Smartcuts explains how some people and businesses achieve rapid growth and build sustainable, profitable companies in the time it takes you to get another promotion, by working smart, not hard and hacking into the ladder of success, instead of climbing it one step at a time.
Wouldn’t you just love to skip the first ten years of a consulting career and start right at the partner level? Or have your Youtube channel explode to 500,000 subscribers in just two years, instead of ten?
That’s exactly what Smartcuts is about. And before you think “this sounds like shortcut, and shortcut sounds sketchy,” keep in mind that this isn’t a book about time management hacks and quick fixes.
It’s a book about strategies, which function like shortcuts. None of the stuff this book describes is an easy to implement tactic. They’re strategies and these take time. But if you follow Shane Snow’s guidance you’ll end up where you want to go a lot faster.
Here are 3 lessons to help you work smarter, not harder:
- Get a mentor, but make it someone you know well.
- Try to time your efforts right, so you can build upon themomentum from landing a hit.
- Go for 10x improvements, instead of incremental changes.
Ready to cut the learning curve? Let’s hack the career ladder!
Lesson 1: Find a mentor, but make sure it’s a friend.
If you haven’t stumbled across him on Youtube yet, I’d be surprised – Tai Lopez, probably the loudest voice telling you to get a mentor on the internet. This book agrees, making an often-cited argument: all professional athletes have coaches, all professional musicians have teachers, and all professional businessmen (and women) should have a mentor.
However, there’s a caveat, and it’s an interesting one: your mentor should be an informal relationship, not a formal one.
There’s plenty of paid mentorship programs, but according to a study by Christina Underhill, informal mentorship yields better results than formal mentorship, simply because mentors are more invested in helping their mentees through struggling times when they feel personally connected to them.
Paying someone to tell you what to do can help some of the time, but when a true friend commits to helping you get up to his or her level, that’s the kind of mentorship that’ll show the biggest results.
For example, when a London hospital team reached out to Ferrari’s Formula One pit stop team for help with transferring patients from operating to the ward, they eventually ended up building close-knit relationships, which led to a long-term cooperation. The error rate in the hospital decreased by 66% over the years and Ferrari even became their sponsor.
Lesson 2: Try to have good timing with your efforts, so youcan build on the momentum from landing a hit.
The best way to grow any successful venture is to double down on what’s already working. But what if you haven’t found anything that works yet?
This is where timing comes in. You can never know which of your ideas turn out to be brilliant and which ones no one will care about. But you can at least try to have good timing.
For example, Michelle Phan has one of the most popular Youtube channels about make-up and fashion around. She’d made videos since 2007, but had her first big springboard hit in early 2010. Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ video had come out around a month earlier, and Michelle explained how to do one of Gaga’s creepy makeups and the video exploded to 30 million views.
Now she had a stepping stone to work from, which she instantly used to make more videos re-creating popular make up styles, like from Catwoman, Tim Burton movies, or Disney princesses.
Once you find something that works, do it again. But until you do, try to strike the right nerve at the right time.
Lesson 3: Shoot for 10x improvements instead of incrementalupdates to the status quo.
Astro Teller works at Google X. He’s in charge of their Moonshots program. Why Moonshots? Because every project they tackle fells like trying to put a man on the moon in the 1960s. It’s a long shot, but if it works, it’ll be phenomenal.
Astro says it’s often easier to try and make something that’s ten times better than just improving the current solution by 10%. When you’re trying to revolutionize the status quo, you’re not bound by the same, limited thinking everyone else is grappling with.
It forces you to throw out everything you know and start from scratch. People are usually very open to crazy, visionary ideas and things that force them to use their imagination.
Jim Collins described this in Great By Choice – big risks come with big rewards, so instead of entering the race for cheaper, faster and smaller, throw out the rulebook and come up with something new altogether.
My personal take-aways
It sounds like a book full of quick hacks. But it’s actually a book full of solid strategies. I like that. It’s a book that will surprise you. This draws on lessons I’ve seen in many other business books, but combines them in a new and useful way, and it’s a book that’s both useful to the individual as well as to companies. Definitely a recommended read
Smartcuts by Shane Snow
Print | Hardcover | Audiobook
The Book in Three Sentences
You can do incredible things in a short amount of time.
To rethink conventions, think “laterally”.
“Paying dues” prevent progress.
The Five Big Ideas
“Momentum—not experience—is the single biggest predictor of business and personal success”.
“People are generally willing to take a chance on something if it only feels like a small stretch”.
“Mentorship is the secret of many of the highest-profile achievers throughout history”.
“Failing in business doesn’t make us better or smarter. But succeeding makes us more likely to continue to succeed”.
“Often, the thing holding us back from success is our inability to say no”.
“New ideas emerge when you question the assumptions upon which a problem is based”.
“Lateral thinking doesn’t replace hard work; it eliminates unnecessary cycles”.
Leverage is the overachiever’s approach to getting more bang for her proverbial buck”.
Momentum—not experience—is the single biggest predictor of business and personal success”.
People are generally willing to take a chance on something if it only feels like a small stretch”.
Weick says, “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win”.
Mentorship is the secret of many of the highest-profile achievers throughout history”.
Underhill found “Informal mentoring produced a larger and more significant effect on career outcomes than formal mentoring”.
There’s a big difference, in other words, between having a mentor guide our practice and having a mentor guide our journey”.
Failing in business doesn’t make us better or smarter. But succeeding makes us more likely to continue to succeed”.
It turns out that the surgeons who botched the new procedure tended to do worse in subsequent surgeries. Rather than learning from their mistakes, their success rates continuously declined. On the other hand, when surgeons did well on the new surgery, more successes tended to follow”.
When doctors failed due to what they perceived as bad luck, they didn’t tend to work any smarter the next time. They attributed failure in a way that made them feel as good as they could about themselves”.
We externalize our mistakes because we need to live with ourselves afterward”.
The difference was how much the feedback caused a person to focus on himself rather than the task”.
The research showed that experts—people who were masters at a trade—vastly preferred negative feedback to positive. It spurred the most improvement. That was because criticism is generally more actionable than compliments”.
Innovation is about doing something differently, rather than creating something from nothing (invention) or doing the same thing better (improvement)”.
Often, the thing holding us back from success is our inability to say no”.
Buy The Book: Smartcuts
Print | Hardcover | Audiobook