talking to you, they already feel like you’re not giving them your full attention and can’t be as empathic towards you.

My phone is dead silent, and I usually put it face down on the table when I’m out with friends, but from now on, I’ll try to completely put it out of sight – and you should do the same to see your relationships thrive.

Lesson 3: Make an effort to take 10,000 steps every day, starting today.

Here’s a crazy fact: You sit more than you sleep. On average, people sit for 9.3 hours a day, while sleeping only for 7.7. According to Tom Rath, this is what happens when you sit for extended periods of time:

The nerves in your legs stop working and shut down.

Your calorie burning rate drops to one calorie per minute.

The number of enzymes, which break down fat in your body, drops by 90%.

Your good cholesterol (HDL, High-Density Lipoprotein) drops by 10% every hour.

Here’s how to avoid all of this: take 10,000 steps every day.

It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. 10,000 steps equals roughly 5 miles (or 8 km) a day. According to Tom, walking increases your energy levels by 150%, and since I started paying more attention to it, I feel he’s right. Do this to make sure you hit your 10,000 step goal each day:

Design your environment to make you move. For example, when using your laptop in your office, leave your charger in another room, so you have to go and get it when you run out of power.

Take detours. When I walk to the café I work in in the morning, I always go right, instead of left, when I leave my house, to make sure I do a full circle of the city center before going there. Extending walks you’re already taking is a lot easier than making up reasons to take more of them.

Track your steps. Just seeing the number on a regular basis will make you work harder towards your goal. I guarantee it. This thing will probably save my life.

My personal take-aways

I love that Tom doesn’t compartmentalize life into certain buckets, because fixing just one thing about yourself is never the solution. The only thing I can critique about his work is promoting a fairly specific diet, instead of telling you to find out what works for you. Other than that, everything he does is very focused on giving you principles, which you can then decide how to turn into action for yourself. He shows you the research and what it means, you do something to make your life better.

I believe that’s the only way self improvement can work, consider me a fan!

Never Split The Difference- Notes

Categories Personal growthPosted on


  • What’s it about?
  • Change your perspective on negotiation and cultivate a mindset of discovery
  • Open questions can get you the resultyou want and make the other party feel in control
  • Resolve conflict withoutconfrontation in four simple steps
  • Show empathy and identify theemotions of others in order to influence them
  • Don’t just get people to say“yes”—you want them to say “that’s right”
  • Learn to read the unspoken needs ofthe other party during negotiation, and address their “irrational blind spots”preemptively
  • Final summary
  • Now read the book
  • Key takeaways

What’s it about?

If you often struggle to get what you want out of life, then it may be time to develop your negotiation skills. This may seem like a strange suggestion if you have become accustomed to thinking of negotiation in business terms. However, negotiation is actually the art of learning how to communicate effectively and get results, which can apply to every part of your life—whether that is closing a business deal, getting a good price for a new car, or persuading your children to go to bed on time.

Typically, people perceive negotiation as a kind of sales strategy that is applied in a logical and mathematical way: if you complete x, y, and z, then you will achieve your goal. This has changed significantly over the years, especially for the FBI, who had to revise their approach to negotiations following grave failures, such as the Downs Hijacking in 1971, which led to a law suit against the FBI for turning a waiting game into a shoot out.

Now the FBI has become more emotionally engaged with the psychological tactics and strategies that they use for hostage situations; they also launched a Critical Incident Resolution Group (CIRG) in 1994. In Never Split the Difference, their top negotiation tips are revealed—techniques that have been proven in high-risk situations, but can also be helpful in everyday life, enabling success in irrational and emotionally driven situations.

You will discover how to decipher what people want from you, why they want it, and how to be empathetic in a tactical way that leads toward achieving your ultimate goal. In simple terms, you will be able to improve the way you communicate with people so that you can get what you want out of life in any given situation.

Change your perspective on negotiation and cultivate a mindset of discovery

The term “negotiation” has a lot of negative association. It may conjure up a memory of a time when you have been in conflict or felt bullied by someone into selling your product for less than it is worth—or indeed been pressured into overspending as a customer. But, while a bad negotiator may well treat the matter like a battle of intellect, good negotiators will approach things with curiosity and an open mind.

A good negotiator expects surprises and treats negotiation as information-gathering. Before you can achieve your end goal and influence the person you are communicating with, you need to forget any assumptions you may hold and solely focus on listening to them. This means truly listening, not just nodding your head and pretending it is going in while you continue to practice your own argument in your mind. Any potential scenarios you are imagining should only be considered a possibility.

Negotiations can feel overwhelming because your mind is trying to process the information gathered into potential difficulties or possible resolutions while you are still in the middle of a discussion. This makes active listening quite tricky, no matter how hard you try. It’s also why the FBI assigns a team of listeners for hostage negotiations, to avoid missing any nuggets of information that could help them lead hostages to safety.

To discover whether you are in the habit of relying on assumptions, think back to a moment when you felt you didn’t get the end result you were after, whether it was in a business meeting or during a disagreement at home. Be honest with yourself and answer these four questions:

  1. Did you begin with any assumptions about what the person wanted?
  2. Did you truly listen and discover anything new about them?
  3. Did you allow them enough time to explain themselves, or did you rush them?
  4. How much of the negative emotion felt during this conversation came from the voice inside your head versus the person in front of you?

In reflection, it is likely that you will now see just how much your actions during that meeting were influenced by internally formed assumptions. Quite possibly you didn’t truly listen to the other person because you had already decided on the outcome before the meeting began.

Learning to take a step back, clear your mind, and truly listen is the most effective way to become a successful negotiator. By approaching conversations with a mindset of discovery, you will begin to build trust and cultivate a safe environment for sharing. This will lead the other party to reveal key information that could not only inform what you do next, but also nurture a strong relationship between the two of you—a far more satisfactory result than what you may have experienced in the past.

Open questions can get you the result you want and make the other party feel in control

Whether you are dealing with a hostage situation, a family feud, or closing a business deal, when you start a negotiation, it is natural to grasp for control so that you can get the result you want. Unfortunately this often leads to a meaningless and potentially insincere agreement, rather than wholehearted understanding or a binding contract.

Remember: getting a yes means nothing without the how. When we hear “yes,” we often ignore any signals that the other party are not trulyonboard, which can later result in a failure to follow through on the agreement. However, posing open questions early on can help you to introduce ideas rather than impose them, allowing your counterpart to consider the best solution and truly commit to the eventual result. If what you want becomes their idea, the deal will be a lot easier and more likely to close.

Let’s explore how open questions can be used in practice. In a serious situation, such as a kidnapping scenario when the life of a loved one is being threatened for a large ransom, the open question “How do I know they are alive?” or “How can I do that when I don’t have that kind of money?” will buy the FBI time and nurture “forced empathy” with the kidnapper, causing them to identify with those being ransomed and encouraging them to seek out a solution to the problem. Alternatively, if you are trying to stop your teenager running away from home, you could switch “Please don’t leave!” with “What do you hope to achieve by going?” This will make them consider their reason for leaving and open up a dialogue so you can get to the bottom of the issue at hand.

In a business setting, one of the most common mistakes negotiators make is to arrange a deal that only serves the people in the room—not accounting for any invisible decision makers behind the scenes. These individuals often halt progress, meaning that what seemed like a sure thing between those present in the negotiation never manifests into a signed contract. To help avoid any blockers along the way, it is a good idea to use open questions that address the wider business. You could ask “How would this impact the rest of the business?” or “What can we do to help make this transition run smoothly for everyone involved?”

A negotiation shouldn’t be approached with a view to overcoming challenges and defeating your counterpart. A good negotiator will instead focus on enticing the other party toward a preferred result and will gather information about the bigger picture, leading to a mutually beneficial resolution that is agreeable to everyone involved. If you use some intelligently applied open questions, starting with “how” or “what,” you can achieve your goal while creating the illusion that they are in control—a win-win situation.

Resolve conflict without confrontation in four simple steps

We have all encountered someone in a position of authority resistant to input; they prefer compliance instead of collaboration, and nothing you say will ever change their mind. Right? Wrong. In addition to open questions, there are four key steps used by the FBI for negotiations that can help you disarm this personality type.

  1. Use a calming tone of voice. Like a late-night radio host, talk smoothly with downward inflections.
  2. Start with saying sorry. If you say sorry, you appear empathetic and understanding of their situation.
  3. Use mirroring techniques. Mirroring the other party’s body language or repeating their words helps make you more relatable and builds rapport.
  4. Pause for at least four seconds after speaking. The passing of time is the most powerful negotiation tool used in FBI negotiations, so don’t be afraid to go silent. This will let the other party keep talking, providing you with more valuable information. Plus, they may end up negotiating against themselves.

Then, simply repeat the process, and keep using these techniques until you get the result you are after, while also using open questions.

This technique works in volatile FBI hostage negotiations, but it can also work with any difficult personalities you need to handle personally, whether you are dealing with an unreasonable boss or an adolescent child. Let’s say your boss has asked you to stay late for a non-urgent project. Using a calm tone of voice, say sorry and repeat (mirror) the request, for example: “Sorry, you want me to stay late for X project due next month?” Then wait in silence, and allow them to rethink the request. At this point, they may give you a valid reason for the request, which will help you to proceed with the negotiation, understanding where they’re coming from. But more often than not, when the other party is forced to reconsider what they are asking, it will lead them to change their mind.

Of course, as the saying goes, it is not what we say but how we say it. As humans, we subconsciously feel calmer when someone speaks to us at slower pace, which helps alleviate any unnecessary anxiety. Your “radio host voice” may be a bit much the entire time, and there may also be occasion for a more playful tone to create a positive atmosphere. To understand which tone will work best, consider what the other party needs: if they seem anxious, then they need your calming voice. If they seem bored or unmotivated, use your playful voice.

Ultimately, if you follow these steps, you will be creating a safer environment for you both to talk and think together. This will enable you to build up trust with the person you are negotiating with as you allow them to revaluate their own position and open up.

Show empathy and identify the emotions of others in order to influence them

For many years, the FBI ignored the role of emotion in negotiation. It was seen as a hindrance; the primary goal was to separate people from the problem. However, in any high-risk situation that requires an FBI negotiation, emotion is the problem—rational thought is not on the agenda.

Now, an experienced FBI negotiator also needs to be emotionally intelligent, much like a trained therapist. Not only do they need to identify and label the emotions of others, they also need to recognize their own. In addition, they must work out what is behind those emotions and how they can use that information to influence what happens next. This is called “tactical empathy,” a technique that can be successfully applied in any negotiation.

To use tactical empathy as a tool in your own life, the most important first step is to acclimatize your senses by being patient, saying less, and observing more. Listen to what the other party is saying, watch their body language, and observe their tone of voice. The beginning of any negotiation should be primarily explorative, so use the radio voice, open question, and mirroring techniques provided earlier to gather as much information as possible. Keep going until you can label the emotion that they are experiencing and any factors that are contributing to that emotion. By assessing the bigger picture and truly understanding their position, you can then begin to fathom how you can influence them with whatever it is you are proposing.

Let’s say you are in the middle of a silly argument about the dishes with your partner. It was your turn but you need to rush out. In a calming tone you say: “Sorry, you say it was my turn to do the dishes?” As they respond, observe their behavior and tone of voice, and try to label the emotion they are feeling. In this case, you notice they are feeling underappreciated. You apologize again and confirm your appreciation: “Sorry, you are right it was my turn, but I would really appreciate your help today.”

Emotion is a powerful negotiation tool and using it to your advantage doesn’t have to be a cold tactic. In fact, in exploring any concerns the other party may have and by working toward a resolution together, they should leave with more clarity and confidence in the agreement. This approach will also help you to build a deeper and more meaningful relationship, which often leads to greater results for all parties.

Don’t just get people to say “yes”—you want them to say “that’s right”

The word “yes” has historically been considered the ultimate goal of any negotiation—but not anymore. What you actually need to hear is “that’s right,” because this means you not only have agreement, you also have an understanding. Getting someone to say these two words is about leading them toward their own subtle epiphany, a moment when they recognize their own emotion and feel released from any concerns. So, what does it take to get to those two magic words?

Having tried and tested the techniques revealed so far in isolation, the FBI’s elite Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU) have since developed a five-stage crisis negotiation model: the Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM). That is to actively listen and use tactical empathy to build rapport and influence the other party in a way that leads to behavioral change.

While the BCSM model was developed by the CNU, the core principles can be traced back to findings from American psychologist Carl Rogers. He recognized that forcing your own values on a client to establish the “correct” course of action is not effective, and that, instead, therapists should accept people for who they are and treat them with “unconditional positive regard.”

This approach can be very effective if you truly want to influence the behavior of others, whether they are your business partner, colleague, relative, or friend. Think about it. When someone tells you that you shouldn’t eat this, or smoke that, and that exercise is good for you, will you change for the sake of doing what is right? Probably not. Conversely, if someone was to truly listen to the reason you do those things and help you address the cause of your behavior, you might just begin to realize that a different course of action is necessary.

If you really make an effort to listen to what they are saying and connect with the emotion they are feeling, then you can help to navigate them toward a resolution and influence real change. They will come to an understanding in their epiphany that what you are proposing will facilitate the “right” outcome for their needs, as well as yours.

Learn to read the unspoken needs of the other party during negotiation, and address their “irrational blind spots” preemptively

The human mind is complex and often unpredictable, especially during negotiation. There are always a number of hidden needs and “irrational blind spots” that need to be addressed. Rather than treating a negotiation as a linear process, you need to be mindful that there is always leverage and a number of variables at hand.

In addition to listening and using the open question and mirroring techniques, which enable you to build rapport and trust, you also need to become less naive and more confident about what you can get out of the situation. Too often we default to a “let’s split the difference” mentality, trying to appease everyone involved—but this is not the best approach. If your partner disagreed with the color of your shoes, and you agreed to wear one in each color, this would not be a good result. Compromise is a bad deal: no deal at all is better than one that doesn’t deliver what you actually need.

Instead of splitting the difference, there are some neat tricks that can help you use recently discovered information to change the other party’s perception of the negotiation, causing them to abandon previous expectations and see the deal in the same light that you do. This includes using odd, unrounded numbers when discussing figures in order to signal your knowledge of the potential transaction, tapping into their need for fairness, and taking advantage of a fear of deadlines.

To help you visualize how this could work in practice, let’s look at the last one—a fear of deadlines. You are in a business meeting, and you discover that time is an issue: deadline pressures are causing your counterpart to feel anxious. Instead of falling into the trap of rushing into a compromise, address the deadline. What could you do to reassure them about the timeframe? You must get to the bottom of what is causing the anxiety and reassure them through your resolution. Equally, you can use the deadline pressure to your advantage: if they need this done quickly, then do they really have time to continue negotiations? Acknowledge that time is an issue, but that you are confident you can not only get it done in time, but get it done right.

During a negotiation, many people fail to articulate everything they are worried or feel anxious about. It is your job to expose these hidden needs and “irrational blind spots” so that you can address them immediately and reassure the other party. Don’t resort to splitting the difference or compromising; instead change their perception of the deal so that it is compatible with yours by preemptively resolving their problems. The secret to being a successful negotiator is a highly developed sense of perception.

Final summary

Negotiation is actually a very emotional process. A good negotiator knows how to listen and collect all the information they need before they attempt to close a deal. This is why the first step to improving your own negotiation skills is to change your perspective on what negotiating actually means.

It helps to view each negotiation as a discovery exercise, approaching each scenario with curiosity and an open mind. You can also use open questions and mirroring techniques to create “forced empathy,” which encourages the other party to reconsider what they are asking and rethink their way toward a resolution that works for both parties. This enables you to get the result you want, but also allows them to feel in control.

Adjustments to your tone of voice, using the word “sorry,” and mirroring the other party’s words and body language can help you to build rapport and create a shared space for thinking and speaking together. The FBI’s BCSM five-step strategy can also help you to get beyond a “yes” to real buy in and, ultimately, the two best words for a successful negotiation: “that’s right.”

Remember, a good negotiator should always expect surprises and enter a negotiation with an open mind. They should be ready to listen and act based on what they’ve learned or discovered during negotiations to address any issues the other party may have, even if these issues haven’t been expressed yet. If you can combine all of these techniques with strategic empathy tactics and address their unspoken needs, then you will have your negotiation counterpart in the palm of your hands.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

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Never Split the Difference Summary

Sam’s Notes

Chris Voss is a former international FBI hostage negotiator. In his book, Never Split the Difference, Chris reveals his battle-tested strategies for high-stakes negotiations.

The Five Big Ideas

Negotiation begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.

Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.

Tactical empathy brings our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done.

Giving someone’s emotion a name, otherwise known as labeling, gets you close to someone without asking about external factors you know nothing about.

“No” provides a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you really want by eliminating what you don’t want.

Never Split the Difference Summary

Chapter 1: The New Rules

Negotiation begins with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there. By listening intensely, you demonstrate empathy and show a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing.

Chapter 2: Be a Mirror

Good negotiators know that they need to be ready for surprises; great negotiators use their skills to reveal the surprises they are certain to exist.

Great negotiators question the assumptions that others accept on faith or in arrogance. Thus, they remain more emotionally open to all possibilities and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.

People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. Your goal is to uncover as much information as possible.

To quiet the voices in your head, make your sole and all-encompassing focus the other person and what they have to say.

Your goal is to identify what your counterpart actually needs and get them feeling safe enough to talk about what they want.

Negotiation begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.

Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators make. If you’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard and you risk undermining the rapport and trust we’ve built.

There are three voice tones available to negotiators:

The late-night FM DJ voice: Use selectively to make a point. Inflect your voice downward, keeping it calm and slow. When done properly, you create an aura of authority and trustworthiness without triggering defensiveness.

The positive/playful voice: Should be your default voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. Your attitude is light and encouraging. The key here is to relax and smile while you’re talking.

The direct or assertive voice: Used rarely. Will cause problems and create pushback.

Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve. Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.

You can be very direct and to the point as long as you create safety by a tone of voice that says “I’m okay, you’re okay, let’s figure things out.”

View assumptions as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them rigorously.

Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.

By repeating back what people say, your counterpart will inevitably elaborate on what was just said and sustain the process of connecting.

In one study by Richard Wiseman, the average tip of the waiters who mirrored was 70 percent more than of those who used positive reinforcement.

Having the right mindset is the key to a successful negotiation.

To get your own way without confrontation, follow five simple steps:

Use the late-night FM DJ voice;

Start with “I’m sorry …”;


Silence. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart; and


Chapter 3: Don’t Feel Their Pain, Label It

Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It’s bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done.

When we closely observe a person’s face, gestures, and tone of voice, our brain begins to align with theirs in a process called neural resonance, and that lets us know more fully what they think and feel.

If you want to increase your neural resonance skills, take a moment right now and practice. Turn your attention to someone who’s talking near you, or watch a person being interviewed on TV. As they talk, imagine that you are that person. Visualize yourself in the position they describe and put in as much detail as you can as if you were actually there.

Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name and you show you identify with how that person feels. It gets you close to someone without asking about external factors you know nothing about.

The first step to labeling is detecting the other person’s emotional state.

The trick to spotting feelings is to pay close attention to changes people undergo when they respond to external events. Most often, those events are your words.

Once you’ve spotted an emotion you want to highlight, the next step is to label it aloud. Labels can be phrased as statements or questions. The only difference is whether you end the sentence with a downward or upward inflection. But no matter how they end, labels almost always begin with roughly the same words:

“It seems like …”

“It sounds like …”

“It looks like …”

When responding, your counterpart will usually give a longer answer than just “yes” or “no.” And if they disagree with the label, that’s okay. You can always step back and say, “I didn’t say that was what it was. I just said it seems like that.”

The last rule of labeling is silence. Once you’ve thrown out a label, be quiet and listen.

In basic terms, people’s emotions have two levels: the “presenting” behavior is the part above the surface you can see and hear; beneath, the “underlying” feeling is what motivates the behavior.

What good negotiators do when labeling is address those underlying emotions. Labeling negatives diffuses them (or defuses them, in extreme cases); labeling positives reinforces them.

Labeling helps de-escalate angry confrontations because it makes the person acknowledge their feelings rather than continuing to act out.

The fastest and most efficient means of establishing a quick working relationship is to acknowledge the negative and diffuse it.

Research shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts.

Imagine yourself in your counterpart’s situation. When you acknowledge the other person’s situation, you immediately convey that you are listening. And once they know that you are listening, they may tell you something that you can use.

The reasons why a counterpart will not make an agreement with you are often more powerful than why they will make a deal, so focus first on clearing the barriers to agreement. Denying barriers or negative influences gives them credence; get them into the open.

Pause. After you label a barrier or mirror a statement, let it sink in. Don’t worry, the other party will fill the silence.

Label your counterpart’s fears to diffuse their power.

List the worst things that the other party could say about you and say them before the other person can. Because these accusations often sound exaggerated when said aloud, speaking them will encourage the other person to claim that quite the opposite is true.

Remember you’re dealing with a person who wants to be appreciated and understood. So use labels to reinforce and encourage positive perceptions and dynamics.

Chapter 4: Beware “Yes”—Master “No”

Pushing hard for “Yes” doesn’t get a negotiator any closer to a win; it just angers the other side.

For good negotiators, “No” provides a great opportunity for you and the other party to clarify what you really want by eliminating what you don’t want.

“No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it.

Great negotiators seek “No” because they know that’s often when the real negotiation begins.

“No” can often mean:

I am not yet ready to agree;

You are making me feel uncomfortable;

I do not understand;

I don’t think I can afford it;

I want something else;

I need more information; or

I want to talk it over with someone else.

Ask solution-based questions: “What about this doesn’t work for you?” “What would you need to make it work?” “It seems like there’s something here that bothers you.”

People have a need to say, “No.” So don’t just hope to hear it at some point; get them to say it early.

There are three kinds of “Yes”:


Confirmation; and


A counterfeit “yes” is one in which your counterpart plans on saying “no” but either feels “yes” is an easier escape route or just wants to keep the conversation going to get more information or some other kind of edge.

A confirmation “yes” is generally innocent, a reflexive response to a black-or-white question; it’s sometimes used to lay a trap but mostly it’s just simple affirmation with no promise of action.

A commitment “yes” is the real deal; it’s a true agreement that leads to action, a “yes” at the table that ends with a signature on the contract. The commitment “yes” is what you want, but the three types sound almost the same so you have to learn how to recognize which one is being used.

Whether you call it “buy-in” or “engagement” or something else, good negotiators know that their job is to gently guide their counterpart to discover their goal as his own.

Using all your skills to create rapport, agreement, and connection with a counterpart is useful, but ultimately that connection is useless unless the other person feels that they are equally as responsible, if not solely responsible, for creating the connection and the new ideas they have.

Though the intensity may differ from person to person, you can be sure that everyone you meet is driven by two primal urges: the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control. If you satisfy those drives, you’re in the door.

If you’re trying to sell something, don’t start with “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” Instead ask, “Is now a bad time to talk?” Either you get “Yes, it is a bad time” followed by a good time or a request to go away, or you get “No, it’s not” and total focus.

As you can see, “No” has a lot of skills:

“No” allows the real issues to be brought forth;

“No” protects people from making—and lets them correct—ineffective decisions;

“No” slows things down so that people can freely embrace their decisions and the agreements they enter into;

“No” helps people feel safe, secure, emotionally comfortable, and in control of their decisions; and

“No” moves everyone’s efforts forward.

Another way to force “No” in a negotiation is to ask the other party what they don’t want.

If despite all your efforts, the other party won’t say “No,” you’re dealing with people who are indecisive or confused or who have a hidden agenda.

Saying “No” makes the speaker feel safe, secure, and in control, so trigger it. That’s why “Is now a bad time to talk?” is always better than “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

Sometimes the only way to get your counterpart to listen and engage with you is by forcing them into a “No.” That means intentionally mislabeling one of their emotions or desires or asking a ridiculous question—like, “It seems like you want this project to fail”—that can only be answered negatively.

If a potential business partner is ignoring you, contact them with a clear and concise “No”-oriented question that suggests that you are ready to walk away. “Have you given up on this project?” works wonders.

Chapter 5: Trigger The Two Words That Immediately Transform Any Negotiation

Before you convince your counterpart to see what you’re trying to accomplish, you have to say the things to them that will get them to say, “That’s right.”

“That’s right” is better than “yes.” Strive for it. Reaching “that’s right” in a negotiation creates breakthroughs.

Use a summary to trigger a “that’s right.” The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with paraphrasing. Identify, rearticulate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to …”

Chapter 6: Bend Their Reality

The most powerful word in negotiations is “Fair.”

As a negotiator, you should strive for a reputation of being fair. Your reputation precedes you. Let it precede you in a way that paves success.

Know the emotional drivers and you can frame the benefits of any deal in language that will resonate.

To get real leverage in a tough negotiation, you have to persuade the other party that they have something to lose if the deal falls through.

Here’s how:

1. Anchor Their Emotions

To bend your counterpart’s reality, you have to start with the basics of empathy. Start out with an accusation audit acknowledging all of their fears. By anchoring their emotions in preparation for a loss, you inflame the other side’s loss aversion so that they’ll jump at the chance to avoid it.

2. Let The Other Guy Go First … Most of The Time

Going first is not necessarily the best thing when it comes to negotiating price.

Let the other side anchor monetary negotiations.

By letting them anchor you also might get lucky: Chris has experienced many negotiations when the other party’s first offer was higher than the closing figure he had in mind. If he’d gone first they would have agreed and he would have left with either the winner’s curse or buyer’s remorse, those gut-wrenching feelings that he’d overpaid or undersold.

You’ve got to be careful when you let the other party anchor. You have to prepare yourself psychically to withstand the first offer. If the other guy’s a pro, a shark, he’s going to go for an extreme anchor in order to bend your reality.

3. Establish a Range

When confronted with naming your terms or price, counter by recalling a similar deal which establishes your “ballpark,” albeit the best possible ballpark you wish to be in. Instead of saying, “I’m worth $110,000,” say, “At top places like X Corp., people in this job get between $130,000 and $170,000.” That gets your point across without moving the other party into a defensive position. And it gets him thinking at higher levels.

4. Pivot to Non-Monetary Terms

One of the easiest ways to bend your counterpart’s reality to your point of view is to pivot to non-monetary terms.

After you’ve anchored them high, you can make your offer seem reasonable by offering things that aren’t important to you but could be important to them. Or if their offer is low you could ask for things that matter more to you than them.

5. When You Do Talk Numbers, Use Odd Ones

Numbers that end in 0 inevitably feel like temporary placeholders, guesstimates that you can easily be negotiated off of. But anything you throw out that sounds less rounded—say, $37,263—feels like a figure that you came to as a result of a thoughtful calculation.

6. Surprise with a Gift

You can get your counterpart into a mood of generosity by staking an extreme anchor and then, after their inevitable first rejection, offering them a wholly unrelated surprise gift.

How to Negotiate a Better Salary

i. Be Pleasantly Persistent on Non-Salary Terms

Pleasant persistence is a kind of emotional anchoring that creates empathy with the boss and builds the right psychological environment for constructive discussion.

The more you talk about non-salary terms, the more likely you are to hear the full range of their options. For example, asking for extra vacation.

ii. Salary Terms without Success Terms is Russian Roulette

Once you’ve negotiated a salary, make sure to define success for your position—as well as metrics for your next raise.

iii. Spark Their Interest in Your Success and Gain an Unofficial Mentor

When you are selling yourself to a manager, sell yourself as more than a body for a job; sell yourself, and your success, as a way they can validate their own intelligence and broadcast it to the rest of the company.

Make sure they know you’ll act as a flesh-and-blood argument for their importance. Once you’ve bent their reality to include you as their ambassador, they’ll have a stake in your success.

Ask: “What does it take to be successful here?”

Don’t compromise. Meeting halfway often leads to bad deals for both sides.

Approaching deadlines entice people to rush the negotiating process and do impulsive things that are against their best interests.

The F-word—“Fair”—is an emotional term people usually exploit to put the other side on the defensive and gain concessions. When your counterpart drops the F-bomb, don’t get suckered into a concession. Instead, ask them to explain how you’re mistreating them.

You can bend your counterpart’s reality by anchoring his starting point. Before you make an offer, emotionally anchor them by saying how bad it will be. When you get to numbers, set an extreme anchor to make your “real” offer seem reasonable, or use a range to seem less aggressive.

People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realize a gain. Make sure your counterpart sees that there is something to lose by inaction.

Chapter 7: Create the Illusion of Control

When you go into a store, instead of telling the salesclerk what you “need,” you can describe what you’re looking for and ask for suggestions. Then, once you’ve picked out what you want, instead of hitting them with a hard offer, you can just say the price is a bit more than you budgeted and ask for help with one of the greatest-of-all-time calibrated questions: “How am I supposed to do that?”

Calibrated questions have the power to educate your counterpart on what the problem is rather than causing conflict by telling them what the problem is.

You should use calibrated questions early and often, and there are a few that you will find that you will use at the beginning of nearly every negotiation. “What is the biggest challenge you face?” is one of those questions.

Here are some other great standbys that Chris uses in almost every negotiation, depending on the situation:

What about this is important to you?

How can I help to make this better for us?

How would you like me to proceed?

What is it that brought us into this situation?

How can we solve this problem?

What’s the objective? / What are we trying to accomplish here?

How am I supposed to do that?

Calibrated questions make your counterpart feel like they’re in charge, but it’s really you who are framing the conversation.

Even with all the best techniques and strategy, you need to regulate your emotions if you want to have any hope of coming out on top.

The first and most basic rule of keeping your emotional cool is to bite your tongue.

Another simple rule is, when you are verbally assaulted, is to disarm your counterpart by asking a calibrated question.

When people feel that they are not in control, they adopt what psychologists call a hostage mentality. That is, in moments of conflict they react to their lack of power by either becoming extremely defensive or lashing out.

Avoid questions that can be answered with “Yes” or tiny pieces of information. These require little thought and inspire the human need for reciprocity; you will be expected to give something back.

Ask calibrated questions that start with the words “How” or “What.” By implicitly asking the other party for help, these questions will give your counterpart an illusion of control and will inspire them to speak at length, revealing important information.

Don’t ask questions that start with “Why” unless you want your counterpart to defend a goal that serves you. “Why” is always an accusation, in any language.

Calibrate your questions to point your counterpart toward solving your problem. This will encourage them to expend their energy on devising a solution.

There is always a team on the other side. If you are not influencing those behind the table, you are vulnerable.

Chapter 8: Guarantee Execution

Negotiators have to be “decision architects.” They have to dynamically and adaptively design the verbal and nonverbal elements of the negotiation to gain both consent and execution.

“Yes” is nothing without “How.”

With enough of the right “How” questions, you can read and shape the negotiating environment in such a way that you’ll eventually get to the answer you want to hear.

The trick to “How” questions is that they are gentle and graceful ways to say “No” and guide your counterpart to develop a better solution—your solution. A gentle How/No invites collaboration and leaves your counterpart with a feeling of having been treated with respect.

Besides saying “No,” the other key benefit of asking “How?” is that it forces your counterpart to consider and explain how a deal will be implemented.

By making your counterparts articulate implementation in their own words, your carefully calibrated “How” questions will convince them that the final solution is their idea. And that’s crucial. People always make more effort to implement a solution when they think it’s theirs.

There are two key questions you can ask to push your counterparts to think they are defining success their way: “How will we know we’re on track?” and “How will we address things if we find we’re off track?” When they answer, you summarize their answers until you get a “That’s right.” Then you’ll know they’ve bought in.

Be wary of two telling signs that your counterpart doesn’t believe the idea is theirs. When they say, “You’re right,” it’s often a good indicator they are not vested in what is being discussed.

When you push for implementation and they say, “I’ll try,” be aware: it really means, “I plan to fail.”

When you hear either of the above, dive back in with calibrated “How” questions until they define the terms of successful implementation in their own voice.

Follow up by summarizing what they have said to get a “That’s right.”

You have to beware of “behind the table” or “Level II” players—that is, parties that are not directly involved but who can help implement agreements they like and block ones they don’t.

Below are tactics, tools, and methods for using subtle verbal and nonverbal forms of communication to understand and modify the mental states of your counterpart.

i. The 7-38-55 Percent Rule

Albert Mehrabian created the 7-38-55 rule. That is, only 7 percent of a message is based on the words while 38 percent comes from the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face.

Pay very close attention to tone and body language to make sure they match up with the literal meaning of the words. If they don’t align, it’s quite possible that the speaker is lying or at least unconvinced.

When someone’s tone of voice or body language does not align with the meaning of the words they say, use labels to discover the source of the incongruence.

Recognizing the incongruence and gently dealing with it through a label will make the other party feel respected. Consequently, your relationship of trust will be improved.

ii. The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three is simply getting the other guy to agree to the same thing three times in the same conversation.

The first time they agree to something or give you a commitment, that’s No. 1. For No. 2 you might label or summarize what they said so they answer, “That’s right.” And No. 3 could be a calibrated “How” or “What” question about implementation that asks them to explain what will constitute success, something like “What do we do if we get off track?”

The three times might also just be the same calibrated question phrased three different ways, like “What’s the biggest challenge you faced? What are we up against here? What do you see as being the most difficult thing to get around?”

iii. The Pinocchio Effect

In a study of the components of lying, Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra and his coauthors found that, on average, liars use more words than truth tellers and use far more third-person pronouns. They start talking about him, her, it, one, they, and their rather than I, in order to put some distance between themselves and the lie. Moreover, they discovered that liars tend to speak in more complex sentences in an attempt to win over their suspicious counterparts.

The researchers dubbed this the Pinocchio Effect because, just like Pinocchio’s nose, the number of words grew along with the lie.

The more in love your counterpart is with “I,” “me,” and “my” the less important they are. Conversely, the harder it is to get a first-person pronoun out of a negotiator’s mouth, the more important they are.

iv. The Chris Discount

People are often tired of being hammered with their own name. So, take a different tack and use your own name.

Doing so creates the dynamic of “forced empathy.” It makes the other side see you as a person.

How to Get Your Counterparts to Bid Against Themselves

The best way to get your counterparts to lower their demands is to say “No” using “How” questions. These indirect ways of saying “No” won’t shut down your counterpart the way a blunt, pride-piercing “No” would.

Chris has found that you can usually express “No” four times before actually saying the word.

The first step in the “No” series is the old standby: “How am I supposed to do that?” You have to deliver it in a deferential way, so it becomes a request for help. Properly delivered, it invites the other side to participate in your dilemma and solve it with a better offer.

After that, some version of “Your offer is very generous, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me” is an elegant second way to say “No.”

This well-tested response avoids making a counteroffer, and the use of “generous” nurtures your counterpart to live up to the word. The “I’m sorry” also softens the “No” and builds empathy.

Then you can use something like “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I just can’t do that.” It’s a little more direct, and the “can’t do that” does great double duty. By expressing an inability to perform, it can trigger the other side’s empathy toward you. “I’m sorry, no” is a slightly more succinct version for the fourth “No.” If delivered gently, it barely sounds negative at all.

If you have to go further, of course, “No” is the last and most direct way. Verbally, it should be delivered with a downward inflection and a tone of regard; it’s not meant to be “NO!”

Is the “Yes” real or counterfeit? Test it with the Rule of Three: use calibrated questions, summaries, and labels to get your counterpart to reaffirm their agreement at least three times. It’s really hard to repeatedly lie or fake conviction.

A person’s use of pronouns offers deep insights into his or her relative authority. If you’re hearing a lot of “I,” “me,” and “my,” the real power to decide probably lies elsewhere. Picking up a lot of “we,” “they,” and “them,” it’s more likely you’re dealing directly with a savvy decision maker keeping his options open.

Chapter 9: Bargain Hard

When you feel you’re being dragged into a haggle, you can detour the conversation to the non-monetary issues that make any final price work. You can do this directly by saying, in an encouraging tone of voice, “Let’s put price off to the side for a moment and talk about what would make this a good deal.” Or you could go at it more obliquely by asking, “What else would you be able to offer to make that a good price for me?” And if the other side pushes you to go first, wriggle from his grip. Instead of naming a price, allude to an incredibly high number that someone else might charge.

When a negotiation is far from resolution and going nowhere fast, you need to shake things up and get your counterpart out of their rigid mindset.

When you want to flip a dubious counterpart to your side, ask them, “Why would you do that?” but in a way that the “that” favors you.

If you are working to lure a client away from a competitor, you might say, “Why would you ever do business with me? Why would you ever change from your existing supplier? They’re great!” In these questions, the “Why?” coaxes your counterpart into working for you.

Using the first-person singular pronoun is another great way to set a boundary without escalating into confrontation. When you say, “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for me,” the word “I” strategically focuses your counterpart’s attention onto you long enough for you to make a point.

When you want to counteract unproductive statements from your counterpart, you can say, “I feel ___ when you ___ because ___,” and that demands a time-out from the other person.

Once you’re clear on what your bottom line is, you have to be willing to walk away. Never be needy for a deal.

The person across the table is never the problem. The unsolved issue is.

The Ackerman Model

The Ackerman model is an offer-counteroffer method. But it is an effective system for beating the usual lackluster bargaining dynamic, which has the predictable result of meeting in the middle.

The systematized and easy-to-remember process has only six steps:

Set your target price (your goal);

Set your first offer at 65 percent of your target price;

Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (to 85, 95, and 100 percent);

Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “No” to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer;

When calculating the final amount, use precise, non-round numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight; and

On your final number, throw in a non-monetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.

Identify your counterpart’s negotiating style. Once you know whether they are Accommodator, Assertive, or Analyst, you’ll know the correct way to approach them.

Prepare an Ackerman plan. Before you head into the weeds of bargaining, you’ll need a plan including extreme anchors, calibrated questions, and well-defined offers. Remember: 65, 85, 95, 100 percent. Decreasing raises and ending on non-round numbers will get your counterpart to believe that he’s squeezing you for all you’re worth when you’re really getting to the number you want.

Chapter 10: Find The Black Swan

Every case is new. We must let what we know—our known knowns—guide us but not blind us to what we do not know.

As a negotiator, you should always be aware of which side, at any given moment, feels they have the most to lose if negotiations collapse.

To get leverage, persuade your counterpart that they have something real to lose if the deal falls through.

At a taxonomic level, there are three kinds of leverage: Positive, Negative, and Normative.

Positive leverage is quite simply your ability as a negotiator to provide—or withhold—things that your counterpart wants. When they say that, you have power.

Negative leverage is what most civilians picture when they hear the word “leverage.” It’s a negotiator’s ability to make his counterpart suffer.

Normative leverage is using the other party’s norms and standards to advance your position. If you can show inconsistencies between their beliefs and their actions, you have normative leverage.

Discovering the Black Swans that give you normative valuation can be as easy as asking what your counterpart believes and listening openly. You want to see what language they speak and speak it back to them.

In their book Negotiation Genius, Harvard Business School professors Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman provide a look at the common reasons negotiators mistakenly call their counterparts crazy.

Mistake #1: They Are Ill-Informed

People operating with incomplete information appear crazy to those who have different information.

Your job, when faced with someone like this in a negotiation, is to discover what they do not know and supply that information.

Mistake #2: They Are Constrained

In any negotiation where your counterpart is acting wobbly, there exists a distinct possibility that they have things they can’t do but aren’t eager to reveal.

Mistake #3: They Have Other Interests

These people are simply complying with needs and desires that you don’t yet understand, what the world looks like to them based on their own set of rules.

The Best Techniques for Flushing Out Black Swans—and Exploiting Them.

Let what you know—your known knowns—guide you but not blind you. Every case is new, so remain flexible and adaptable.

Black Swans are leverage multipliers. Remember the three types of leverage: positive (the ability to give someone what they want); negative (the ability to hurt someone); and normative (using your counterpart’s norms to bring them around).

Work to understand the other side’s “religion.” Digging into worldviews inherently implies moving beyond the negotiating table and into the life, emotional and otherwise, of your counterpart. That’s where Black Swans live.

Exploit the similarity principle. People are more apt to concede to someone they share a cultural similarity with, so dig for what makes them tick and show that you share common ground.

Recommended Reading

If you like Never Split the Difference, you may also enjoy the following books:

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Dan H. Pink

Buy this book

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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Finding something important and meaningful in your life is the most productive use of your time and energy. This is true because every life has problems associated with it and finding meaning in your life will help you sustain the effort needed to overcome the particular problems you face. Thus, we can say that the key to living a good life is not giving a fuck about more things, but rather, giving a fuck only about the things that align with your personal values.

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck does away with the positive psychology craze to instead give you a Stoic, no bullshit approach to living a life that might not always be happy, but meaningful and centered only around what’s important to you.

Lesson 1: Only hold values you control.

Mark(the author) is a very stoic guy and it shines through his writing and advice. A common idea in Stoicism is to focus only on the things you can control. This is easy enough to understand and implement when it comes to your actions, but it can be applied to more intangible aspects of your life as well.

Take your values, for example. I know it’s hard to put them into words, but if you try to describe yourself in, say, three adjectives, you already have a good idea of which values most dictate your life. Let’s say you chose the words honest, punctual and popular. Here’s where Mark makes an interesting remark: Only choose to have values you can control.

Most of us give up some of our ideals as we grow up, try to have a career and make money. While that’s just part of real life, it’s important you don’t hand off the steering wheel altogether. Values you don’t control are bad, because they’ll be a constant source of unnecessary suffering in your life.

When we look at the three we just mentioned, honesty is 100% in your control. Only you know how honest you are, but no one else needs to. Punctuality is partially in your control. If you always leave with plenty of buffer time, you can compensate for most potential obstacles. Popularity, however, is totally out of your grasp. Sure, you can be nice and friendly to everyone, but you can’t control other peoples’ opinions. Some will always hate you, no matter what you do.

Therefore, popularity isn’t the best value to focus on and you could try replacing it with one more controllable, such as kindness.

Lesson 2: Certainty hampers growth.

What a great principle distilled into just three words: certainty hampers growth. Imagine you could choose between two modes of moving through the world: one in which you think everything you know is 100% true and one in which you think nothing you know is 100% true. Both are stressful, but which one do you think would help you make better decisions?

The latter, of course. While there’s some middle ground to be found here, rejecting the idea that you know anything for sure is a great base to start learning from. This is true for discovering factual knowledge, such as using the scientific method to build business hypotheses helps arrive at better conclusions, but it is also true for gaining conceptual knowledge.

The second kind is more implicit knowledge about the relationships between various entities. Let’s take your place in the social hierarchy at school, for example. If you’re convinced you’re ugly, you’ll be sad a lot. But if you notice that you get lots of compliments at school, people call you charming and some have a crush on you, that’s evidence your brain is playing you with false certainty.

If you allow yourself to have a little doubt, you can then disprove this limiting belief you hold about yourself.

Lesson 3: Don’t obsess about leaving a legacy.

Here’s an uncomfortable, but important reminder: You’re going to die one day. We all are. Whether we admit it or not, when the time comes closer, we’re all scared. That’s why many of us want to leave a legacy, myself included. However, Mark says that might ruin our short amount of precious time here on earth.

The more we’re driven to build a great body of work, the more start chasing fame, working too much and focusing on the future. What if instead, we just tried to be useful in the present? We could still help a ton of people, enjoy our days and fully be here, while we’re here.

Mark’s stance is clear: Find ways to bring yourself, your loved ones and the people you meet joy in the now and let the legacy part take care of itself.

For as much as I love positive psychology, sometimes it just doesn’t work, even for me. There’s another mode that might sound odd, but still works: toiling. You know how you have the occasional week where it’s literally just grinding? Even if you usually like your job, nothing exciting happens for a few days, you have a lot of deadlines and you just toil away to get it done.

It’s the mode I’m in right now and weirdly, it’s still kinda satisfying. Probably, because it feels liberating not to have to ooze happy vibes all the time. Blogging demigod Mark Manson has coined a better phrase for this mode of operation: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck. His first “proper” book, this instant New York Times bestseller is a no BS self-help book for people who usually hate self-help.

Mark gets that life has become overwhelming and the only way to find our center around the things that really matter to us is to not give a f*ck about anything else.

Here are my 3 favorite lessons:

  • Values you can’t control are bad values to follow.
  • Don’tbelieve you know anything with certainty, for it keeps you from improving.
  • Tryingto leave a legacy might ruin your life.

The trick of not giving a fuck about most things is that you’ll be able to give one about what really matters to you. Let’s see how we can get a bit closer to that!

Lesson 1: Only hold values you control.

Mark is a very Stoic guy and it shines through his writing and advice. A common idea in Stoicism is to focus only on the things you can control. This is easy enough to understand and implement when it comes to your actions, but it can be applied to more intangible aspects of your life as well.

Take your values, for example. I know it’s hard to put them into words, but if you try to describe yourself in, say, three adjectives, you already have a good idea of which values most dictate your life. Let’s say you chose the words honest, punctual and popular. Here’s where Mark makes an interesting remark: Only choose to have values you can control.

Most of us give up some of our ideals as we grow up, try to have a career and make money. While that’s just part of real life, it’s important you don’t hand off the steering wheel altogether. Values you don’t control are bad, because they’ll be a constant source of unnecessary suffering in your life.

When we look at the three we just mentioned, honesty is 100% in your control. Only you know how honest you are, but no one else needs to. Punctuality is partially in your control. If you always leave with plenty of buffer time, you can compensate for most potential obstacles. Popularity, however, is totally out of your grasp. Sure, you can be nice and friendly to everyone, but you can’t control other peoples’ opinions. Some will always hate you, no matter what you do.

Therefore, popularity isn’t the best value to focus on and you could try replacing it with one more controllable, such as kindness.

Lesson 2: Certainty hampers growth.

What a great principle distilled into just three words: certainty hampers growth. Imagine you could choose between two modes of moving through the world: one in which you think everything you know is 100% true and one in which you think nothing you know is 100% true. Both are stressful, but which one do you think would help you make better decisions?

The latter, of course. While there’s some middle ground to be found here, rejecting the idea that you know anything for sure is a great base to start learning from. This is true for discovering factual knowledge, such as using the scientific method to build business hypotheses helps arrive at better conclusions, but it is also true for gaining conceptual knowledge.

The second kind is more implicit knowledge about the relationships between various entities. Let’s take your place in the social hierarchy at school, for example. If you’re convinced you’re ugly, you’ll be sad a lot. But if you notice that you get lots of compliments at school, people call you charming and some have a crush on you, that’s evidence your brain is playing you with false certainty.

If you allow yourself to have a little doubt, you can then disprove this limiting belief you hold about yourself.

Lesson 3: Don’t obsess about leaving a legacy.

Here’s an uncomfortable, but important reminder: You’re going to die one day. We all are. Whether we admit it or not, when the time comes closer, we’re all scared. That’s why many of us want to leave a legacy, myself included. However, Mark says that might ruin our short amount of precious time here on earth.

The more we’re driven to build a great body of work, the more start chasing fame, working too much and focusing on the future. What if instead, we just tried to be useful in the present? We could still help a ton of people, enjoy our days and fully be here, while we’re here.

Mark’s stance is clear: Find ways to bring yourself, your loved ones and the people you meet joy in the now and let the legacy part take care of itself.

My personal take-aways

Mark’s writing is funny and to the point. No bullshit, lots of curse words, but lots of insight too. It’s a medium long book with just over 200 pages, but light in terms of how fast you get through, because Mark uses many examples too. I already learned another lesson from the first chapter: success has nothing to do with self-improvement. You can read that chapter as a free preview on Scribd.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a book that challenges the conventions of self-help by inviting the reader to NOT try, say no often and embrace negative thinking.

Not giving a f*ck is about being comfortable with being different and caring about something more important than adversity.

You must give a f*ck about something.

The Five Big Ideas

Conventional self-help advice focuses on what you’re NOT. Further, it zeros in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and highlights them for you.

The key to a good life is not giving a f*ck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.

When you feel angry about feeling angry or anxious about feeling anxious, you’re stuck in what Manson calls, “The Feedback Loop from Hell.”

However, by not giving a f*ck that you feel bad, you short-circuit the Feedback Loop from Hell; you say to yourself, “I feel like s*it, but who gives a f*ck?”

Because there’s an infinite amount of things we can now see or know, there is also an infinite number of ways we can discover that we don’t measure up, that we’re not good enough, that things aren’t as great as they could be. And this rips us apart inside.

What Not Giving a F*ck Means

Subtlety #1: Not giving a f*ck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.

A sneaky truth about life. There’s no such thing as not giving a f*ck. You must give a f*ck about something.

You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.

Subtlety #2: To not give a f*ck about adversity, you must first give a f*ck about something more important than adversity.

If you find yourself consistently giving too many f*cks about trivial s*it that bothers you, chances are you don’t have much going on in your life to give a legitimate f*ck about.

Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a f*ck about.

Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a f*ck about what’s truly f*ckworthy.

The idea of not giving a f*ck is a simple way of reorienting our expectations for life and choosing what is important and what is not.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Summary

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

The more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. Philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “The Backwards Law” (further reading: the hedonic treadmill).

Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.

To not give a f*ck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.

When you give too many f*cks—when you give a f*ck about everyone and everything—you will feel that you’re perpetually entitled to be comfortable and happy at all times, that everything is supposed to be just exactly the f*cking way you want it to be.

Pain and loss are inevitable and we should let go of trying to resist them.

The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.

We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.

Don’t hope for a life without problems. There’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.

Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded.

Happiness comes from problems you enjoy having and solving.

Nobody who is actually happy has to stand in front of a mirror and tell himself that he’s happy.

Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.

Negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel them, it’s because you’re supposed to do something. (Tony Robbins discusses this in detail in Awaken the Giant Within.)

Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good.

Everything comes with an inherent sacrifice—whatever makes us feel good will also inevitably make us feel bad.

A more interesting question, a question that most people never consider, is, “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

What determines your success isn’t, “What do you want to enjoy?” The relevant question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The path to happiness is a path full of s*itheaps and shame.

Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.

Our struggles determine our successes.

Our problems birth our happiness, along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems.

The problem with the self-esteem movement is that it measured self-esteem by how positively people felt about themselves. But a true and accurate measurement of one’s self-worth is how people feel about the negative aspects of themselves.

People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of or a threat to, their own greatness.

The true measurement of self-worth is not how a person feels about her positive experiences, but rather how she feels about her negative experiences.

A person who actually has a high self-worth is able to look at the negative parts of his character frankly—“Yes, sometimes I’m irresponsible with money,” “Yes, sometimes I exaggerate my own successes,” “Yes, I rely too much on others to support me and should be more self-reliant”—and then acts to improve upon them.

A lot of people are afraid to accept mediocrity because they believe that if they accept it, they’ll never achieve anything, never improve and that their life won’t matter.

The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all.

If suffering is inevitable, if our problems in life are unavoidable, then the question we should be asking is not “How do I stop suffering?” but “Why am I suffering—for what purpose?”

Self-awareness is like an onion. The first layer is a simple understanding of one’s emotions. The second layer is an ability to ask why we feel certain emotions. This layer of questioning helps us understand the root cause of the emotions that overwhelm us. Once we understand that root cause, we can ideally do something to change it. The third level is our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/failure? How am I choosing to measure myself? By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?

Values underlie everything we are and do. If what we value is unhelpful, if what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based upon those values—the thoughts, the emotions, the day-to-day feelings—will all be out of whack.

Much of the advice out there operates at a shallow level of simply trying to make people feel good in the short term, while the real long-term problems never get solved.

Take a moment and think of something that’s really bugging you. Now ask yourself why it bugs you. Chances are the answer will involve a failure of some sort.

What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how you come to see the situation, how you choose to measure it and value it.

Our values determine the metrics by which we measure ourselves and everyone else.

If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.

Pleasure is not the cause of happiness; rather, it is the effect.

Research shows that once one is able to provide for basic physical needs (food, shelter, and so on), the correlation between happiness and worldly success quickly approaches zero.

Constant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution to life’s problems—problems which, by the way, if you’re choosing the right values and metrics, should be invigorating you and motivating you.

When we force ourselves to stay positive at all times, we deny the existence of our life’s problems. And when we deny our problems, we rob ourselves of the chance to solve them and generate happiness.

Problems add a sense of meaning and importance to our lives.

Some of the greatest moments of one’s life are not pleasant, not successful, not known, and not positive.

Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable. Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially destructive, and 3) not immediate or controllable.

When we have poor values—that is, poor standards we set for ourselves and others—we are essentially giving f*cks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our life worse.

Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we chose it, and that we are responsible for it.

If you’re miserable in your current situation, chances are it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control—that there’s a problem you have no ability to solve, a problem that was somehow thrust upon you without your choosing.

We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond. (Ryan Holiday writes at length about perspective in The Obstacle Is the Way.)

The more we choose to accept responsibility for our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. (“Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life” is Principle #1 in The Success Principles by Jack Canfield.)

Accepting responsibility for our problems is thus the first step to solving them.

A lot of people hesitate to take responsibility for their problems because they believe that to be responsible for your problems is to also be at fault for your problems.

The responsibility/fault fallacy allows people to pass off the responsibility for solving their problems to others.

Our beliefs are malleable, and our memories are horribly unreliable.

The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it. Manson calls this, “The Law of Avoidance”

When we let go of the stories we tell about ourselves, to ourselves, we free ourselves up to actually act (and fail) and grow.

There is little that is unique or special about your problems. That’s why letting go is so liberating.

The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.

Questions that will help you breed more uncertainty in your life.

What if I’m wrong?

What would it mean if I were wrong?

Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?

It’s worth remembering that for any change to happen in your life, you must be wrong about something.

Being able to look at and evaluate different values without necessarily adopting them is perhaps the central skill required in changing one’s own life in a meaningful way.

Manson tries to live with few rules, but one that he’s adopted over the years is this: if it’s down to him being screwed up, or everybody else being screwed up, it is far, far, far more likely that he’s the one who’s screwed up.

If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.

Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something. If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have. If someone is worse than you, it’s likely because he hasn’t been through all of the painful learning experiences you have.

We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.

Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway.

Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.

If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something—anything, really—and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.

When the standard of success becomes merely acting—when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite—we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.

Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.

We all must give a f*ck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something.

The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict, the desire to attempt to accept everything equally and to make everything cohere and harmonize, is a deep and subtle form of entitlement.

The difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship comes down to two things: 1) how well each person in the relationship accepts responsibility, and 2) the willingness of each person to both reject and be rejected by their partner.

The mark of an unhealthy relationship is two people who try to solve each other’s problems in order to feel good about themselves. Rather, a healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other.

Entitled people who blame others for their own emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they constantly paint themselves as victims, eventually someone will come along and save them, and they will receive the love they’ve always wanted. Entitled people who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner and save him or her, they will receive the love and appreciation they’ve always wanted.

It can be difficult for people to recognize the difference between doing something out of obligation and doing it voluntarily. So here’s a litmus test: ask yourself, “If I refused, how would the relationship change?” Similarly, ask, “If my partner refused something I wanted, how would the relationship change?”

It’s not about giving a f*ck about everything your partner gives a f*ck about; it’s about giving a f*ck about your partner regardless of the f*cks he or she gives.

Conflict exists to show us who is there for us unconditionally and who is just there for the benefits.

For a relationship to be healthy, both people must be willing and able to both say no and hear no.

When trust is destroyed, it can be rebuilt only if the following two steps happen: 1) the trust-breaker admits the true values that caused the breach and owns up to them, and 2) the trust-breaker builds a solid track record of improved behavior over time.

Death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured.

Confronting the reality of our own mortality is important because it obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life.

You are going to die, and that’s because you were fortunate enough to have lived.

If you like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, you may also enjoy the following books:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant

Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven

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Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant: notes

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Everyone has a truth that they need to live and share. For the author, that truth was committing to the daily practice of repeating the phrase “I love myself.” When you love yourself, life loves you back.

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Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant

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Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It Summary

The Book in Three Sentences

It there’s one lesson Kamal can share from his experience it’s to share your truth.

When you share your truth, the world responds in ways you could never have imagined.

Kamal’s truth is to love himself like his life depends on it.

The Five Big Ideas

In simplicity lies truth. In simplicity lies power.

Loving yourself is a practice and requires commitment.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like or love yourself in the beginning—what matters is you focus on one thought repeatedly until it becomes top of mind.

“The Practice”: (1) Mental loop (2) A meditation (3) One question

The most important relationship we’ll ever have is with ourselves.

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It Summary

James Altucher on writing: “I don’t do a post now unless I’m worried about what people will think about me.” (Sam: James discusses this further in Choose Yourself.)

In simplicity lies truth. In simplicity lies power.

Loving yourself is a practice.

Kamal was in a bad way. He was miserable out of his mind and there were days where he would lay in bed, too depressed to even open the drapes. One day he hit his “emotional threshold” (an idea Anthony Robbins discusses in Awaken the Giant Within), got out of bed and wrote himself the following:

This day, I vow to myself to love myself, to treat myself as someone I love truly and deeply—in my thoughts, my actions, the choices I make, the experiences I have, each moment I am conscious, I make the decision I LOVE MYSELF.

Kamel didn’t know how to love myself. All he knew was that he’d made a vow—something far greater than a commitment, bigger than an I-wish or a nice-to-have.  A vow.

Kamal didn’t believe he loved himself in the beginning. What mattered more, though, was he was committing to the practice and in the simplest way, he could think of: focusing on one thought repeatedly until it was more top of mind.

“Imagine the feeling of catching yourself loving yourself without trying. It’s like catching a sunset out of the corner of your eye. It will stop you.”

The Practice

Mental loop

A meditation

One question

It doesn’t matter if you don’t love or even like yourself—it’s okay to build up to it.

“Darkness is the absence of light.  If you remember this, it will change your life.”

“Any negative thought is darkness.”

“Imagine you’re in a dark room and it’s bright outside. Your job is to go to the window, pull out a rag, and start cleaning. Just clean. sAnd soon enough, light enters naturally, taking the darkness away. It’s that simple. Each time the mind shifts to darkness—fear, worry, pain, you name it—when you notice, clean the window. Light will flow in.”

1. Mental Loop

Often, we’re running familiar patterns and loops in our head. When we replay these loops, they trigger feelings. It’s automatic to the point where we believe we don’t have a choice. But we do.

Kamal compares a thought loop to a groove in a rock created by water: “If you had a thought once, it has no power over you.  Repeat it again and again, especially with emotional intensity, feeling it, and over time, you’re creating the grooves, the mental river.  Then it controls you.”

“Take this one thought, I love myself. Add emotional intensity if you can —it deepens the groove faster than anything. Feel the thought. Run it again and again. Feel it. Run it.  Whether you believe it or not doesn’t matter, just focus on this one thought. Make it your truth.”

2. A Meditation

Kamal meditates for seven minutes every day.

In his own works,

I sit with my back against a wall, put on my headphones, listen to the music, and imagine galaxies and stars and the Universe above, and I imagine all the light from space flowing into my head and down into my body, going wherever it needs to go. I breathe slowly, naturally.  As I inhale, I think, I love myself. Then I exhale and let out whatever the response in my mind and body is, whether there is one or not. That’s it. Simple.

How to Meditate

Step 1. Put on music. Something soothing, gentle, preferably instrumental. A piece you have positive associations with.

Step 2. Sit with back against wall or window. Cross legs or stretch them out, whatever feels natural.

Step 3. Close eyes. Smile slowly. Imagine a beam of light pouring into your head from above.

Step 4. Breathe in, say to yourself in your mind, I love myself.  Slowly. Be gentle with yourself.

Step 5. Breathe out and along with it, anything that arises. Any thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories, fears, hopes, desires. Or nothing. Breathe it out. No judgment, no attachment to anything.  Be kind to yourself.

Step 6. Repeat 4 and 5 until the music ends. (When your attention wanders, notice it and smile. Smile at it as if it’s a child doing what a child does. And with that smile, return to your breath. Step 4, Step 5.  Mind wanders, notice, smile kindly, return to Step 4, Step 5.

Step 7. When music ends, open your eyes slowly. Smile. Do it from the inside out. This is your time. This is purely yours.

3. One Question

On dealing with others and reacting to their negative emotions with his own: “If I loved myself truly and deeply, would I let myself experience this?”

The answer to the above is always no.

Rather than solving the emotion or trying not to feel it, Kamal will just return to the one true thing in his head, “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself.”

“Here we are, thinking that one needs to be in love with another to shine, to feel free and shout from the rooftops, but the most important person, the most important relationship we’ll ever have is waiting, is craving to be loved truly and deeply.”

“Beautiful irony. Fall in love with yourself. Let your love express itself and the world will beat a path to your door to fall in love with you.”

Another Meditation

Step 1. Set a timer for 5 minutes. 

Step 2. Stand in front of a mirror, nose a few inches away. Relax. Breathe.

Step 3. Look into your eyes. Helps if you focus on one. Your left eye. Don’t panic, it’s only you.  Relax.  Breathe slowly, naturally, until you develop a rhythm.

Step 4. Looking into your left eye, say, “I love myself.” Whether you believe it that moment or not isn’t important. What’s important is you saying it to yourself, looking into your eyes, where there is no escape from the truth. And ultimately, the truth is loving yourself.

Step 5. Repeat “I love myself” gently, pausing occasionally to watch your eyes. When the five minutes are up, smile. You’ve just communicated the truth to yourself in a deep, visceral way. In a way, the mind cannot escape. If anyone ever looked in your eyes, knowing that you loved them, this is what they saw. Give yourself the same gift.

When life goes well for a while it’s easy to believe it’ll stay that way (it won’t). And when you believe that, you become complacent. Your practice becomes something you assume rather than something you work on. You stop truly loving yourself. Kamal calls this “coasting”.

If you begin to coast, ask yourself, “If I loved myself, truly and deeply, what would I do?”

“The goal, if there is one, is to practice until the thought you chose becomes the primary loop. Until it becomes the filter through which you view life.”

“Real growth comes through intense, difficult, and challenging situations.”

“What we believe, that’s what we seek, it’s the filter we view our lives through.”

Recommended Reading

If you like Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, you may also enjoy the following books:

Awaken The Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny by Anthony Robbins

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns

The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield

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