Smarter Summary

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Smarter is one “slow learner” turned A student’s experimental account of improving his intelligence by 16% through various tests, lessons and exercises and explains how you can increase your intelligence in scientifically proven ways.

I love a good prove-them-wrong story. As a kid, Dan Hurley was told he was a slow learner, because he still couldn’t read at eight years old. At eleven, he was an A student and went on to become a successful journalist and writer for The New York Times.

Because he had a desire to understand his own transformation (and what’s possible in terms of improving intelligence) on a deeper level, he devoted a lot of his writing and time to evaluating the research in this field. He even volunteered himself as a guinea pig for the latest methods.

All of his findings have been compiled in this book, so you can get the most of the newest research, learn what truly makes a person intelligent and become smarter.

Here are 3 lessons to increase your brainpower:

  • There are two kinds of intelligence, and both can be increased.
  • You can use computer games to boost your working memory.
  • Far transfer allows you to use your knowledge about one task with another.

Ready to raise your knowledge rank? Let’s play some mental games!

Lesson 1: Intelligence is part fluid, part crystallized, and both can be increased.

Intelligence was divided into two parts as early as the 1970s. Back then, scientists discerned them as follows:

Fluid intelligence.

Crystallized intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is your capacity for logic thinking and reasoning. When you’re presented with a new problem you haven’t seen before, and then try to analyze it by spotting patterns, thinking about principles and building your own reasoning around how to overcome it, that’s fluid intelligence at work.

This is the part of your intelligence that scientists believed to be fixed until a few years ago.

Crystallized intelligence is the knowledge base you build up over time, including facts, the memory of how to perform certain tasks or actions (like riding a bike) and knowing how to read. This kind of knowledge constantly grows.

Fluid intelligence reaches its peak during young adulthood (which is why great mathematicians often have their biggest breakthroughs early in their lives) and is also closely correlated with the physical size of your brain, which is why scientists long thought it’s impossible to change – but as it turns out, that’s not true.

Lesson 2: You can play certain computer games to increase your working memory.

In 2008, Susanne Jaeggi conducted a study including computer games of the so-called N-back type. These games usually show you different elements, one after the other, and then ask you questions for which you have to remember the element that you saw “N back”, where N can be any number.

For example, if I give you an iPad and show you an A on its screen, followed by a B and then a C, and I ask you to tell me what the first letter was (A), this’d be a 2-back game, because you’ll have to remember the letter that came two positions before the C.

After four weeks of playing these kinds of games, the participants of the study showed a 40% increase in fluid intelligence tasks.

This was the first time a study in a scientific context had proven that fluid intelligence can actually be improved with practice. That’s great news for you and me, and for the 70 million people who already play these kinds of games created by companies like Lumosity.

Also, games similar to these could even help people with illnesses like ADHD.

Lesson 3: Transferring your new knowledge from one task to the other is called far transfer.

Do you know what a meta-study is? It’s a study of studies. For training working memory, like in the study above, a meta study was conducted in 2013, which brought up the following issue: while effective in the short term, most of the results from training working memory could only be transferred to other, unrelated tasks, in a few cases, and wore off quickly.

To analyze the efficiency of the training, the authors looked at 23 other studies and their results. The ray of hope in this is that they did acknowledge the positive results for similar tasks in the short term – for example, if you play N-back games using words for four weeks, you’ll be better at other N-back tasks (with non-verbal components) right after completing your training.

This transfer of learning from one context to another, which isn’t directly related to it, is called far transfer and is very desirable, because it makes your learning more effective. Science will still have to figure that one out, but with the military alone pouring millions of dollars into this kind of research, we’re likely to see even better games and ways of mental training in the future.

My personal take-aways

I expected a bunch of hacks and stories about individual’s productivity, and thought this book, if really good, would be similar to Smarter Faster Better, but it actually took a lot of time investigating the status quo and explaining the history of research in learning. I like that.

Dan Hurley is very dedicated and not afraid to take a few hits himself to move this branch of science forward. That’s admirable and it’s something that flows through the entire book, which makes it a read well worth your time.

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg: Notes

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 Smarter Faster Better tells deeply researched stories from professionals around the world to show you how to do what you’re already doing in a better, more efficient way, by focusing on decisions, motivation and the way we set goals.

The Power of Habit is one of my favorite books of all time. So much in fact, that I’ve given away several copies over the last year. In March 2016 Charles Duhigg finally published his next book. I don’t mind that it took four years though, because I know it’s the only way for Charles to go as deep as he does in his research and preparation.

Smarter Faster Better is slightly more focused on businesses and teams, but holds just as much valuable information for individuals. His first book was about why we do what we do. This one’s about how to do what you do in a better way.

Here are 3 lessons about motivation and goal-setting to help you live smarter, faster and better:

  • Remind yourself of long-term goals to stay motivated.
  • Use the SMART goal framework to set big goals and break themdown into small chunks.
  • Anticipate distractions.

Ready to start chipping away at those big dreams of yours? Let’s go for it!

Lesson 1: Use small reminders to stay motivated for long-term goals.

Setting goals is fun. Setting big goals is even more fun. Everyone loves it. Especially with December 31st approaching, millions of people set out for grand achievements…

…and then they fail.


Because while setting a huge goal is fun, working every day for years to achieve it isn’t.

It was easy for me to say: “You know what? I’ll just write 365 book summaries next year. I’ll publish one every single day.” The hard part is still showing up every day, after over 6 months, and actually writing them.

What helps me stay on track (most of the time anyways), is envisioning and reminding myself of the goal. There’s a number in my site’s dashboard, which shows how many posts I’ve written. I want to log in at the end of the year and see a big, fat, 365 standing there.

You can stay motivated when working towards a big goal too, as long as you keep reminding yourself what you’re working towards.

For example, if you want to come up with a crazy good new set of headphones, which adapts to people’s individual hearing, you’ll probably have to start with reading a lot of scientific research papers. These are often boring, and likely to put you to sleep. Writing “This will help me build the world’s best headphones” in big, bold letters across the top will help remind you of the paper’s purpose and get you to pull through.

Lesson 2: Set goals with the SMART goal framework to make them manageable.

Aside from staying motivated on goals, which take a while to accomplish, it also helps to break them down into manageable chunks. Big goals shouldn’t scare you, tackling them without a plan is what to be afraid of.

Charles Duhigg suggests something called the SMART goal framework, which is an acronym for the five criteria your goals should fulfill:






For example, if you want to write a book, you can first be specific by saying you’ll write a book about habits, that spans three parts with 30 chapters, with no more than 300 pages in total. Your progress then becomes measurable, and you can strive to write, say, two page drafts every day. This goal is attainable, but you should still stay realistic about it: you probably won’t be able to write that much every day and lots of edits will have to be done, so you’ll likely take longer than just 150 days, but that’s alright, because at least you now have a time-bound schedule – even if it changes over time (and it will) you can already see the finish line of your goal.

Note: John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur On Fire has created a really cool tool called The Freedom Journal, to help you set and stay on track with your SMART goals.

Lesson 3: Deal with distractions in advance by making a plan for when they occur.

There’s a famous Woody Allen quote:

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” – Woody Allen

While a good plan is nothing to scoff at, it’s true that no plan ever gets executed exactly as planned. Distractions, unforeseen problems and speed bumps will happen, and though you can’t possibly prepare for all of them, anticipating some of them in advance is your best bet at sticking to the schedule.

For example, if you know that at least one day each week gets sucked up entirely by responding to emails and phone calls, you’d be best off by blocking your emails from hitting your inbox during the time you’ve scheduled for writing your two daily pages.

Anticipation is the enemy of distraction. The best way to deal with distractions is to keep them from happening in the first place, whenever you can.

My personal take-aways

I’m not going to waste a lot of time discussing this. Charles Duhigg is gold. Just go and get this book!

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

Hardcover | Audiobook

Smarter Faster Better Summary

The Book in Three Sentences

“Productivity is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort.”

Motivation is more like a skill—it can be learned and honed.

Making good choices relies on forecasting the future.

The Five Big Ideas

To motivate yourself, you must believe you have autonomy over your actions and surroundings.

“People who are particularly good at managing their attention are in the habit of telling themselves stories all the time.”

“Experiments have shown that people with SMART goals are more likely to seize on the easiest tasks, to become obsessed with finishing projects, and to freeze on priorities once a goal has been set.”

“Good decision making is contingent on a basic ability to envision what happens next.”

“Innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways.”

Smarter Faster Better Summary

“Productivity put simply, is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort.”

“Motivation is more like a skill, akin to reading or writing, that can be learned and honed.”

“The trick [to motivation], researchers say, is realizing that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control.”

“When people believe they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more.”

“One way to prove to ourselves that we are in control is by making decisions.”

“The first step in creating drive is giving people opportunities to make choices that provide them with a sense of autonomy and self-determination.”

“This is a useful lesson for anyone hoping to motivate themselves or others because it suggests an easy method for triggering the will to act: Find a choice, almost any choice, that allows you to exert control.”

“Motivation is triggered by making choices that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control. The specific choice we make matters less than the assertion of control.”

“Researchers have found that people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves for success or failure, rather than assigning responsibility to things outside their influence.”

“People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, and report greater professional success and satisfaction.”

“Studies show that someone’s locus of control can be influenced through training and feedback.”

“The students who had been praised for their intelligence—who had been primed to think in terms of things they could not influence—were much more likely to focus on the easier puzzles during the second round of play, even though they had been complimented for being smart. They were less motivated to push themselves. They later said the experiment wasn’t much fun. In contrast, students who had been praised for their hard work—who were encouraged to frame the experience in terms of self-determination—went to the hard puzzles. They worked longer and scored better. They later said they had a great time.”

“If you can link something hard to a choice you care about, it makes the task easier. Make a chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will emerge.”

“If you give people an opportunity to feel a sense of control and let them practice making choices, they can learn to exert willpower. Once people know how to make self-directed choices into a habit, motivation becomes more automatic.”

“Moreover, to teach ourselves to self-motivate more easily, we need to learn to see our choices not just as expressions of control but also as affirmations of our values and goals.”

“The choices that are most powerful in generating motivation, in other words, are decisions that do two things: They convince us we’re in control and they endow our actions with larger meaning.”

“An internal locus of control emerges when we develop a mental habit of transforming chores into meaningful choices when we assert that we have authority over our lives.”

“When we start a new task or confront an unpleasant chore, we should take a moment to ask ourselves ‘why.’”

“Once we start asking why, those small tasks become pieces of a larger constellation of meaningful projects, goals, and values. We start to recognize how small chores can have outsized emotional rewards because they prove to ourselves that we are making meaningful choices, that we are genuinely in control of our own lives.”

Self-motivation flourishes when we realize that replying to an email or helping a coworker, on its own, might be relatively unimportant. But it is part of a bigger project that we believe in, that we want to achieve, that we have chosen to do.

Self-motivation is a choice we make because it is part of something bigger and more emotionally rewarding than the immediate task that needs doing.

“Self-motivation becomes easier when we see our choices as affirmations of our deeper values and goals.”

“Teams succeed when everyone feels like they can speak up and when members show they are sensitive to how one another feels.”

“Cognitive tunneling can cause people to become overly focused on whatever is directly in front of their eyes or become preoccupied with immediate tasks.”

“Once in a cognitive tunnel, we lose our ability to direct our focus. Instead, we latch on to the easiest and most obvious stimulus, often at the cost of common sense.”

“Reactive thinking is at the core of how we allocate our attention, and in many settings, it’s a tremendous asset.”

“Reactive thinking is how we build habits, and it’s why to-do lists and calendar alerts are so helpful: Rather than needing to decide what to do next, we can take advantage of our reactive instincts and automatically proceed. Reactive thinking, in a sense, outsources the choices and control that, in other settings, create motivation.”

“The downside of reactive thinking is that habits and reactions can become so automatic they overpower our judgment.”

People who are particularly good at managing their attention share certain characteristics:

They create pictures in their minds of what they expect to see

They tell themselves stories about what’s going on as it occurs

They narrate their own experiences within their heads

They are more likely to answer questions with anecdotes rather than simple responses

They say when they daydream, they’re often imagining future conversations

They visualize their days with more specificity than the rest of us do

“Psychologists have a phrase for this kind of habitual forecasting: ‘creating mental models.’”

All people rely on mental models to some degree. We all tell ourselves stories about how the world works whether we realize we’re doing it or not. But some of us build more robust models than others. We envision the conversations we’re going to have with more specificity and imagine what we are going to do later that day in greater detail. As a result, we’re better at choosing where to focus and what to ignore.

People who are particularly good at managing their attention are in the habit of telling themselves stories all the time. They engage in constant forecasting. They daydream about the future and then when life clashes with their imagination, their attention gets snagged.

“Cognitive tunneling and reactive thinking occur when our mental spotlights go from dim to bright in a split second. But if we are constantly telling ourselves stories and creating mental pictures, that beam never fully powers down. It’s always jumping around inside our heads. And, as a result, when it has to flare to life in the real world, we’re not blinded by its glare.”

“By developing a habit of telling ourselves stories about what’s going on around us, we learn to sharpen where our attention goes.”

“If you want to make yourself more sensitive to the small details in your work, cultivate a habit of imagining, as specifically as possible, what you expect to see and do when you get to your desk. Then you’ll be prone to notice the tiny ways in which real life deviates from the narrative inside your head.”

“Narrate your life, as you are living it, and you’ll encode those experiences deeper in your brain.”

“It is easier to know what’s ahead when there’s a well-rounded script inside your head.”

“Mental models help us by providing a scaffold for the torrent of information that constantly surrounds us. Models help us choose where to direct our attention, so we can make decisions, rather than just react.”

“To become genuinely productive, we must take control of our attention; we must build mental models that put us firmly in charge.”

“Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what’s next.”

“Experiments have shown that people with SMART goals are more likely to seize on the easiest tasks, to become obsessed with finishing projects, and to freeze on priorities once a goal has been set.”

“Numerous academic studies have examined the impact of stretch goals, and have consistently found that forcing people to commit to ambitious, seemingly out-of-reach objectives can spark outsized jumps in innovation and productivity.”

“For a stretch goal to inspire, it often needs to be paired with something like the SMART system.”

“The reason why we need both stretch goals and SMART goals is that audaciousness, on its own, can be terrifying. It’s often not clear how to start on a stretch goal. And so, for a stretch goal to become more than just an aspiration, we need a disciplined mindset to show us how to turn a far-off objective into a series of realistic short-term aims.”

“Stretch goals can spark remarkable innovations, but only when people have a system for breaking them into concrete plans.”

“The problem with many to-do lists is that when we write down a series of short-term objectives, we are, in effect, allowing our brains to seize on the sense of satisfaction that each task will deliver. We are encouraging our need for closure and our tendency to freeze on a goal without asking if it’s the right aim. The result is that we spend hours answering unimportant emails instead of writing a big, thoughtful memo—because it feels so satisfying to clean out our in-box.”

“Come up with a menu of your biggest ambitions. Dream big and stretch. Describe the goals that, at first glance, seem impossible, such as starting a company or running a marathon. Then choose one aim and start breaking it into short-term, concrete steps. Ask yourself: What realistic progress can you make in the next day, week, month? How many miles can you realistically run tomorrow and over the next three weeks? What are the specific, short-term steps along the path to bigger success? What timeline makes sense? Will you open your store in six months or a year? How will you measure your progress? Within psychology, these smaller ambitions are known as “proximal goals,” and repeated studies have shown that breaking a big ambition into proximal goals makes the large objective more likely to occur.”

“When Pychyl writes a to-do list, for instance, he starts by putting a stretch goal—such as ‘conduct research that explains goal/neurology interface’—at the top of the page. Underneath comes the nitty gritty: the small tasks that tell him precisely what to do. ‘Specific: Download grant application. Timeline: By tomorrow.’”

“Many of our most important decisions are, in fact, attempts to forecast the future.”

“Good decision making is contingent on a basic ability to envision what happens next.”

“Making good choices relies on forecasting the future. Accurate forecasting requires exposing ourselves to as many successes and disappointments as possible.”

“How do we learn to make better decisions? In part, by training ourselves to think probabilistically.”


[make better decisions]

, we must force ourselves to envision various futures—to hold contradictory scenarios in our minds simultaneously—and then expose ourselves to a wide spectrum of successes and failures to develop an intuition about which forecasts are more or less likely to come true.”

“There are numerous ways to build a Bayesian instinct. Some of them are as simple as looking at our past choices and asking ourselves: Why was I so certain things would turn out one way? Why was I wrong?”

“Innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways.”

If you want to become an “innovation broker” and increase the productivity of your own creative process, there are three things that can help:

First, be sensitive to your own experiences. Pay attention to how things make you think and feel. Look to your own life as creative fodder, and broker your own experiences into the wider world.

Second, recognize that the panic and stress you feel as you try to create isn’t a sign that everything is falling apart. Rather, it’s the condition that helps make us flexible enough to seize something new. Creative desperation can be critical; anxiety is what often pushes us to see old ideas in new ways. The path out of that turmoil is to look at what you know, to reinspect conventions you’ve seen work and try to apply them to fresh problems. The creative pain should be embraced.

Finally, remember that the relief accompanying a creative breakthrough, while sweet, can also blind us to seeing alternatives. It is critical to maintain some distance from what we create. Without self-criticism, one idea can quickly crowd out competitors. But we can regain that critical distance by forcing ourselves to critique what we’ve already done, by making ourselves look at it from a completely different perspective.

How to Stay Focused on Stretch and SMART Goals

Smarter Faster Better Summary

How Charles Duhigg focused on his stretch and SMART goal when writing the book.

Key Terms

Bayes’ rule. The probability of an event, based on conditions that might be related to the event.

Cognitive tunneling. An inattentional blindness phenomenon in which you are too focused on instrumentation, task at hand, internal thought, etc. and not on the present environment.

Proximal goals. Short-term goals.

Recommended Reading

If you like Smarter Faster Better, you may also enjoy the following books:

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World Book by Cal Newport

The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Buy this book

Hardcover | Audiobook

Smart People Should Build Things Summary

Categories Jobs&Skills, SmartPosted on

Smart People Should Build Things explains how the current education system works against the economy by producing an endless string of bankers and consultants, instead of the innovators we need, and how we can encourage more young people to become entrepreneurs to solve this problem.

What’s the most depressing question you can ask a college student? Here it is:

“What will you do after college?”

Seriously, you can make them go from perfect mood to major headache in a few seconds with this. With the number of options exploding more and more and more, how the hell are we supposed to know what to do?

Back when my Dad went to college, you had a choice of a dozen subjects, mostly the ones you had in school, and then a few dozen variations and sub-topics of those initial ones. Today you can go to college for becoming a make-up artist, an animation graphics expert or even a chef. And that doesn’t even begin to describe the explosion of professions you can choose from after you graduate.

But Andrew Yang isn’t worried about that. He’s worried about how we deal with this paradox of choice – by defaulting to a very slim set of professional services, especially among the most elite schools.

Here are 3 lessons from his book to show you where Harvard, Princeton and Yale graduates mess up big time:

  • Half of all elite college graduates land in finance, law or consulting.
  • After beginning your career in such firms, you’ll be tied down by golden handcuffs.
  • None of these companies drive the economy forward, startups do.

Interested in what a real economic revolution looks like? Let’s look at the US education system to find out!

Lesson 1: Around half of all elite college graduates end up in finance, law or consulting firms – but mostly for the wrong reasons.

In 2013, Princeton sent admission letters to only 1,931 potential students. But how many applied? Over 26,000. That means just 7.29% actually get into the school. Fewer yet finish the degree they pursue. Other Ivy League schools show similar admission rates. The few who get in are the brightest kids in the US, having passed high school with flying colors.

If a few thousand get into those schools, then that also means a few thousand graduate each year. The big question is: where do the smartest kids go after they’re through with their top notch education?

In the case of Princeton, the vast majority, around 40% end up either in finance or in consulting. That means investment banks, the Big Four, and companies like McKinsey, The Boston Consulting Group or A. T. Kearney. Another 13% then go on to law school and will end up in big law firms.

What draws half of all these smart people into the world of professional services? Money and status.

Imagine being respected and congratulated by everyone you meet for most of your life, because you’re always among the smartest, and then the world’s college elite. The last thing you’d wanna do is lose that status after graduating. Plus, the work is a challenge worthy of your skills and it pays a crap load of money right out the gate. Six-figure starting salaries are not unusual in these industries.

Lastly, the students affect one another. If your roommate comes home from his 10th banking interview, it makes you think whether you shouldn’t try to get one too.

Lesson 2: All of these firms then go on to tie you down with golden handcuffs.

Elite college graduates are perfectly trained to go through the tough application process most of these companies have. After all, it’s not much different from getting into an elite college. What they might not be a good fit for, however, is the work that follows.

Hard work, long hours, repetitive tasks, lots of travel and an environment intolerant of mistakes make it tough to stay with these firms. Inside those industries, a common motto is “up or out” – you either get promoted every 2-3 years, or you’re fired. Employee turnover can exceed 30% annually, depending on the company. That means you likely won’t see one of your two cubicle neighbors again next year.

The only thing that might be harder than staying with these companies is leaving them. According to Andrew, they’ll tie you down with what he calls “golden handcuffs.” The money, the benefits, like cars, food and hotels, the people you get access to, it’s hard to leave these things behind. The longer you stay, the bigger this problem will get.

Also, the small- to medium-sized businesses that you’d like to be your alternative often don’t need as many specialists, look for people with different skill sets and start hiring within their network (especially true for startups).

Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out. So maybe you should think twice about entering this race in the first place.

Lesson 3: Big, professional companies don’t drive the economy forward, startups do, because that’s where innovation happens.

Now you might say: “What’s so bad about many people joining these companies? Don’t they carry the economy and create lots of value?”

Sadly, that’s not the case. Not just a part, but in fact ALL net job growth can be attributed to new companies. Big firms don’t add to job growth at all. As companies get bigger, most of them try to automate as much as they can and find out how they can reduce the number of employees, not increase it.

How about technological innovation then? Same thing. Companies with less than 500 employees file for 13 times as many patents – per employee.

The value big banks and consulting firms create is doubtful at best, since most of the advice consultants give revolves around cutting costs, firing people and outsourcing work that can be done cheaper elsewhere. And banks…a lot of their revenue comes from trading, which is a zero sum game, since each win for one party is based on a loss for another.

The problem with all this is that big corporations are getting the lead over new businesses. Less than five year old businesses used to make up one half of all companies – by now it’s less than one third. Since 2008, the majority of US workers is employed at companies with 500+ employees.

Big companies don’t create jobs and they don’t move the economy forward. Yet, they keep growing and less people start their own thing. This is where you come in play. If you’re a smart, elite college graduate, please choose yourself.

My personal take-aways

Wow, this felt like a rant from the heart. Both my own and Andrew Yang’s. I think our stance is clear. If you’re now in doubt about your next career move, I hope it’ll be food for thought.

Rookie Smarts Summary

Categories SmartPosted on

Rookie Smarts argues against experience and for a mindset of learning in the modern workplace, due to knowledge growing and changing fast, which gives rookies a competitive advantage, as they’re not bound by common practices and the status quo.

Liz Wiseman runs a leadership research and development group right in the heart of Silicon Valley. She’s written multiple bestsellers about work and leadership, Rookie Smarts being the most recent one, published in 2014.

The book brings a very fresh perspective into the working world, as it argues against experience and for hiring rookies, who seem to not know much – at first.

Liz says because rookies are incredible learners and not afraid to make mistakes, they actually have an edge over experienced workers, who might be too set in their ways to find creative solutions for uncommon problems.

Whether you’re a rookie or not, you can definitely learn something about cultivating the right mindset from these 3 lessons from the book:

The world’s knowledge changes so fast, it makes rookies a necessity.

Rookies can have more expertise than their peers, just because they ask questions and get help.

Even if you’re not a rookie anymore, you can regain rookie smarts by putting yourself into learning mode.

Ready to be rookiefied? Here we go!

Lesson 1: Rookies are a necessity, because the world’s knowledge changes rapidly.

We all talk about how fast-paced our world has become. But most of us don’t really have an idea of exactly how fast-paced it actually is.

In the 1980’s, architect Buckminster Fuller published a book that explained how it had taken 1500 years for the knowledge from year 1 in our calendar to double. Then we doubled again in 250 years. Then 150.

The speed with which knowledge doubled became faster and faster, due to things like the printing press, radio, TV, and, most recently, of course, the internet.

Right now, the entire knowledge of humankind doubles every 12 months. Everything we’ve learned in the past 2016 years will be twice as much in 2017.

Do you see how insane that is? What’s more, with nanotechnology around the corner, companies like IBM predict that we’ll eventually end up at the ludicrous rate of 12 hours per knowledge doubling.

That also means a lot of knowledge becomes outdated fast. Right now we face an annual knowledge relevance decay rate of about 15%. That means 15% of our entire knowledge becomes useless each year.

If you work in high tech, that might go up to 30%. Therefore, if you have a high-tech job for 3 years, you’ll have to forget and re-learn everything you know.

And that’s where rookies excel. They aren’t set in their ways and have no substantial knowledge base to build upon, whereas it will be a lot harder for someone with decades of experience to let go of it and accept that they have to start over.

Lesson 2: When you ask questions and get help, you can outsmart experienced co-workers, even if you’re a rookie.

In some cases, rookies will even outsmart their experienced co-workers from the get-go.


By asking a lot of questions.

Imagine you’ve run an ice cream stand for 20 years. How likely would you be to let someone else tell you how to do it? The experience and confidence you’ve built up over the years has led to something called opinion stasis, where it’s hard for you to change your ways.

People with opinion stasis often also pick their friends accordingly, and make sure they carry the same views and opinions, making it even harder to get fresh ideas into their head.

If you’re a rookie, you’ll likely want to learn from as many experts as possible. After all, you have no clue how to do it!

Liz says rookies reach out to experts 40% more than experienced workers, plus contact 6 times as many experts for feedback. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of and can give rookies an advantage in terms of expertise (by as much as 5 to 25 times).

Lesson 3: If you’re no longer a rookie, you can still regain rookie smarts by putting yourself into learning mode.

Okay, so you’re no longer a rookie. Does that mean you’re doomed?

Of course not!

Being a rookie is a mindset anyone can cultivate.

Just open yourself to new ideas, throw out your ancient notes and take a fresh start at something you’ve done for years. Think back to the time when you started the job – maybe even grab a picture from way back then and pin it to your desktop, so you’ll have a reminder.

Volunteer somewhere outside work to do something you’ve never done, or swap jobs with a co-worker for a day. Buy a business book you’re skeptical about and read it in one go, and have lunch with a bunch of rookies.

All of this will help you get into learning mode, see the world with new eyes and stay a rookie at heart.

My personal take-aways

Since I’m a rookie, I’m obviously biased towards the message of this book. However, even at my age I see the trend, be it in books or the real world, to prefer experienced workers over newbies.

In some cases, this makes sense. When I had my blood taken 2 days ago, you can bet that I was relieved when the nurse, who came in, was 50 years old, not 21. Who would want to have their arm stabbed, swollen and blue from someone missing the artery, after all?

However, that young nurse might have an idea to make the process better altogether. I love what this book tells us, not only because it talks in my favor, but because I’ve already seen it’s true, especially in the internet space.

So many things I’ve learned in the past 1.5 years about blogging, social media and content marketing, have become moot already, because new alternatives have replaced them or rendered them unnecessary.

The summary has lots of relevant info and if you’re then ready to become a perpetual rookie (and find out what that is) I suggest you buy this book 🙂

Get Smart Summary

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Get Smart reveals how you can access more of your brain’s power through simple, actionable brain training techniques that’ll spark your creativity, make you look for the positive and help you achieve your goals faster.

If you’ve ever been told to “eat a frog” when faced with an unpleasant task, the name Brian Tracy might ring a bell. While not having invented the phrase, his book Eat That Frog! is one of the most popular productivity books worldwide. Brian has provided leadership coaching, sales training and psychology advice through his work and books for over three decades now.

Get Smart! is his latest book and it dissects the thinking abilities of the best performers in a variety of professional fields. The book introduces you to various ways of thinking, which it then backs up with actionable tactics to adopt them.

Here are my 3 favorites:

  • Always look for the big picture, even if you might not see it clearly.
  • Think slowly and make time to understand your goals.
  • Avoid mechanical thinking at all costs.

A huge proportion of intelligence has nothing to do with IQ. Today, we’ll expand that proportion. Time to get smarter!

Lesson 1: Try to see things in their entirety, even if you might fail.

You might have heard that we only use 10%, or 2%, or some low share of our brain. That’s a myth. We don’t use all of our brain’s cells simultaneously, but we do use 100% over the course of a 24-hour day. What we use them for, however, is a different story.

When I started my seminar on family business this semester, the teacher told us a story.

There is an old, Buddhist monastery, where all the monks are blind. One day, an elephant shows up in front of the main gate. This animal is entirely unknown to the monks and so six men rush outside to examine it. The first monk touches the elephant’s ear and concludes the animal’s like a thick sheet of cloth. The second touches the elephant’s tusk, resuming it is sharp and pointy. The third feels the leg and thinks an elephant is like a tree. The fourth puts his hand on its side and says it’s like a wall. The fifth touches its tail and believes it’s like a rope. The last man feels the elephant’s head and concludes it’s like a rock.

The men are all right, but all just to some degree. They’ve all correctly identified one aspect of an elephant, but nobody was able to see the whole picture. It’s always hard to think of overarching themes and high-level connections, but at least make an attempt.

Even if you fail to see the whole, you’ll still see more than most people. And you sure won’t be blind.

Lesson 2: Find unbiased information by making time to think slowly and consider your path towards your goals.

Brian makes a great analogy about human thoughts: they’re like bubbles in a champagne glass. Everything is fizzing, all the time, but the bubbles pop fast too. Often, the spark fizzles out soon and the bubbles were, well, just filled with air.

A whopping 1,500 words rush through your head every minute, while at the same time, dozens of cognitive biases work against your quest to find out what’s true and important. In his 2011 book, Thinking Fast And Slow, nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman differentiates between the two systems in our mind: one fast and intuitive, the other slow and deliberate. In our modern world, very few situations require us to think fast, but that system is where all information first lands!

It takes a conscious effort to get new input from the fast system to the slow system and that’s exactly what Brian suggests. Slow down. Make time for thinking. Especially when it comes to your long-term goals.

10 minutes a day spent on how you can end up where you want to be in five years will make your champagne fizzle a lot longer.

Lesson 3: Take three precautions to avoid mechanical thinking.

One style of thinking that’s been systemically trained out of us for the past 110 years, but is becoming more important by the minute, is creative thinking. Since the dawn of the assembly line, workers have been trained to think as mechanically as the machines they operate and now it costs us dearly.

Mechanical thinking only works in extremes: great successes or total failures. It blocks our path to improvement. Think of a restaurant you know that’s had the same menu for 15 years. How long do you think they’ll remain open? And if so, is that not because of their creativity in other areas?

In today’s world, nothing works forever. Constant learning is a given. Everything can be improved. Always. To block out mechanical thinking, Brian Tracy suggests three precautionary measures:

Be clear. Set bold, but straightforward goals and then be flexible in how you’ll reach them.

Be focused. Spend your time effectively. Don’t chunk it too much. Do fewer things better.

Concentrate. Spend your time efficiently. Turn off your phone. Avoid email. Design your environment the right way.

We’re working on robots to take over mechanical labor. We might as well ditch their way of thinking while we’re at it.

My personal take-aways

This book is straightforward. It introduces you to several scientific ideas from performance psychology, supplemented with little tips to implement the mindsets behind them. If you’re new to this field and are looking for a combination of philosophical ideas about productivity, inspiration and actionable tactics, Get Smart! is a good place to start.

Buy this book

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