Built to Sell by John Warrillow: Notes

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According to Warrillow, the number one mistake entrepreneurs make is to build a business that relies too heavily on them.

This is a problem because when the time comes to sell, buyers aren’t confident that the company can stand on its own—even if it’s profitable.

However, by pursuing three criteria—teachable, valuable, repeatable—you can make a business sellable.

“Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you’re serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.”





The Five Big Ideas

You should always run a company as if it will last forever.

The best businesses are sellable—even if you have no intention of cashing out or stepping back anytime soon.

Once your business can run without you, you’ll have a valuable asset.

If you focus on doing one thing well and hire specialists in that area, the quality of your work will improve and you will stand out from your competitors.

Make sure that no one client makes up more than 15 percent of your revenue.

Built to Sell Summary

You should always run a company as if it will last forever, and yet you should also strive constantly to maximize its value, building in the qualities that allow it to be sold at any moment for the highest price buyers are paying for businesses like yours.

The best businesses are sellable, and smart business people believe that you should build a company to be sold even if you have no intention of cashing out or stepping back anytime soon.

Once your business can run without you, you’ll have a valuable—sellable—asset.

Don’t generalize; specialize. If you focus on doing one thing well and hire specialists in that area, the quality of your work will improve and you will stand out from your competitors.

Relying too heavily on one client is risky and will turn off potential buyers. Make sure that no one client makes up more than 15 percent of your revenue.

Owning a process makes it easier to pitch and puts you in control. Be clear about what you’re selling, and potential customers will be more likely to buy your product.

Don’t become synonymous with your company. If buyers aren’t confident that your business can run without you in charge, they won’t make their best offer.

We’re used to paying for products up front and services after they have been rendered.

Avoid the cash suck. Once you’ve standardized your service, charge up front or use progress billing to create a positive cash flow cycle.

Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you’re serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.

Take some time to figure out how many pipeline prospects will likely lead to sales. This number will become essential when you go to sell because it allows the buyer to estimate the size of the market opportunity.

Two sales reps are always better than one. Often competitive types, sales reps will try to outdo each other. And having two on staff will prove to a buyer that you have a scalable sales model, not just one good sales rep.

Hire people who are good at selling products, not services. These people will be better able to figure out how your product can meet a client’s needs rather than agreeing to customize your offering to fit what the client wants.

Ignore your profit-and-loss statement in the year you make the switch to a standardized offering even if it means you and your employees will have to forgo a bonus that year. As long as your cash flow remains consistent and strong, you’ll be back in the black in no time.

You need at least two years of financial statements reflecting your use of the standardized offering model before you sell your company.

Build a management team and offer them a long-term incentive plan that rewards their personal performance and loyalty.

Find an adviser for whom you will be neither their largest nor their smallest client. Make sure they know your industry.

Avoid an adviser who offers to broker a discussion with a single client. You want to ensure there is competition for your business and avoid being used as a pawn for your adviser to curry favor with his or her best client.

Think big. Write a three-year business plan that paints a picture of what is possible for your business. Remember, the company that acquires you will have more resources for you to accelerate your growth.

If you want to be a sellable, product-oriented business, you need to use the language of one. Change words like “clients” to “customers” and “firm” to “business.” Rid your website and customer-facing communications of any references that reveal you used to be a generic service business.

Don’t issue stock options to retain key employees after an acquisition. Instead, use a simple stay bonus that offers the members of your management team a cash reward if you sell your company. Pay the reward in two or more installments only to those who stay so that you ensure your key staff stays on through the transition.

Recommended Reading

If you like Built to Sell, you may also enjoy the following books:

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

Work the System by Sam Carpenter

How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards

Buy this bookhttps://amzn.to/2BGCQby

Become an Idea Machine by Claudia Azula Altucher

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Execution is a subset of ideas.

When you exercise your idea muscle every day you become an idea machine.

The Five Big Ideas

“Ideas are the currency of life. Not money. Money gets depleted until you go broke. But good ideas buy you good experiences, buy you better ideas, buy you better experiences, buy you more time, save your life”.

“Coming up with ten ideas a day is like exercise. And exercise makes the idea muscle stronger”.

“When you come up with 10 ideas a day, or about 3000 ideas a year (depending on weather you include weekends or not), ideas will explode out of you. You will be unstoppable in every situation”.

“Idea sex is mixing ideas and releasing control. It might lead to the birth of brilliant, more powerful ideas”.

“The more value you bring to the world with your ideas, the more value you will bring to yourself, your family, and your community”.

Become an Idea Machine Summary

“Ideas are the currency of life. Not money. Money gets depleted until you go broke. But good ideas buy you good experiences, buy you better ideas, buy you better experiences, buy you more time, save your life”.

“Coming up with ten ideas a day is like exercise. And exercise makes the idea muscle stronger”.

“When you come up with 10 ideas a day, or about 3000 ideas a year (depending on weather you include weekends or not), ideas will explode out of you. You will be unstoppable in every situation”.

“Remember: complaining is draining. So I wanted to make better use of that energy rather than fight it”.

“And change can only start with us. From within by making sure we are physically healthy (take a walk, bathe, take care of your health), mentally healthy (practicing the ideas of this book), spiritually healthy by going beyond ‘thank you’ and really feeling gratitude for new and different things every day, and emotionally healthy by surrounding ourselves with people that support and cheer us up”.

“That is what happens when you train your idea muscle and then you stumble on one you love. You are acting from inspiration, there are no goals, there is just flow, there is just now, and this amazing feeling of doing something really good”.

“When an idea has electricity in it you will have no choice but to move into action. And you will love it because it will set your heart on fire”.

“Idea sex is mixing ideas and releasing control. It might lead to the birth of brilliant, more powerful ideas”.

“The more value you bring to the world with your ideas, the more value you will bring to yourself, your family, and your community”.

Recommended Reading

If you enjoy Become an Idea Machine, you may also like the following books:

Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live The Dream by James Altucher

The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth by James Altucher

The Rich Employee by James Altucher

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

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The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Summary

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

The Law of Leadership

The Law of Category

The Law of the Mind

The Law of Perception

The Law of Focus

The Law of Exclusivity

The Law of the Ladder

The Law of Duality

The Law of the Opposite

The Law of Division

The Law of Perspective

The Law of Line Extension

The Law of Sacrifice

The Law of Attributes

The Law of Candor

The Law of Singularity

The Law of Unpredictability

The Law of Success

The Law of Failure

The Law of Hype

The Law of Acceleration

The Law of Resources

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing Summary

Chapter 1: The Law of Leadership

Summary: It’s better to be first than it is better.

It’s much easier to get into the mind first than to try to convince someone you have a better product than the one that did get there first.

In today’s competitive environment, a me-too product with a line extension name has little hope of becoming a big profitable brand.

The leading brand in any category is almost always the first brand into the prospect’s mind.

Not every first is going to become successful. Timing is an issue—your first could be too late.

People tend to stick with what they’ve got.

One reason the first brand tends to maintain its leadership is that the name often becomes generic (e.g. “How do I make a Xerox?”).

If you’re introducing the first brand in a new category, you should always try to select a name that can work generically.

Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products.

Chapter 2: The Law of Category

Summary: If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.

If you didn’t get into the prospect’s mind first, don’t give up hope. Find a new category you can be first in. It’s not as difficult as you might think.

When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not “How is this product better than the competition?” but “First what?” In other words, what category is this new product first in?

Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better.

When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category. In essence, you have no competition.

Chapter 3: The Law of The Mind

Summary: It’s better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace.

Being first in the marketplace is important only to the extent that it allows you to get in the mind first.

You can’t change a mind once a mind is made up.

The single most wasteful thing you can do in marketing is trying to change a mind.

If you want to make a big impression on another person, you cannot worm your way into their mind and then slowly build up a favorable opinion over a period of time. The mind doesn’t work that way. You have to blast your way into the mind.

Chapter 4: The Law of Perception

Summary: Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perception.

All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception is reality. Everything else is an illusion.

Only by studying how perceptions are formed in the mind and focusing your marketing programs on those perceptions can you overcome your basically incorrect marketing instincts.

What makes the battle even more difficult is that customers frequently make buying decisions based on second-hand perceptions. Instead of using their own perceptions, they base their buying decisions on someone else’s perception of reality. This is the “everybody knows” principle.

Chapter 5: The Law of Focus

Summary: The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.

A company can become incredibly successful if it can find a way to own a word in the mind of the prospect. Not a complicated word. Not an invented one. The simple words are best, words taken right out of the dictionary.

The leader owns the word that stands for the category. 

You can test the validity of a leadership claim by a word association test.

If you’re not a leader, then your word has to have a narrow focus. Even more important, however, your word has to be “available” in your category. No one else can have a lock on it.

The most effective words are simple and benefit orientated. No matter how complicated the product, no matter how complicated the needs of the market, it’s always better to focus on one word or benefit rather than two or three or four.

Words come in different varieties. They can be benefit related (captivity prevention), service related (home delivery), audience related (younger people), or sales related (preferred brand).

There comes a time when a company must change words.

You can’t take somebody else’s word.

What won’t work in marketing is leaving your own word in search of a word owned by others.

You can’t narrow the focus with quality or any other idea that doesn’t have proponents for the opposite point of view.

When you develop your word to focus on, be prepared to fend off the lawyers.

Once you have your word, you have to go out of your way to protect it in the marketplace.

Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

Chapter 6: The Law of Exclusivity

Summary: Two companies cannot own the same word in the prospect’s mind.

When a competitor owns a word or position in the prospect’s mind, it is futile to attempt to own the same word.

Chapter 7: The Law of The Ladder

Summary: The strategy you use depends on which rung you occupy on the ladder.

All products are not created equal. There’s a hierarchy in the mind that prospects use in making decisions.

For each category, there is a product ladder in the mind. On each rung is a brand name.

Your marketing strategy should depend on how soon you got into the mind and consequently which rung of the ladder you occupy. The higher the better, of course.

The mind is selective. Prospects use their ladders in deciding which information to accept and which information to reject. In general, a mind accepts only new data that is consistent with its product ladder in that category. Everything else is ignored.

Products that are purchased infrequently and involve an unpleasant experience usually have very few rungs on their ladders.

The ultimate product that involves the least amount of pleasure and it purchased once in a lifetime has no rungs on its ladder.

There’s a relationship between market share and your position on the ladder in the prospect’s mind. You tend to have twice the market share of the brand below you and half the market share of the brand above you.

Seven is the maximum number of rungs on a ladder in the prospect’s mind.

Sometimes your own ladder, or category, is too small. It might be better to be a small fish in a big pond than to be a big fish in a small pond. In other words, it’s sometimes to be No. 3 on a big ladder than No. 1 on a small ladder.

Before starting any marketing program, ask yourself, “Where are we on the ladder in the prospect’s mind?”

In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

Chapter 8: The Law of Duality

Summary: In the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.

Early on, a new category is a ladder of many rungs. Gradually, the ladder becomes a two-rung affair.

When you take the long view of marketing, you find the battle usually winds up as a titanic struggle between two major players—usually the old reliable brand and the new upstart.

In a maturing industry, third place is a difficult position to be in.

Knowing that marketing is a two-horse race, in the long run, can help you plan strategy in the short-term.

If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

Chapter 9: The Law of Opposite

Summary: If you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader.

A company should leverage the leader’s strength into a weakness.

You must discover the essence of the leader and then present the prospect with the opposite. (In other words, don’t try to be better, try to be different). It’s often the upstart versus old reliable.

By positioning yourself against the leader, you take business away from all the other alternatives to No. 1.

You must present yourself as the alternative.

As a product gets old, it often accrues some negative damage.

Marketing is often a balance for legitimacy. The first brand that captures the concept is often able to portray its competitors as illegitimate pretenders. 

A good No.2 can’t afford to be timid. When you give up focusing on No. 1, you make yourself vulnerable to not only the leader but to the rest of the pack.

Chapter 10: The Law of Diversion

Summary: Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories.

A category starts off as a single entity. But over time, the category breaks up into other segments.

Companies make mistakes when they try to take a well-known brand name in one category and use the same brand name in another category.

What keeps leaders from launching a different brand to cover a new category is the fear of what will happen to their existing brands.

Timing is important. You can be too early to exploit a new category.

It’s better to be early than late. You can’t get into the prospect’s mind first unless you’re prepared to spend time waiting for things to develop.

Chapter 11: The Law of Perspective

Summary: Marketing effects take place over an extended period of time.

Chapter 12: The Law of Line Extension

Summary: There’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand.

The law of line extension is the most violated law.

When you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble. 

Line extension involves taking the brand name of a successful product and putting it on a new product you plan to introduce.

In the long run and in the presence of serious competition, line extension almost never works.

Invariably, the leader in any category is the brand that is not line extended.

One reason why top management believe line extension works is because it can be a winner in the short-term.

Chapter 13: The Law of Sacrifice

Summary: You have to give up something in order to get something.

If you want to be successful, you have to narrow the focus in order to build a position in the prospect’s mind.

For a new brand to succeed, it ought to be first in a new category. Or the new brand ought to be positioned as an alternative to the leader.

The law of sacrifice is the opposite of the law of line extension. If you want to be successful today, you should give something up.

There are three things to sacrifice:

Product line

Target market

Constant change

If you want to be successful, you have to reduce your product line, not extend it.

The word of business is populated by big, highly diversified generalists and small, narrowly focused specialists.

The best way to maintain a consistent position is not to change it in the first place.

Chapter 14: The Law of Attributes

Summary: For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute.

For instance, since Crest owned cavities, other toothpastes avoided cavities and jumped on other attributes like taste, whitening, breath protection, etc.

Marketing is a battle of ideas. So if you are to succeed, you must have an idea or attribute of your own to focus your efforts around. Without one, you better have a low price. A very low price.

When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive.

Chapter 15: The Law of Cador

Summary: When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive.

Candor is very disarming.

Every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Positive statements, on the other hand, are looked at as dubious at best. Especially in advertising.

You have to prove a positive statement to the prospect’s satisfaction. No proof is needed for a negative statement.

If your name is bad, you have two choices: change the name or make fun of it. The one thing you can’t do is ignore a bad name.

Admitting a problem is something very few companies do.

When a company starts a message by admitting a problem, people tend to, almost instinctively, open their minds.

The law of candor must be used carefully and with great skill. First, your “negative” must be widely perceived as a negative. It has to trigger an instant agreement with your prospect’s mind. If the negative doesnät register quickly, your prospect will be confused and will wonder, “What’s this all about?” Next, you have to shift quickly to the positive. The purpose of candor isn’t to apologize. The purpose of candor is to set up a benefit that will convince your prospect.

Chapter 16: The Law of Singularity

Summary: In each situation, only one move will produce substantial results.

History teaches that the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke. 

Unless you write your competitor’s plans, you can’t predict the future.

Chapter 17: The Law of Predictability

Summary: Unless you write your competitors’ plans, you can’t predict the future.

Failure to forecast competitive reaction is a major reason for marketing failures.

Good short-term planning is coming up with that angle or word that differentiates your product or company. Then you set up a coherent long-term marketing direction than builds a program to maximize that idea or angle. It’s not a long-term plan, it’s a long-term direction.

While you can’t predict the future, you can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change.

When you assume that nothing will change, you are predicting the future just as surely as when you assume that something will change. Remember Peter’s Law. The unexpected always happens.

One way to cope with an unpredictable world is to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization. As changes come sweeping through your category, you have to be willing to change and change quickly if you are to survive in the long term.

Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

Chapter 18: The Law of Success

Summary: Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure.

Ego is the enemy of successful marketing.

When people become successful, they tend to become less objective. They often substitute their own judgment for what the market wants.

Success is often the fatal element behind the rash of line extensions. When a brand is successful, the company assumes the name is the primary reason for the brand’s success. So they promptly look for other products to plaster the name on.

The more you identify with your brand or corporate name, the more likely you are to fall into the line extension trap.

Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like a prospect thinks. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers. They don’t impose their own view of the world on the situation. 

The bigger the company, the more likely it is that the chief executive has lost touch with the front lines.

Failure is to be excepted and accepted.

Chapter 19: The Law of Failure

Summary: Failure is to be expected and accepted. 

Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things.

Admitting a mistake and not doing anything about it as bad for your career. A better strategy is to recognize failure early and cut your losses.

Nobody has ever been fired for a bold move they didn’t make.

Chapter 20: The Law of Hype

Summary: A situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press.

When things are going well, a company doesn’t need the hype. When you need the hype it usually means you’re in trouble.

Chapter 21: The Law of Acceleration

Summary: Successful programs are not built on fads, they’re built on trends.

A fad is a wave in the ocean, and a trend is the tide. A fad gets a lot of hype, and a trend gets very little.

Forget fads. And when they appear, try to dampen them. One way to maintain a long-term demand for your products is to never totally satisfy the demand.

Chapter 22: The Law of Resources

Summary: Without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground.

Even the best idea in the world won’t go very far without the money to get it off the ground.

An idea without money is worthless.

Other Books by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Positioning

Recommended Reading

If you like The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, you may also enjoy the following books:

Cashvertising: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone by Eric Whitman

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

Buy this bookhttps://amzn.to/2Ef1bqP

The 7 Day Startup Summary

Categories EntrepreneurPosted on

You have to spend time on the things that are most likely to bring you customers

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to ’ship’ your product.

You have to build a business idea in order to test it.

The Five Big Ideas

“Once you launch, you need to get more people paying you. You have to relentlessly pursue your best method of getting customers and not the stuff you naturally gravitate to.”

“There is a very big difference between someone entering their email and someone paying you each month for a product.”

“There’s a huge forgotten void between ‘idea’ and ‘successful business’ that validation doesn’t account for.”

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to be passionate about growing a business.”

“Solve problems where people are already paying for solutions.”

The 7 Day Startup Summary

“You don’t learn until you launch.”

“Eric Ries defines a startup as ‘a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.’”

“Anyone can create a job for themselves. But not everyone can change the world.”

“Things may come to those who wait … but only the things left by those who hustle.” Anonymous

“Hustle for an early stage startup is generally about spending your time on the things that are most likely to bring you, customers.”

“Once you launch, you need to get more people paying you. You have to relentlessly pursue your best method of getting customers and not the stuff you naturally gravitate to.”

“There is a very big difference between someone entering their email and someone paying you each month for a product.”

“To really test whether you can build a business, you have to start building it.”

“There’s a huge forgotten void between ‘idea’ and ‘successful business’ that validation doesn’t account for.”

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to launch.”

“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” Neil Gaiman

The 9 Elements of a Bootstrapped Business Idea

  • Enjoyable daily tasks
  • Product/founder fit
  • Scalable business model
  • Operates profitably without the founder
  • An asset you can sell
  • Large market potential
  • Tap into pain or pleasure differentiators
  • Unique lead generation advantage
  • Ability to launch quickly

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to be passionate about growing a business.”

“It makes no sense to start a business that is going to have you doing work you don’t enjoy.”

“Startup founders should have the ambition to grow their business into a larger company. If you don’t have that ambition, what you are creating is not a startup.”

“Your idea is not a solid startup idea if you don’t have the capacity to make use of a profitable, growing business model.”

“You need to be able to see a point where you can hire in staff or systems to replace you, and still continue to generate a profit. At that point it becomes a real business.”

“Focusing on short-term launches or projects won’t build assets. Assets are built over time by ignoring short-term distractions in favor of a bigger, long-term vision.”

“A list of customers that pay you every month is an asset. If you focus on short-term projects you’ll make more money initially. But if you turn down projects and focus on providing recurring value, you build a valuable asset.”

“If you work on this idea for five years, what will you have in the end?”

“What will make you, and your company, unique?”

“Playing the visionary is a privilege reserved for second- and third-time entrepreneurs. It’s fun, but it’s fraught with danger.”

“Solve problems where people are already paying for solutions.”

“Everyone might be saying that your idea is great, but look at whether or not they are currently paying for a solution to the same problem.”

“A common MVP mistake is over-emphasizing the ‘minimum’ and under-emphasizing the ‘viable.’”

“The key is to forget about automation and figure out what you can do manually.”

Questions that will help you with your MVP:

How can you perform a service or offer a product to real customers?

How will you get them to pay you after seven days?

How close will your MVP be to the final vision of your product?

What can you do manually (hint: probably everything)?

What can you do yourself instead of delegating?

How can you make your offer as real as possible for the end customer?

A Framework for Choosing an Acceptable Business Name

Is it taken?

Is it simple?

Is it easy to say out loud?

Do you like it?

Does it make sense for your idea?

“Every single one of the top 25 brands in the world are 12 characters or less.”

“Broader is better.”

10 Ways to Market Your Business

Create Content on Your Site

Start Sending Emails

Podcasting

Forums and Online Groups

Guest Blogging

Listing Sites

Webinars

Presenting

Doing Free Work

Media Coverage

“Save your excitement until you land people you don’t know as customers.”

“What are you working on today that will make you indestructible tomorrow?”

“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” Eric Ries

“Any time you feel yourself wondering if what you are doing is good enough, compare it to the best.”

“By comparing yourself to the best, you set higher expectations for yourself, and you will be better for it.”

“Always take a step back and ask yourself if it’s feasible that someone else may have solved this problem before.”

“Momentum is a powerful force, so keep an eye out for what is working and do more of it.”

“Your own personal happiness and motivation are the most important keys to the success of your business.”

“You should be more excited about Monday than you are about Friday. If that’s not the case, there’s a good chance things aren’t going to work out.”

“No amount of money is worth working with a difficult customer.”

7 Days to Startup

Day 1. “Brainstorm a bunch of ideas and evaluate them against the checklist. Choose the idea that stands out as being the best option for you.”

Day 2. “Write down exactly what you will launch on Day 7. What will your customers get, what is included, and what is excluded? If necessary, write down what is automated and what will be done manually in the short term.”

Day 3. “Come up with a bunch of potential business names and evaluate them against the criteria above. Choose whichever one makes the most sense to you and run with it. Grab the best domain you can for that name.”

Day 4. “Build yourself a website!”

Day 5. “Build a list of what marketing methods you are going to choose. Put together a rough plan for the first week or two of your launch.”

Day 6. “Create a spreadsheet that covers the first few months in business, the number of signups, revenue, estimated costs, and monthly growth.”

Day 7. “Launch and start executing your marketing plan.”

How To Be A Positive Leader Summary

Categories Management & LeadershipPosted on

 How To Be A Positive Leader taps into the expertise of 17 leadership experts to show you how you can become a positive leader, who empowers everyone around him, whether at work or at home, with small changes, that compound into a big impact.

The times of strict and intolerant leadership are over. Many employees won’t accept the old top-down approach any longer, and assert their right for proper work-life balance, be it in unions or by simply switching jobs, since by now many careers with attractive conditions are available. Some startups like Buffer or Zapier even run 100% remotely, meaning the entire team works from home – which can be anywhere in the world!

More and more, the fact that we’re all human seeps into companies and their culture – and that’s fantastic! However, for many leaders, this requires a serious switch in how they interact with people. This is where this book comes in, with plenty of small, actionable changes you can make to make sure you radiate positive energy and give power to those around you (whether you’re a manager leading a team, or not).

These ideas are especially powerful for team leaders, but can also change the way you interact with your family and friends! Here are 3 great lessons from the book:

Have more high-quality connections by giving people your full attention.

Connect to those, who benefit from your work, to see its meaning.

Stay true to your ethical code with one simple question.

Let’s lead those around us, shall we? Here we go!

Lesson 1: Have more high-quality connections by giving people your full attention.

The bigger your brain, the more social you are. Did you know that? No wonder then, that humans have evolved to be the most social species on the planet. We thrive on social interactions, and the more good ones we have, the more confident, energetic and therefore creative we are.

If your workplace is a hub of high-quality connections – exchanges between two people, where both of them leave feeling more energized – the business is likely to thrive, because people work at their best. For example, if you feel tired after lunch, but talk about yesterday’s soccer game with a colleague, who’s equally passionate about it, that high-quality connection will give you more energy and make you feel better.

Great companies try to maximize the number of these positive encounters, to maximize their capacity to innovate. Google does this, for example, with a great, free cafeteria, where people can hang out, eat well and chat.

To be a good leader, you should help others have more of these connections, starting with your own.

How?

Simple. The next time you talk to a co-worker or family member, give them your full attention. Turn your phone silent, put it away, and just listen. Don’t look at your computer or gaze out the window. Be all there, really try to understand and be helpful.

The difference will show.

Lesson 2: Show yourself that your work has meaning, by connecting with those, who benefit from it.

Nothing motivates us more than seeing the impact of our work. When you know that the work you do means something, that it changes people and helps them live better lives, you’re much more excited to get out of bed in the morning.

For example, when students, who worked at a University of Michigan call center, and had to call alumni for donations, talked to a former scholarship holder before work, their motivation, effort and results (=donations received) increased significantly.

However, it’s important to connect with the end user of your product. For example, my Dad’s company sells industrial adhesives, which are then used by, say, car manufacturers to fix damping materials in the interior trim. If their chemists in the lab met a happy car owner, who told them that he loves how silent the inside of his car is, when he drives around, that’d be a much better motivator than talking to the supply chain manager of the car manufacturer.

Try to find someone, who ultimately benefits from your work the most, and connect with them. Then, make sure you introduce your co-workers, and help them do the same, so you can all wake up excited for work tomorrow!

Lesson 3: Ask yourself one simple question to stay true to your ethical code.

You and I have hundreds of opportunities to behave immorally every day. We could get away with semi-legal, even illegal things, on a regular basis. Yet, most of us don’t, because we have an ethical code. We all want to be seen as good people, who make the right decisions, and shoplifting just doesn’t fit into that picture.

As morals become more and more important, especially in consumer products, like food and clothes, this desire spills over into companies, whose employees want their leaders to be ethical as well. If your boss acts ethically, this has many benefits for you and all of his staff.

For one, the reciprocity bias makes us treat others well, when we’re treated well. What’s more, we see those, who lead us, as role models, and want to imitate their good behavior.

Whether you’re in charge of the marketing team at Coca-Cola, your two daughters, or your local book club, you can always make sure you stay true to your ethical code by asking yourself this one, simple question for all your decisions:

Would I be okay, if the consequences of my decision would be published on the front page of The New York Times tomorrow?

How’s that for a measure for integrity? Not bad, huh? If you’re comfortable with whatever you decide landing in one of the world’s biggest newspapers, chances are, it passes the test of what the world will deem as “the right thing to do”.

My personal take-aways

The summary didn’t address this, but I could instantly see that all of the suggested changes can be transferred right into your personal life. That makes this a book, that is not just for corporate managers and leaders with thousands of followers, but for everyone. Since it’s a compendium, it stays fresh and engaging, without beating one idea to death. If you want to make those around you smile more, this is the book for you 🙂

Zero To One by Peter Thiel Summary

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Zero To One is an inside look at Peter Thiel’s philosophy and strategy for making your startup a success by looking at the lessons he learned from founding and selling PayPal, investing in Facebook and becoming a billionaire in the process.

There are books that give you great strategies for selling, marketing and planning your business. And then there are books that tell you to forget about all of that, so you can take an approach that’s so radically different, that you won’t even play in the same league as the readers of those other books.

This is one of those books. Peter Thiel is an anomaly, to say the least. A chess master under age 21, a doctorate in law by age 25, and a company sale for $1.5 billion at age 35.

Zero To One will teach you the way he thinks, how he approaches business, and what you can do to build your startup’s own future and shape the future of the world in the process.

Here are 3 lessons from the book:

  • The biggest leaps in progress are vertical, not horizontal.
  • Monopolies are good, for both business and society.
  • Founders need a vision to take their business from zero toone.

Let’s see how the future is made!

Lesson 1: The biggest leaps in progress are vertical, not horizontal.

Can you imagine what the year 2200 will look like? It’s hard, isn’t it? That’s because you know the world is making tremendous progress every year, but it’s almost impossible to know what that will look like.

But not all progress is created equal. Most of the progress we see on a day-to-day basis is horizontal. This kind of progress spreads existing ideas and technologies from one to many or 1 to n. An example would be Apple making the computer personal – with the Apple II it finally became affordable for the masses to own one.

Vertical progress is what it takes to go from zero to one and create the technology or idea in the first place. Apple did this too when they came up with the iPhone in 2007 and changed the way we see and use phones altogether.

If you want to create a startup that’ll not only improve but drastically change the world, you have to go from zero to one, not one to many. You can only do that by critically questioning a lot of the assumptions you hold about the present.

Can people live on the moon? Is a world without cars possible? Will we be able to fully live off renewable energies?

These are the kinds of questions you should concern yourself with if you want to play (and win) big.

Lesson 2: Monopolies aren’t bad. They’re good. For business, and society.

How often have you complained about something not working the way you want it on a Windows computer? Don’t tell me, I’ve been a Microsoft user, I know. With 75% of the market running on Windows, they’re pretty much a monopoly – but is that really a bad thing?

No! Peter Thiel says that a monopoly simply means one company is doing something so much better than everyone else, that simply no one else can survive. This is actually good for everyone.

Think about Google. You love to use Google, because you know it’s the best search engine out there. Google loves setting its own prices and reaping 25% of their revenue as profit, so it can make its service even better.

And society should love it, because if ever someone came along and did beat Google, it would mean their search engine would probably have to be pretty spankin’ fantastic! Monopolies are nothing to scoff at – they’re actually what any business or startup should shoot for.

Lesson 3: If the founders don’t have a vision, a company can never go from zero to one.

But building a monopoly surely doesn’t happen over night. Thiel and a 50 person Paypal team spent years getting it to a place where it was the number one payment processor used by ebay customers, so they could finally leverage their monopoly position into selling the company.

Where did they find the motivation to stick with it? One word: vision.

When you look at founders of successful companies, you’ll find 90% of them are, in a way, weirdos. Steve Jobs is only the most prominent example, but actually plenty of entrepreneurs have a few quirks – and that’s good.

Being a little weird is what lets leaders develop a grand, if slightly delusional, vision for the future, which is exactly what companies need to go from zero to one.

Way back in 1999 Thiel said: “PayPal will give citizens worldwide more direct control over their currencies than they ever had before.” A mouthful? Sure! But he was right. His vision of the future showed an entirely different reality than the one he lived in, and the drive it instilled in himself and his team is exactly what led them to creating the very future they imagined.

So think big. As they say: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you’ll be among the stars.”

My personal take-aways

I always wonder what the best approach to success is. Do you start small, build something, then make it a little bigger next time, and iterate year after year, until you have something big? Or do you go straight for the top?

It seems like if you develop the mindset for the latter, you’ll end up playing in an entirely different league right from the start. A radical and eye-opening book, let the summary hook you and the book then convince you. Should you have even the slightest entrepreneurial inclination, then it’s time you learn how to go from Zero To One.

Why We Work Summary

Categories Jobs&Skills, RICHPosted on

 Why We Work looks at the purpose of work in our lives by examining how different people view their work, what traits make work feel meaningful, and which questions companies should ask to maximize the motivation of their employees.

Why We Work is a little book meant to accompany one of Barry Schwartz’s TED talks, and it talks about what motivates us to get out of bed in the morning. The famous author of The Paradox of Choice argues that we use the wrong incentives and ask the wrong questions to lead those, who make great products and services a reality.

Whether you’re an employee and want to find out if your employer is actually doing a good job at keeping you around, or a manager trying to improve your team’s motivation, these lessons will help you understand the other party a bit more.

Here are 3 lessons about the motivation, meaning and work:

Do you perceive your work as a job, career, or a calling?

Autonomy, investment and a mission are what keeps employees engaged and motivated.

A pay raise is one of the worst incentives for true motivation.

Let’s put the purpose back into work, shall we? Here we go!

Lesson 1: Ask yourself if you perceive your work as a job, career, or a calling.

You’ve surely thought differently of your work at different times. In general though, most of us land in one of three categories at any particular point in time:

Your work is a job. As the joke says, your job keeps you just over broke. It’s a way to make money. You show up, do what you’re told, but anything else is a stretch.

Your work is a career. You have prospects, you want to grow, make progress, get better, take on more responsibility, and you have a shot at moving up in your organization, which motivates you to give your best.

Your work is a calling. You know exactly how your work creates positive change in the lives of other people. It’s not a compartment of your life, it’s an essential part of it and makes you happy, because you know you’re doing the right thing.

Of course how you see your work depends a lot on who you work for, and how that company communicates with you. A crucial part of perceiving your work as a calling, though, is connecting with the end users of your product. This way you’re repeatedly reminded of how exactly your work makes a difference, which helps you move towards perspective number 3 from the list.

Lesson 2: Autonomy, investment and a mission are what keeps employees engaged and motivated.

Similar to the results Daniel Pink found when investigating motivation in “Drive“, Schwartz made out three factors, which keep a business running well (by keeping people motivated):

Autonomy. Giving people control and the power to make decisions makes them feel trusted, helps them commit to moving the company forward, and instills a sense of respect for co-workers and managers in them. Autonomy lets you be proud of what you do, and there’s hardly anything more motivating than that.

Investment. Daniel Pink calls this mastery. People should feel like every hour of their work is valuable and that their role is needed. Helping employees develop their skills by sending them to conferences and training them with seminars will achieve just that.

Mission. The company’s mission must be clear to every single employee, at all times. A single sentence should do. The more you’re aware of how you’re changing the world, the more likely you are to actually give a damn about it.

Sadly, these three factors are what most companies cut back on first in a crisis – which is exactly the wrong thing to do. If you control people more, train them less and forget about why you’re here, you’ll sap their motivation and the company will end up performing even worse.

Instead, increase these three wherever and whenever you can. Especially when shit hits the fan.

Lesson 3: Raises are crappy incentives to actually motivate people.

Whether you’ve learned this first-hand already or not, more money is a really bad motivation to do stuff. Take this example highlighted in Freakonomics, which Schwartz also talks about.

In a variety of children’s day care centers in Haifa, Israel, people tended to show up super late to pick up their kids. Nobody ever stuck to the 4 PM rule. Every week, there were 8 late pickups per center, on average. Supervisors then introduced a fine. Every parent, who was more than 10 minutes late, would have to pay $3 for each child, each time they missed the deadline. This charge would be added to their $380 monthly bill.

Guess what happened?

Late pickups more than doubled, shooting to 20 late pickups per week. That’s because:

The fine wasn’t high enough and people didn’t care about a less than 1% increase of their monthly bill.

Instead of feeling like an immoral, bad parent, they could just buy their way out of the guilt of showing up late now.

It’s easy to justify working with shitty colleagues, throwing others under the bus and sacrificing your health for those $10k extra next year, but the more raises you get, the more you’ll see they don’t really make you happier.

My personal take-aways

It’s a short book, very concise, and a nice addendum to the TED talk. It’s one of those things that it never hurts to be reminded of. Obviously, it’s a lot more valuable for people with responsibility over others, so if you lead people at work, take a good hard look at this.

Who Moved My Cheese Summary

Categories Jobs&Skills, RICHPosted on

Who Moved My Cheese tells a parable, which you can directly apply to your own life, in order to stop fearing what lies ahead and instead thrive in an environment of change and uncertainty.

Funny, how you sometimes stumble into things that were right in front of your nose, all along. I’ve had this book for 10 years. When I was a kid, my uncle gave it to me, it was a leftover copy from somewhere. I briefly looked at it (it was still wrapped), thought it was a “manager’s book” and put it away. I distinctly remember the picture of the cheese slice on the cover, and turned it in my hands a couple times since. Sadly, I never felt intrigued enough to read it. What an idiot I was!

This site would probably have existed 5 years earlier, had I read it back then. But there’s no use in crying over spilled milk, so I’ll just make do with what I’ve got and share some of Spencer Johnson’s great lessons about change with you right now. Who Moved My Cheese a parable about two little people and two mice in a maze, searching for cheese, where each character represents a different attitude towards change, with cheese being what we consider success.

Here are 3 lessons about cheese and what you should do when someone moves yours:

Thinking too much about your cheese might paralyze you, so just start looking.

Nothing lasts forever, so keep your eyes open for approaching changes.

There’s always new cheese to be found, and the minute you start moving things will get better.

Are you ready to become a champion of change? Let’s look for that cheese!

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

Lesson 1: Stop thinking too much about your cheese and start chasing it.

The two mice inside of our maze are called Sniff and Scurry. They spend most of their time running up and down the corridors of the maze, looking for cheese. Turn a corner, run to the end, see if there’s any cheese, and if not, turn around and go back. That’s their pattern, and, while it seems kind of mindless and unstructured, it actually saves them a lot of time and energy.

Hem and Haw, two little people, also spend their days in the maze looking for cheese, but not because they’re hungry – they think finding it will make them feel happy and successful. However, because of their complex brains, they think a lot about

how they can find the cheese the fastest

which strategies will work best in getting through the maze

how to keep track of those strategies

what finding the cheese will feel like

when they’ll finally find it

…and of course, they wonder if there even is any cheese in the maze at all every time they turn another empty corner.

Life is the same. Every minute you spend wondering what success looks like, how to get it, whether it’s possible and how you’ll feel in the future is a minute not spend working towards it. Humans are complicated beings, but that doesn’t mean we have to make everything complicated.

Be more like a mouse and just start running!

Lesson 2: Even the biggest cheese doesn’t last forever, so try to see change coming.

Sniff and Scurry soon found a big stash of cheese at Station C, and even though they enjoyed snacking a bit of it every day, they kept paying attention. The amount of cheese kept declining, slowly, but steadily, every day. Once they realized they were about to run out, they decided to move on of their own accord and soon found another huge cheese at Station N.

When Hem and Haw found station C, however, they settled there, and quickly grew accustomed to the new status quo. The cheese fest they indulged in every day soon became the center of their lives, as they thought it was the fair reward for all their hard work. They were so preoccupied with the cheese that they didn’t notice how it was disappearing, one piece at a time, and how some corners of it even got moldy. One morning, they woke up, only to find someone had moved their cheese.

This left Hem and Haw sad, depressed, feeling treated unfairly and in denial. Instead of venturing out to find new cheese, they kept returning to Station C, getting ever hungrier and weaker.

No supply of cheese can last forever. Change is always bound to happen, sooner or later. Instead of fooling yourself that things will stay the same forever, always keep an eye open for change.

Lesson 3: Don’t worry, there’s always new cheese to be found. The minute you start moving things will improve.

The best part about cheese isn’t that once you’ve found it you’re set for life. It’s that there’s always more cheese to be found. Haw eventually got sick of sitting around, so he decided to go looking for new cheese all by himself.

Once he started moving, his situation instantly got better. Yes, he just found a few bits and pieces of cheese here and there at first, but this was a lot better than doing nothing and being paralyzed by fear. After having found the courage to move on despite your fears once, fear’s grip on you will never be as strong as it used to be.

Haw realized the accumulated fears in his mind were a lot worse than even the biggest challenges he encountered. Full of confidence, he kept exploring the maze, until he eventually found Sniff and Scurry at Station N, where the three of them shared the new cheese they had found.

My personal take-aways

This is a great book. I love stories like these. It is a management book, and many a manager has told this story to his team to inspire them, but it’s just as valuable for you as an individual.

It describes a simple pattern of embracing change, finding success, looking out for more change and then embracing it again, which will help you cultivate a much more optimistic attitude about life.

Really cool book!

When by Daniel H. Pink: Summary

Categories *FREE*, ProductivityPosted on

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing breaks down the science of time so you can stop guessing when to do things and pick the best times to work, eat, sleep, have your coffee and even quit your job.

Here are 3 lessons about timing that’ll help you structure your life in better ways:

  • Our emotions run through the same cycle every single day.
  • Knowing how you “tick” will help you do your best at work.
  • Taking a break or an afternoon nap is not counterproductive,if anything, it helps you save time.

Lesson 1: There’s an emotional pattern each of us follows on any given day.

If I asked you to divide your day into three parts, you’d most likely first think of morning, afternoon, and evening. For thousands of years, humans have lived through this pattern. However, if I asked you to write down the dominating emotion for each of those parts for a week, we’d spot another, much subtler pattern, as a study by Cornell University analyzing 500 million tweets has found:

Morning peak. Whether it’s right after waking up or 1-2 hours later, most people feel pretty good early in the day.

Afternoon trough. You know how it’s tough to stay awake after lunch? This is it.

Evening rebound. Once you knock off work, even the toughest days take a turn, don’t they?

Regardless of age, race, gender, and nationality, we all go through some variant of this pattern on a daily basis. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast and Slow, confirmed this with the Day Reconstruction Method. This holds powerful implications for how we should go about our day, but it’s also a good pattern to be aware of to deal with your emotions more efficiently.

Lesson 2: Figure out your chronotype to produce your best work.

Keeping our daily, emotional cycle in mind, we can learn even more about ourselves if we combine it with something more familiar: our circadian rhythm. Over time, we naturally come to some insight as to when we have our highs and lows throughout the day. “I just can’t get up before 7,” “I’m a night owl,” and “I love to get up early” are lines we’ve all said or heard before.

While it’s easy to dismiss those as people not being used to certain behaviors, science says there’s some truth to all of them. How you feel at certain times during the day is called your chronotype, and there are three major ones, says Dan:

The lark. People like me, who love to get up early, and have all their emotional highs and lows a few hours earlier than most people.

The owl. If you don’t like getting up early and can really get to work around 9 PM, that’s you.

The third bird. The majority of people, who are neither late, nor early, and just follow the standard pattern.

Over 50% of folks go into the last category, meaning they should do analytical, logic-based work in the mornings, when they’re most alert. The more creative tasks, where it’s helpful if your mind wanders, should be reserved for the late afternoon. Larks should do the same earlier, while owls might want to do cognitive work late at night.

Whichever type you are, doing boring admin stuff in the afternoon trough is always a good idea!

Lesson 3: Regular breaks and nappuccinos help you save time, not lose it.

Public awareness about health has risen dramatically in recent years, so the view that breaks are a waste of time is largely outdated, though still prevalent in some older companies and institutions. The science behind how much we should work and how much we should relax is surprisingly much in favor of chilling out.

Time tracking company DeskTime did a study using millions of data points from their software, determining the ideal break to be 17 minutes for every 52 minutes of work. That’s one hour of down time for every three hours you work! While it’s easy to think that there’s no way this could lead to better results, they found that the quality of the work ended up being higher overall, compared to shorter or less frequent breaks.

But even if your boss won’t allow so much “slacking,” taking five minutes every hour to get up, move around, walk outside, get some fresh air, and have a glass of water, can make a significant difference in your productivity. Lastly, Dan recommends the ‘nappuccino.’ Ideally after lunch, you have a coffee, then set your timer to 20 minutes. If it takes you seven minutes to fall asleep, you’ll wake up a little later, fully refreshed and with the caffeine just kicking in.

Saving time by doing less, what a great motto, don’t you think?

The Five Big Ideas

  • Our cognitive abilities fluctuate over the course of a day.
  • Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms. This is known as, “The Inspiration Paradox.”
  • Between 60 percent and 80 percent of people are “third birds”—neither larks or owls.
  • Lunch, not breakfast, is the most important meal of the day.
  • If you’re feeling stuck in the middle of a project, picture one person who’ll benefit from your efforts. Dedicating your work to that person will deepen your dedication to your task.

By Chapter Below:

Chapter 1. The Hidden Pattern of Everyday Life

In one study, positive affect—language revealing that Twitter users felt active, engaged, and hopeful—generally rose in the morning, plummeted in the afternoon, and climbed back up again in the early evening.

An important takeaway from one study on corporate executives is that communications with investors, and probably other critical managerial decisions and negotiations, should be conducted earlier in the day.

Scientists that measure the effect of time of day on brainpower have drawn three conclusions:

First, our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day. As Pink writes, “We are smarter, faster, dimmer, slower, more creative, and less creative in some parts of the day than others.”

Second, these daily fluctuations are more extreme than we realize. In fact, according to Russell Foster, a neuroscientist and chronobiologist at the University of Oxford, “[T]he performance change between the daily high point and the daily low point can be equivalent to the effect on performance of drinking the legal limit of alcohol,”

Third, how we do depends on what we’re doing. “Perhaps the main conclusion to be drawn from studies on the effects of time of day on performance,” says British psychologist Simon Folkard, “is that the best time to perform a particular task depends on the nature of that task.”

Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms. This is known as “inspiration paradox.”

Our moods and performance oscillate during the day. For most of us, mood follows a common pattern: a peak, a trough, and a rebound. In the mornings, during the peak, most of us excel at analytic work that requires sharpness, vigilance, and focus. Later in the day, during the recovery, most of us do better on insight work that requires less inhibition and resolve.

According to research over several decades and across different continents, between about 60 percent and 80 percent of us are what Pink calls, “third birds”—neither larks or owls.

People born in the fall and winter are more likely to be larks; people born in the spring and summer are more likely to be owls.

To solve insight problems, type, task, and time need to align—what social scientists call “the synchrony effect.”

“All of us experience the day in three stages—a peak, a trough, and a rebound. And about three-quarters of us (larks and third birds) experience it in that order. But about one in four people, those whose genes or age make them night owls, experience the day in something closer to the reverse order—recovery, trough, peak.”

To do better in the morning:

Drink a glass of water when you wake up;

Avoid coffee immediately after you wake up;

Soak up the morning sun; and

Schedule talk-therapy appointments for the morning.

Chapter 2. Afternoons and Coffeespoons

In one study, judges were more likely to issue a favorable ruling— granting the prisoner parole or allowing him to remove an ankle monitor—in the morning than in the afternoon.

Science offers five guiding principles for restorative breaks:

Something beats nothing. High performers work for fifty-two minutes and then break for seventeen minutes.

Moving beats stationary. One study showed that hourly five-minute walking breaks boosted energy levels, sharpened focus, and “improved mood throughout the day and reduced feelings of fatigue in the late afternoon.”

Social beats solo. Research in South Korean workplaces shows that social breaks—talking with coworkers about something other than work—are more effective at reducing stress and improving mood than either cognitive breaks (answering e-mail) or nutrition breaks (getting a snack).

Outside beats inside. People who take short walks outdoors return with better moods and greater replenishment than people who walk indoors.

Fully detached beats semi-detached. Tech-free breaks also increase vigor and reduce emotional exhaustion.

“The most powerful lunch breaks have two key ingredients—autonomy and detachment. Autonomy—exercising some control over what you do, how you do it, when you do it, and whom you do it with—is critical for high performance, especially on complex tasks. But it’s equally crucial when we take breaks from complex tasks.”

Lunch, not breakfast, is the most important meal of the day.

The ideal naps— those that combine effectiveness with efficiency—are usually between ten and twenty minutes.

“Each day, alongside your list of tasks to complete, meetings to attend, and deadlines to hit, make a list of the breaks you’re going to take. Start by trying three breaks per day. List when you’re going to take those breaks, how long they’re going to last, and what you’re going to do in each. Even better, put the breaks into your phone or computer calendar so one of those annoying pings will remind you.”

The 20–20–20 rule: Before you begin a task, set a timer. Then, every twenty minutes, look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds. If you’re working at a computer, this micro-break will rest your eyes and improve your posture, both of which can fight fatigue.

One of the simplest breaks of all: Stand up for sixty seconds, shake your arms and legs, flex your muscles, rotate your core, sit back down.

Take a five-minute walk every hour.

“In [Anders] Ericsson’s study, one factor that distinguished the best from the rest is that they took complete breaks during the afternoon (many even napped as part of their routine), whereas non-experts were less rigorous about pauses. We might think that superstars power straight through the day for hours on end. In fact, they practice with intense focus for forty-five- to ninety-minute bursts, then take meaningful restorative breaks.”

Chapter 3. Beginnings: Starting Right, Starting Again, and Starting Together

Beginnings have a far greater impact than most of us understand. Beginnings, in fact, can matter to the end.

“Although we can’t always determine when we start, we can exert some influence on beginnings—and considerable influence on the consequences of less than ideal ones. The recipe is straightforward. In most endeavors, we should be awake to the power of beginnings and aim to make a strong start. If that fails, we can try to make a fresh start. And if the beginning is beyond our control, we can enlist others to attempt a group start.”

These are the three principles of successful beginnings: Start right. Start again. Start together.

Before the project begins, convene with your team for a premortem. Ask them, “Assume it’s eighteen months from now and our project is a complete disaster. What went wrong?”

“By imagining failure in advance—by thinking through what might cause a false start—you can anticipate some of the potential problems and avoid them once the actual project begins.”

There are eighty-six days that are especially effective for making a fresh start:

  • Thefirst day of the month (twelve)
  • Mondays(fifty-two)
  • Thefirst day of spring, summer, fall, and winter (four)
  • Yourcountry’s Independence Day or the equivalent (one)
  • Theday of an important religious holiday—for example, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Eidal-Fitr (one)
  • Yourbirthday (one)
  • Aloved one’s birthday (one)
  • Thefirst day of school or the first day of a semester (two)
  • Thefirst day of a new job (one)
  • The day after graduation (one)
  • Thefirst day back from vacation (two)
  • Theanniversary of your wedding, first date, or divorce (three)
  • Theanniversary of the day you started your job, the day you became a citizen, theday you adopted your dog or cat, the day you graduated from school oruniversity (four)
  • Theday you finish this book (one)

There are four situations when you should go first:

  • If you’re on a ballot (county commissioner, prom queen, the Oscars), being listed first gives you an edge.
  • If you’re not the default choice—for example, if you’re pitching against a firm that already has the account you’re seeking—going first can help you get afresh look from the decision-makers.
  • If there are relatively few competitors (say, five or fewer), going first can help you take advantage of the “primacy effect,” the tendency people have to remember the first thing in a series better than those that come later.
  • If you’re interviewing for a job and you’re up against several strong candidates, you might gain an edge from being first.

There are four situations when you should NOT go first:

  • If you are the default choice, don’t go first.
  • If there are many competitors (not necessarily strong ones, just a large number of them), going later can confer a small advantage and going last can confer a huge one.
  • If you’re operating in an uncertain environment, not being first can work to your benefit.
  • If the competition is meager, going toward the end can give you an edge by highlighting your differences.

To make a fast start in a new job:

Begin before you begin (e.g. pick a specific day and time when you visualize yourself “transforming” into your new role).

Let your results do the talking.

Stockpile your motivation.

Sustain your morale with small wins.

Chapter 4. Midpoints: What Hanukkah Candles and Midlife Malaise Can Teach Us About Motivation

“Happiness climbs high early in adulthood but begins to slide downward in the late thirties and early forties, dipping to a low in the fifties. But we recover quickly from this slump, and well-being later in life often exceeds that of our younger years.”

In one study, teams that were behind by just one point were more likely to win. In fact, home teams with a one-point deficit at halftime won more than 58 percent of the time.

According to the researchers, “[M]erely telling people they were slightly behind an opponent led them to exert more effort.”

The best hope for turning a slump into a spark involves three steps. First, be aware of midpoints. Don’t let them remain invisible. Second, use them to wake up rather than roll over. Third, at the midpoint, imagine that you’re behind to spark your motivation—but only by a little.

If you’re feeling stuck in the middle of a project, picture one person who’ll benefit from your efforts. Dedicating your work to that person will deepen your dedication to your task.

Chapter 5. Endings: Marathons, Chocolates, and the Power of Poignancy

“Endings of all kinds—of experiences, projects, semesters, negotiations, stages of life—shape our behavior in four predictable ways. They help us energize. They help us encode. They help us edit. And they help us elevate.”

“Someone who’s forty-nine is about three times more likely to run a marathon than someone who’s just a year older.”

“At the beginning of a pursuit, we’re generally more motivated by how far we’ve progressed; at the end, we’re generally more energized by trying to close the small gap that remains.”

“When we remember an event we assign the greatest weight to its most intense moment (the peak) and how it culminates (the end).” (For more on this, read The Power of Moments by Chip & Dan Heath.)

We downplay how long an episode lasts and magnify what happens at the end. Daniel Kahneman calls it “duration neglect.”

“This “end of life bias,” as the researchers call it, suggests that we believe people’s true selves are revealed at the end—even if their death is unexpected and the bulk of their lives evinced a far different self.”

“Adding a small component of sadness to an otherwise happy moment elevates that moment rather than diminishes it.”

“The best endings don’t leave us happy. Instead, they produce something richer—a rush of unexpected insight, a fleeting moment of transcendence, the possibility that by discarding what we wanted we’ve gotten what we need.”

If your answer to two or more of these is no, it might be time to quit your job.

Do you want to be in this job on your next work anniversary?

Is your current job both demanding and in your control?

If your job doesn’t provide both challenge and autonomy, and there’s nothing you can do to make things better, consider a move.

Does your boss allow you to do your best work?

Are you outside the three-to-five-year salary bump window?

Does your daily work align with your long-term goals?

Chapter 6. Synching Fast and Slow: The Secrets of Group Timings

“Groups must synchronize on three levels—to the boss, to the tribe, and to the heart.”

“The first principle of synching fast and slow is that group timing requires a boss—someone or something above and apart from the group itself to set the pace, maintain the standards, and focus the collective mind.”

“After individuals synch to the boss, the external standard that sets the pace of their work, they must synch to the tribe—to one another. That requires a deep sense of belonging.”

“Synching to the heart is the third principle of group timing. Synchronizing makes us feel good—and feeling good helps a group’s wheels turn more smoothly. Coordinating with others also makes us do good—and doing good enhances synchronization.”

Chapter 7. Thinking in Tenses: A Few Finals Words

“Research has shown we plan more effectively and behave more responsibly when the future feels more closely connected to the current moment and our current selves.”

Other Books by Daniel H. Pink

Drive

To Sell Is Human

Recommended Reading-If you like When, you may also enjoy the following books:

Ego is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

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

Buy The Book: When

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Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield: Notes

Categories Jobs&SkillsPosted on

Turning Pro is an inspiring instruction manual that will help you create the work you were meant to do by dividing your life into two phases, the amateur and the professional, and getting you from one into the other.

There are many different ways to frame the fundamental struggle of what it means to be human: trying to fulfill our potential. Science has the therapeutic model, in which some disease or condition must be cured and religion has the moral model, which says we must pay for our sins. According to Steven Pressfield, however, there’s a third model, a much simpler one: the model of the amateur and the professional.

Pressfield is a distinguished author, both in fiction and non-fiction. Turning Pro is his guide to this model, which’ll help you go from one to the other. According to Steve’s opening line, this change will make all the difference:

“I wrote in The War of Art that I could divide my life neatly into two parts: before turning pro and after. After is better.”

The book is divided into three big parts. The first describes the addictive nature of the amateur, who’s lost in his bad habits. The second paints a vision of what it’d like to be a pro, and where the amateur falls short. The third is about cultivating professionalism.

Here are 3 lessons to help your Turning Pro:

  • The defining trait of the amateur is the fear of being who she is and getting rejected for it.
  • A central obstacle for the amateur is that he always chases some guru or authority.
  • When you do your work for the sake of its practice and nothing else, that’s when you turn pro.

I don’t know what you want to create. Maybe it’s a museum, maybe a rare breed of frog, maybe a hedge fund. But I do know that turning pro will help you get there. So let’s do this!

Lesson 1: An amateur is terrified of being her real self and the consequences that come with it.

None of us are born as pros. We all start as amateurs, addicted to ‘shadow careers,’ as Steve calls them, which we pursue in lack of the guts to chase our real calling. I have no way of putting it better than Steve, so (emphasis mine):

“Fear is the primary color of the amateur’s interior world. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking foolish, fear of under-achieving and fear of over-achieving, fear of poverty, fear of loneliness, fear of death. But mostly what we all fear as amateurs is being excluded from the tribe, i.e., the gang, the posse, mother and father, family, nation, race, religion.

The amateur fears that if he turns pro and lives out his calling, he will have to live up to who he really is and what he is truly capable of. The amateur is terrified that if the tribe should discover who he really is, he will be kicked out into the cold to die.”

This was a big issue for me. The idea that the more we become ourselves, the less we’ll be understood, and the fewer people will walk, talk, and act like us is paralyzing. Most people never get out of this incapacitated state of ungrounded fear. People do turn on you when you “go rogue,” but you’ll also find new people who are discovering themselves too.

Nonetheless, for the few who break out of their shell of fear, another roadblock awaits.

Lesson 2: One major roadblock for amateurs is trying to please gurus, mentors, authorities, and teachers.

Once I finally got over the hump of pressing ‘Publish’ on my first articles, I instantly turned to the gurus whose work I’d read in order to get there. This is as natural a part of the process as it is damaging. You just ventured into new, uncharted, scary territory, and now you realize there’s no clear path to go. So you hang on anyone’s every word who tells you otherwise.

There’s nothing wrong with listening to expert advice, but worshipping a teacher, mentor, even a spouse as an icon takes away our power. It’s the singer waiting to be discovered, the blogger hoping for a viral post, the swimmer craving her coach’s approval. All of these stand in the way of you doing your work your way.

Your mentor’s genius will never rub off on you. You must choose yourself. In Steve’s words:

“In my experience, when we project a quality or virtue onto another human being, we ourselves almost always already possess that quality, but we’re afraid to embrace (and to live) that truth.”

The moment you take your power back, magical things start to happen.

Lesson 3: Doing your work for its own sake, as a practice, is what being a pro is really about.

Steve published his first book when he was 52, despite writing novels since his late twenties. You’d think by that point, any rational person would’ve quit, which is exactly right. Eventually, the professional must commit herself to her work to an extent that is beyond reason. This, she will do gladly, because like Steve and like me, she at one point realizes she can’t do anything else.

“In the end I answered the question by realizing that I had no choice. I couldn’t do anything else. When I tried, I got so depressed I couldn’t stand it. So when I wrote yet another novel or screenplay that I couldn’t sell, I had no choice but to write another after that. The truth was, I was enjoying myself. Maybe nobody else liked the stuff I was doing, but I did. I was learning. I was getting better.”

It is at this point that your work will turn into a practice. A self-serving ritual that needs no justification. Steve defines it as “a rigorous, prescribed regimen with the intention of elevating the mind and the spirit to a higher level.” As such, each practice has a time, a place, and an intention. It’s a simple, consistent routine that enables you to let quality do its thing.

The professional is an eternal student, always ready to learn, always willing to show up, regardless of the weather. This is what allows him to practice his craft as long as he needs to until his craft begins to work for him in return.

My personal take-aways

The book is a short read. Technically a follow-up to The War of Art and a prequel to Do The Work, I think for most, Turning Pro is the right place to start. If you know what you want to do deep down, but don’t have the courage to jump in, this is the book for you

The Book in Three Sentences

You can divide your life neatly into two parts: before turning pro and after.

All you have to do to turn pro is decide.

When you turn pro, life gets easier.

The Five Big Ideas

“Do you remember where you were on 9/11? You’ll remember where you were when you turn pro.”

When we’re afraid to embrace our true calling, we pursue a shadow calling instead.

“The question we need to ask of a shadow career or an addiction is the same question the psychotherapist asks of a dream. ‘What is our unconscious trying to tell us?’”

“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.”

“Turning pro is like kicking a drug habit or stopping drinking. It’s a decision, a decision to which we must re-commit every day.”

Turning Pro Book Summary

“I wrote in The War of Art that I could divide my life neatly into two parts: before turning pro and after. After is better.”

“What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs.”

“All you have to do [to turn pro] is change your mind.”

“We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and to live out.”

“Do you remember where you were on 9/11? You’ll remember where you were when you turn pro.”

“To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls.”

“Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead.”

“If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for. That metaphor will point you toward your true calling.”

“Becoming a pro, in the end, is nothing grander than growing up.”

“In the shadow life, we live in denial and we act by addiction.”

“The shadow life is the life of the amateur.”

“The longer we cleave to this life, the farther we drift from our true purpose, and the harder it becomes for us to rally the courage to get back.”

“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.”

“The addict is the amateur; the artist is the professional.”

“When you turn pro, your life gets very simple.”

“The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a ‘life,’ a ‘character,’ a ‘personality.’”

“The quick fix wins out over the long, slow haul.”

“When we can’t stand the fear, the shame, and the self-reproach that we feel, we obliterate it with an addiction.”

“The question we need to ask of a shadow career or an addiction is the same question the psychotherapist asks of a dream. ‘What is our unconscious trying to tell us?’”

“What you and I are really seeking is our own voice, our own truth, our own authenticity.”

“The amateur fears that if he turns pro and lives out his calling, he will have to live up to who he really is and what he is truly capable of.”

“The amateur identifies with his own ego. He believes he is ‘himself.’ That’s why he’s terrified.”

“Though the amateur’s identity is seated in his own ego, that ego is so weak that it cannot define itself based on its own self-evaluation. The amateur allows his worth and identity to be defined by others.”

“Paradoxically, the amateur’s self-inflation prevents him from acting.”

“The amateur has a long list of fears. Near the top are two: Solitude and silence. The amateur fears solitude and silence because she needs to avoid, at all costs, the voice inside her head that would point her toward her calling and her destiny. So she seeks distraction.”

“The amateur lacks compassion for himself.”

“Achieving compassion is the first powerful step toward moving from being an amateur to being a pro.”

“The amateur believes that, before she can act, she must receive permission from some Omnipotent Other — a lover or spouse, a parent, a boss, a figure of authority.”

“The force that can save the amateur is awareness, particularly self-awareness.”

“Fear of self-definition is what keeps an amateur an amateur and what keeps an addict an addict.”

“The amateur dreads becoming who she really is because she fears that this new person will be judged by others as ‘different.’ Here’s the truth: the tribe doesn’t give a shit.”

“When we truly understand that the tribe doesn’t give a damn, we’re free. There is no tribe, and there never was. Our lives are entirely up to us.”

“Sometimes it’s easier to be a professional in a shadow career than it is to turn pro in our real calling.”

“Life gets very simple when you turn pro.”

“What happens when we turn pro is, we finally listen to that still, small voice inside our heads.”

“Before we turn pro, our life is dominated by fear and Resistance. We live in a state of denial. We’re denying the voice in our heads. We’re denying our calling. We’re denying who we really are. We’re fleeing from our fear into an addiction or a shadow career. What changes when we turn pro is we stop fleeing.”

“When we turn pro, we stop running from our fears. We turn around and face them.”

“When we turn pro, everything becomes simple. Our aim centers on the ordering of our days in such a way that we overcome the fears that have paralyzed us in the past. We now structure our hours not to flee from fear, but to confront it and overcome it. We plan our activities in order to accomplish an aim. And we bring our will to bear so that we stick to this resolution. This changes our days completely. It changes what time we get up and it changes what time we go to bed. It changes what we do and what we don’t do. It changes the activities we engage in and with what attitude we engage in them. It changes what we read and what we eat. It changes the shape of our bodies. When we were amateurs, our life was about drama, about denial, and about distraction. Our days were simultaneously full to the bursting point and achingly, heartbreakingly empty. But we are not amateurs any more. We are different, and everyone in our lives sees it.”

“Turning pro changes how we spend our time and with whom we spend it. It changes our friends; it changes our spouses and children. It changes who is drawn to us and who is repelled by us. Turning pro changes how people perceive us. Those who are still fleeing from their own fears will now try to sabotage us. They will tell us we’ve changed and try to undermine our efforts at further change. They will attempt to make us feel guilty for these changes. They will try to entice us to get stoned with them or fuck off with them or waste time with them, as we’ve done in the past, and when we refuse, they will turn against us and talk us down behind our backs. At the same time, new people will appear in our lives. They will be people who are facing their own fears and who are conquering them. These people will become our new friends. When we turn pro, we will be compelled to make painful choices. There will be people who in the past had been colleagues and associates, even friends, whom we will no longer be able to spend time with if our intention is to grow and to evolve. We will have to choose between the life we want for our future and the life we have left behind.”

“Turning pro is like kicking a drug habit or stopping drinking. It’s a decision, a decision to which we must re-commit every day.”

“Each day, the professional understands, he will wake up facing the same demons, the same Resistance, the same self-sabotage, the same tendencies to shadow activities and amateurism that he has always faced. The difference is that now he will not yield to those temptations. He will have mastered them, and he will continue to master them.”

“Turning pro is a decision. But it’s such a monumental, life-overturning decision (and one that is usually made only in the face of overwhelming fear) that the moment is frequently accompanied by powerful drama and emotion. Often it’s something we’ve been avoiding for years, something we would never willingly face unless overwhelming events compelled us to.”

Habits of The Professional

The professional is patient

The professional seeks order

The professional demystifies

The professional acts in the face of fear

The professional accepts no excuses

The professional plays it as it lays

The professional is prepared

The professional does not show off

The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique

The professional does not hesitate to ask for help

The professional does not take failure or success personally

The professional does not identify with his or her instrument

The professional endures adversity

The professional self-validates

The professional reinvents herself

The professional is recognized by other professionals

“The amateur tweets. The pro works.”

“The professional knows when he has fallen short of his own standards. He will murder his darlings without hesitation, if that’s what it takes to stay true to the goddess and to his own expectations of excellence.”

“The amateur spends his time in the past and the future. The professional has taught himself to banish these distractions.”

“The professional does not wait for inspiration; he acts in anticipation of it.”

“The pro will share his wisdom with other professionals — or with amateurs who are committed to becoming professionals.”

“When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career (or a living or fame or wealth or notoriety) turns into something else, something loftier and nobler, which we may never even have thought about or aspired to at the beginning. It turns into a practice.”

“A practice implies engagement in a ritual. A practice may be defined as the dedicated, daily exercise of commitment, will, and focused intention aimed, on one level, at the achievement of mastery in a field but, on a loftier level, intended to produce a communion with a power greater than ourselves — call it whatever you like: God, mind, soul, Self, the Muse, the superconscious.”

Characteristics of a Practice

A practice has a space

A practice has a time

A practice has an intention

We come to a practice as warriors

We come to a practice in humility

We come to a practice as students

A practice is lifelong

“The best pages I’ve ever written are pages I can’t remember writing.”

Three key tenets for days when Resistance is really strong:

Take what you can get and stay patient. The defense may crack late in the game.

Play for tomorrow.

We’re in this for the long haul.

“Our work is a practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days are nothing. In the scheme of our lifelong practice, twenty-four hours when we can’t gain yardage is only a speed bump. We’ll forget it by breakfast tomorrow and be back again, ready to hurl our bodies into the fray.”

Sue Sally Hale had a phrase that she drilled into her students’ heads: “Sit chilly.”

Other Books by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art

Do The Work

Buy this bookhttps://amzn.to/2EekL6m

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