To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

The Big Idea: Even if you’re not a “salesman”, you probably have to sell or persuade people all the time. Therefore, learn how to sell.

  • Everyone sells.
  • Physicians sell patients on treatments. Lawyers sell juries on verdicts. Teachers sell students on coursework. Entrepreneurs sell investors on visions. Writers sell producers on scripts. Coaches sell players on plays.
  • Before the internet, sellers had all the information on their product so they were able to deceive and manipulate.
  • Today, buyers have more information and leverage, so the balance has shifted.
  • Instead of Always Be Closing, the new ABC is Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.
  • Attunement
    • Show empathy
    • Be humble
    • Mimic strategically
    • Put yourself in their shoes
    • Be ambivert not extrovert
    • Ask others “where are you from?”
  • Buoyancy
    • Instead of stating “I will ___,” ask yourself “how will I ___?”
    • 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions is better than infinite positivity.
    • Develop an optimistic explanatory style to deal with rejection: rejections are temporary not permanent, specific not universal, external not personal.
  • Clarity
    • The ability to move people hinges less on problem-solving than on problem-finding.
    • Problem finders tend to be more successful than problem solvers.
    • Problem finding is about asking the right questions and being good at curating information.
    • One of the most essential questions is “compared to what?” Frame your offerings in ways that contrast its alternatives and clarify its virtues.
    • 5 Frames: less frame (paradox of choice), experience frame (experience vs physical), label frame (names matter), blemished frame (include a negative), potential frame (potential is more powerful than actual)
    • “On a scale from 1 to 10…” “How can we move that up?”
    • Books: Influence, Made to Stick, Switch, Mindless Eating, Nudge
    • Ask 5 Whys
  • How to Pitch
    • Don’t present a pitch end-to-end. Start your pitch and invite the others to create it with you.
    • 1. The One Word Pitch. Simplify everything to one word.
    • 2. The Question Pitch. “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?”
    • 3. The Rhyming Pitch. “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
    • 4. The Subject Line Pitch. Utility first. Curiosity second.
    • 5. The Twitter Pitch.
    • 6. The Pixar Pitch. “Once upon a time…Every day…One day…Because of that…Until finally.”
  • Learn from improvisational theater. Listen closely. Make the other people look good.
  • Service is at the core of sales.
  • To serve, make it personal and make it purposeful. Eg. Radiologist viewing photos, hospital hand-washing to protect others, fundraisers reading stories about alumni who received scholarships.
  • Be grateful. Always act like the other guy is doing you the favor. No matter what.
  • Look at all your signs and ask if they are emotionally intelligent and well-designed.
  • Treat everyone well.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

The Big Idea: how to succeed in business and life using science.

Chapter 1: Should We Play It Safe and Do What We’re Told If We Want to Succeed?

  • Grades are a great predictor of self-discipline, conscientiousness, and compliance.
  • Grades are a poor predictor of career success.
  • There are two types of leaders: filtered (rise up the ranks), and unfiltered (leap forward).
  • Unfiltered leaders break things but can also transform.
  • Good leaders are usually filtered leaders. Great leaders are usually unfiltered.
  • Ex: Winston Churchill vs Neville Chamberlain.
  • Swedish expression: most kids are dandelions but a few are orchids.
  • Some traits that lead to bad stuff can actually lead to great stuff in a different situation. Ex: eccentric pianist Glenn Gould.
  • A “hopeful monster” is an individual that deviates radically from the norm because a genetic mutation that confers a potentially adaptive advantage. Ex: Michael Phelps, geniuses.
  • All of Silicon Valley is based on character defects that are rewarded uniquely in this system. (Intensifiers theory.)
  • Ex: Israeli Defense Force recruits autistics to help surveil.
  • Ex: to reinvigorate Pixar, Brad Bird recruited “black sheep”.
  • Extremely creative people have a far higher incidence of mental disorders. The Mad-Genius Paradox.
  • Poor people are called crazy while rich people are called eccentric.
  • Ten thousand hours requires an unhealthy obsession.
  • 10% of the Fortune 400 founders never finished college.
  • Silicon Valley founder stereotypes indicate hypomania, a relentless, euphoric, impulsive machine that explodes towards its goals while staying connected with reality.
  • Marc Andreesen invests in flawed founders who can be extreme successes.
  • Know thyself. Know if you’re filtered or unfiltered. Know your signature strengths.
  • Pick the right pond. Which environments value your signature strengths?

Chapter 2: Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

  • Jerks definitely win in the short-term.
  • Work teams with just one bad apple underperform by 30%.
  • In the long-term trust matters.
  • Ex: criminal organizations know that selfishness, internally, doesn’t scale.
  • Pirates were so successful because they treated their people well.
  • Professor Adam Grant found that Givers were found at the very top and at the very bottom.
  • On average, jerks do better, but at the very top, Givers do better.
  • The most successful Givers surround themselves with Matchers, who punish Takers and protect Givers.
  • Don’t be envious. Let others win too.
  • Start off by giving.
  • Never betray anyone, but if a person cheats you, don’t be a martyr.
  • Pick the right pond. Connect with Givers if you’re a Giver.
  • Cooperate first. Get others to like you. Do small favors.
  • Don’t be a martyr. Sometimes you’ll need to retaliate. Giving too much can lead to burnout.
  • Work hard but make sure it gets noticed. You need to be visible. Your boss needs to like you.
  • Think long-term and make others think long-term. People who act like family treat each other better than colleagues.
  • Forgive to prevent death spirals.

Chapter 3: Do Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit?

  • Sometimes you need grit to be successful. Sometimes you need to know when to quit and start over.
  • Navy SEALs use positive self-talk to pass BUD/S.
  • Optimistism is telling yourself the kind of stories you need to keep going.
  • Optimistic people are happier, healthier, and luckier.
  • Optimistic people tell themselves that bad things are: temporary, aren’t universal, and are not their fault.
  • Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust because his stories were greater than his suffering. He was living for something greater than himself.
  • Hearing how couples tell their story can predict with 94% accuracy if they’ll get divorced.
  • Stories rule our thinking, because they impose meaning on events.
  • When schools are structured like a game, students perform better.
  • Games change the struggle to something fun instead of something that requires willpower.
  • Games are another kind of story.
  • Change the story and you change the behavior.
  • Games must be: Whiny Neutered Goats Fly (WNGF)
  • Games must be: Winnable (not too hard, not too easy), Novel (new challenges), Goal-Oriented (clear goal), Feedback (small wins)
  • Strategic quitting recognized the concept of opportunity cost.
  • If you quit something, it frees up time for something else.
  • Peter Drucker’s book The Effective Executive highlights the supreme importance of time.
  • Jim Collins’ book Good to Great highlighted that most of the turnarounds involved quitting something instead of starting something.
  • Lucky people maximize opportunities. They are more open to new experiences. They try lots of new stuff. They don’t dwell on failures, they see the good side of failures and learn from them.
  • Ex: comedians know the importance of trying lots of material until a joke clicks.
  • Ex: successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas; they discover them.
  • Devote 5-10% of your time to small experiments to make sure you keep learning and growing.
  • Thinking about love as a journey, with twists and turns and challenges, leads to more success.
  • Stoics used “premeditatio malorum” (premeditation of evils). What’s the worst that could happen?
  • US Special Forces use if-then scenario planning.
  • How do you know when to quit? WOOP. Wish-Outcome-Obstacle-Plan.

Chapter 4: It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know (Unless It Really Is What You Know)

  • Eg. Mathematician Paul Erdos loved to collaborate.
  • Research shows that extroverts make more money, have more satisfying careers, are luckier, and happier.
  • People who speak early and often are seen as leaders.
  • Introverts are more likely to be experts in their field.
  • In some fields, introverts outperform. Eg. math, athletics, music, chess.
  • Extroversion is also linked to crime, infidelity, car accidents, overconfidence, and financial risk-taking.
  • Extroversion is a skill one can develop.
  • The best networker in Silicon Valley is Adam Rifkin. He’s a shy introvert nicknamed Panda. His secret? Be a friend, share knowledge, offer introductions.
  • Similarities create rapport.
  • Ask questions and then listen.
  • Flattery works. Even obvious, insincere flattery works if needed.
  • Ask people what challenges they face.
  • Offer to help others.
  • Reconnect with old friends. Send a few emails every week, asking ” What’s up?”
  • Find your super-connectors and ask them “who should I meet?”
  • Budget time and money every week to connect with people.
  • Join groups and be on the lookout for “Interesting People” dinners.
  • Be a part of diverse social groups.
  • Checking in every now and then matters.
  • Be the hub not the spoke. Organize events.
  • Following up and staying in touch is more important than meeting new people.
  • Top performers at work tend to have bigger networks.
  • Everyone needs a mentor. It’s one of the biggest shortcuts available.
  • Five tips to find an amazing mentor: be a worthy pupil, study your mentor’s work, never waste a mentor’s time, follow up and show them your completed homework, make your mentor proud
  • Mentoring makes mentors happy, too.
  • Want to win a negotiation? Get them to like you. Eg. NYPD hostage negotiators
  • Negotiation tips: keep calm, use active listening, label emotions out loud, ask questions that force them to think
  • Gratitude is the most certain strategy for happiness. Eg. Walter Green’s happiness tour.

Chapter 5: Believe in Yourself…Sometimes

  • Successful people are confident. They over-rate themselves relative to their peers.
  • Overconfidence increases productivity and causes you to choose more challenging tasks.
  • In a way, successful people are “delusional.” They interpret the past positively and increase the chance of future success.
  • Confidence gives you a sense of control.
  • Should you “fake it until you make it”? Eg. U.S.A. Ghost Army in WWII.
  • “The CEO who misleads others in public may eventually mislead himself in private.” –Warren Buffett
  • Confidence is dangerous when it leads to hubris and delusion. Eg. Kung Fu master’s $5,000 challenge.
  • Also, power reduces empathy, causes us to be more selfish, and makes us better liars.
  • If you don’t have any fear, bad things can happen. Eg. Urbach-Wiethe disease.
  • Humility has incredible benefits: drives self-improvement, improves performance, inspires leadership.
  • Abraham Lincoln is the epitome of humility in politics.
  • We need a balance of optimism and pessimism.
  • Bosses that show vulnerability and underrate themselves are the most popular.
  • The best is to develop self-compassion, which has all the benefits of self-esteem without the downsides. Self-compassion allows you to forgive yourself and increase your grit.
  • How do you increase self-compassion? Positive self-talk, mindfulness, meditation.
  • Eg. Emperor Norton I of San Francisco was both delusional and humble.
  • Believing in yourself is nice. Forgiving yourself is better.
  • Confidence is a result of success, not a cause. So focus on competence and self-improvement. Focus on improving your skills, not your outcome.
  • Don’t fake confidence. Present the best version of yourself.

Chapter 6: Work, Work, Work…or Work-Life Balance

  • Extreme hard work produces extreme success.
  • The top 10% of workers produce most of the results.
  • Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s keys to success: energy and stamina.
  • Talent + hard work = success.
  • Hard work also leads to unhappiness and stress, unless your work is meaningful.
  • A meaningful career boosts longevity.
  • A boring job can kill you.
  • Einstein strained his family to the breaking point, even creating a duties contract with his wife.
  • Ted Williams was a baseball perfectionist but also divorced three times.
  • Perfectionism is poison to relationships. And relationships are the key to happiness.
  • Burnout is virtually nonexistent in monasteries, Montessori schools, and religious care centers where people consider their work as a calling.
  • Resilience often comes from optimism. Burnout is the flipside of grit. Burnout is the result of pessimism towards your job.
  • Remember to have fun. A playful attitude is associated with better grades.
  • Money and promotions weren’t nearly as important to people as working someplace fun.
  • Predictable time off increases employee happiness and employee performance.
  • Creativity requires rest and freedom to let your mind wander.
  • Early morning hours are statistically the most productive.
  • Three highly productive hours is usually better than ten mediocre hours.
  • Technology increases choice but also increases comparisons with others and therefore dissatisfaction.
  • You need a personal definition of success because you can no longer rely on external comparisons (Facebook.)
  • What does the good life mean to you? If you don’t decide, the world will decide for you.
  • “Just Enough” authors say the good life is: a) happiness (enjoying), b) achievement (winning), c) significance (making a difference), and d) legacy (extending).
  • How did Genghis Khan conquer the world? He had a goal and a plan.
  • Without a plan, you’ll default to what’s easy.
  • A plan gives you a feeling of control and keeps you motivated.
  • Andy Grove says track your time in a journal to see where each hour goes and note which hours are contributing to the good life and which hours are the biggest time-wasters.
  • Todo lists are evil. Schedule everything. Make sure you give time to whatever is priority. Schedule work, not interruptions. Schedule time for deep work. Schedule free time. (Cal Newport.)
  • Control your environment. Create a distraction-free zone. Shawn Achor says make important but ignored tasks 20 seconds easier to start and make unimportant time-wasters 20 seconds harder to start. Reduce temptations (close that browser, put your phone in another room.)
  • Cal Newport recommends a shutdown ritual to settle your brain and help you relax.


  • The path to success is to dream and then do something about that dream. Example: Martin Pistorius and locked-in syndrome.
  • The key to success is alignment between you, your values, your environment, your peers, and your goal.
  • Know thyself.
  • The key to happiness is relationships.

The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox

The Big Idea: identify the bottleneck.  Relieve the bottleneck.  Repeat.

  • The Goal is one of Jeff Bezos’ three required books for his senior team. (Also, Effective Executive and Innovator’s Dilemma)
  • Cost accounting conventions lead businesses to focus on the wrong things.
  • The goal of a business is to make money. Therefore, every operational metric should link back to profit.
  • There are only three operational metrics that matter: 1) throughput, 2) inventory, 3) operational expense.
  • Throughput is money generated when products go out the door.
  • Inventory is money locked up in work in process until products go out the door.
  • Operational expense is money required to generate throughput.
  • Of these, throughput is by far the most important.
  • The most important objective is to increase throughput.
  • How do you increase throughput?  Identify the bottleneck (ignore everything else), relieve the bottleneck, repeat.

Made in America by Sam Walton

The Big Idea: Walmart succeeded through a combination of unique culture, very effective strategies, and lots of hard work. Nadine West’s two favorite role models are 1) Southwest Airlines and 2) Walmart, for their shared focus on affordable prices, lean operations, and Texas/Arkansas authenticity.

Wal-mart Culture

  • Building a great team is a given. Hiring only people with good attitudes is a given. Hard work is a given.
  • The whole point of retailing is to service the customer.
  • It’s always been more important for Wal-mart be the best than to be the biggest.
  • Wal-mart looks for action-oriented, do-it-now, go-getter types — not brilliant intellectuals who can’t get anything done.
  • Consider yourself lucky if you are short on cash early on.  It’s the best to build frugality into your DNA.
  • We’ve always tried not to take ourselves too seriously. Let’s have some fun.
  • Constant change is a vital part of the Wal-mart culture.
  • Wal-mart is not about big mansions or fancy cars.  We’re about serving our customer.
  • Wal-mart loves competition.  It only makes us better.
  • Big egos have no place at Wal-mart.  They tend to lead to bureaucracy and myopia, followed by decline.
  • Think small to grow big.  Remember what got us to where we are.

Wal-mart Strategy and Tactics

  • Always buy direct.  Using a middleman means you’re paying for their inefficiencies.
  • Don’t rely on third-party.  It’s harder to build your own logistics and distribution systems, but once you do, it’s a huge competition advantage.
  • Build stores in small towns that retailers are ignoring.
  • Use technology to improve the quality and speed of information.
  • Study your competition and copy what’s working.
  • Try lots of different things. Learn from the failures. Double down on what works.
  • Talk to everyone. The best ideas usually come from the front-lines, not headquarters.
  • If everyone else is going one way, think about going the opposite direction.
  • If you can, fly under the radar until you’re too far along to catch.
  • Share profits with employees and they will reward you with effort and loyalty.
  • Happy customers = word of mouth, which saves you a ton on advertising.
  • Be transparent about financials and share store financials with the people who work there.
  • When in doubt, over-communicate.
  • Focus on one store at a time – what they are getting right and wrong. Solve it for them and you can apply some of those solutions everywhere.

The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman

The Big Idea: Happy employees are a competitive advantage.

 Chapter 1: Success is Overrated, Why Great Work Places Reward Failure
  • make it okay to try new things and fail
  • learn something from every failure, always
  • reward attempts, not just results
Chapter 2: The Power of Place, How Office Design Shapes Our Thinking
  • office design matters
  • eg. red invokes attention to detail, but also anxiety
  • eg. silence invokes focus, but also anxiety
  • optimal: caves + campfires
  • caves are quieter spaces where people can focus and think
  • campfires are interactive spaces where people can collaborate and communicate
  • good to have: safe and warm environment, nice views, scenes of nature, sunlight, lots of plants, aquariums,
  • use your workspace to convey what your company is about: Apple Store = simplicity, framed pictures, employee artwork,
  • let the team design their workspace
  • don’t forget about nice bathrooms (art, plants, magazines)
  • if possible, let people telecommute
Chapter 3: Why You Should Be Paid to Play
  • to improve problem solving and creative thinking, go on a walk
  • exercise improves your mood, triggers chemicals that reduces stress, and improves thinking
  • napping also improves problem solving and creating thinking
  • a careful balance of work and recovery is vital
  • late nights and burnout culture lower long-term productivity
  • disconnecting is important
Chapter 4: What Happy Workplaces Can Learn from a Casino
  • small, frequent pleasures can keep us happier than large, infrequent ones
  • perks communicate on an emotional level and provide a motivational boost
  • on-the-job rewards are significantly more motivating than cash bonuses
  • variety increases happiness
  • variation of activities make the workplace more enjoyable
  • unexpected pleasures deliver a bigger thrill
  • unexpected events have greater emotional weight
  • a constant flow of surprises keeps you engaged (movie, massage therapist)
  • experiences are more rewarding than objects; they involve other people, the memories improve with age; they can be relived
  • we don’t always know why we’re happy
  • color/scent/music can give an unconscious happiness boost
  • a grateful mind is a happy one;
  • gratitude: gratitude journal; ask staff to share what they are most proud of since last meeting; ask staff to thank someone else for a contribution made
  • excessive/extreme happiness can increase tendency to make mistakes, reduce motivation; people who don’t have negative emotions are called psychopaths
Chapter 5: How to Turn a Group of Strangers into a Community
  • the strongest predictor productivity: friendship at work
  • how to create workplace friendships: proximity, familiarity, similarity
  • how to accelerate friendship: share personal information
  • shared group activities (sports) >> happy hours and cocktail parties, because of interaction
  • a shared purpose (or common enemy) can unite factions
  • friendships at work help people stay emotionally and physically healthy
  • gossip can be a problem but it can also be useful to establish company culture and norms
  • gossip tends to happen when people are feeling powerless or insecure
  • identify strategic and persistent gossipers early
  • gossip tends to be a problem when leaders gossip
Chapter 6: The Leadership Paradox, Why Forceful Leaders Develop Less Productive Teams
  • intrinsic motivation > extrinsic motivation
  • emphasizing rewards reduces intrinsic motivation
  • the more emphasis placed on salary and bonuses, the more employees are going to focus on them
  • autonomy increases intrinsic motivation
  • let your team set their own calendar
Chapter 7: Better Than Money, What Games Can Teach Us About Motivation
  • the only thing that sustains happiness is status, respect and admiration among friends/family/peers
  • being recognized feels good
  • recognition feeds our need for competence
  • competence increases intrinsic motivation
  • being ignored is often more psychologically painful than being treated poorly
  • undeserved positive feedback is demoralizing to others who actually deserve the recognition
  • feedback is more effective when it is provided immediately
  • feedback is more effective when it is specific
  • compliment the behavior, not the person
  • public praise is more powerful than private praise
  • reward high performers with more responsibility
  • encourage peer-to-peer recognition
  • find a way to give meaning to the work (eg. nonprofit fundraisers)
  • to experience flow, work needs to be not too easy and not too hard
  • consider making on-the-job learning a requirement
  • acquiring new skills releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine
  • consider peer-to-peer coaching (pods of 3)
Chapter 8: How Thinking Like a Hostage Negotiator Can Make You More Persuasive, Influential, and Motivating
  • good communicators listen much more than they talk
  • good bosses listen much more than they talk
  • good listeners do a lot of paraphrasing and repeat backs
  • resolve workplace conflicts by understanding there is a task channel and a relationship channel
Chapter 9: Why the Best Managers Focus on Themselves
  • attitudes, emotions, and behaviors are contagious
  • leaders attitudes and habits are adopted by the members of their teams
  • culture comes from the top, so be aware that someone is always watching
Chapter 10: Seeing What Others Don’t, How to Eliminate Interview Blind Spots That Prevent You from Reading People’s True Potential
  • first impressions persist
  • referrals from your high performers (with no referral bonus) is the best strategy for hiring
  • interviews that involve a work assignment are optimal
  • cultural fit matters but too much similarity can lead to groupthink and impair innovation
Chapter 11: What Sports, Politics, and Religion Teach Us About Fostering Pride
  • pride in one’s company matters a lot
  • pride is fundamentally about status
  • share your company’s history with the team
  • share your company’s mission and vision with the team
  • being different is good (company culture)
  • include altruism alongside making a profit
  • emphasize everyone’s contribution: decision making, recognition by name
  • consider thanking a high performer’s family for that person’s efforts at work
  • avoid inflated job titles

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

The Big Idea: the purpose of life (and business) is happiness, not money.

  1. Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and yourself.
  2. Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself.
  3. When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.
  4. Never do anything just for the money.
  5. Don’t pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help.
  6. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working.
  7. Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.
  8. Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people.
  9. You can’t please everyone,
  10. Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business.
  11. The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy.
  12. The best plans start simple.
  13. If you’re not saying, “Hell, yeah!” about something, say no.
  14. The way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers.
  15. Ideas are just a multiplier of execution.
  16. Care more about your customers (and employees) than about yourself.
  17. Don’t punish everyone for one person’s mistake.
  18. When you delegate, trust but verify.

Scaling Up by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao


Scaling is a ground war, not just an air war. Scaling requires grinding it out; building the organization brick by brick, day after day. One more metaphor…it’s a marathon, not a sprint.


1. All scaling issues are basically the same across all organizations and industries.
2. Scaling entails more than the Problem of More. You must grow AND get better.
3. People who are adept at scaling excellence are comfortable with the uncertainty and mess that accompanies scaling.
4. Scaling starts and ends with individuals.


1. Spread a mindset, not just a footprint.
Running up the numbers and putting your logo on as many people and places as possible isn’t enough.
Examples: Facebook Bootcamp

2. Engage all the senses.
Bolster the mindset you want to spread with supportive sights, sounds, smells, and other subtle cues that people may barely notice, if at all.
Examples: Disney theme parks

3. Link short-term realities to long-term dreams.
Hound yourself and others with questions about what it takes to link the never-ending now to the sweet dreams you hope to realize later.
Examples: Stanford Directors College

4. Accelerate accountability
Build in the feeling that “I own the place and the place owns me.”
Examples: NovoEd

5. Fear the clusterfug.
The terrible trio of illusion, impatience, and incompetence are ever-present risks. Healthy doses of worry and self-doubt are antidotes to these three hallmarks of scaling clusterfugs.
Examples: Oracle Financials at Stanford

6. Scaling requires both addition and subtraction.
The problem of more is also a problem of less. What got us here won’t get us there. There is time to take down the scaffolding.
Examples: IDEO, Cost Plus Market

7. Slow down to scale faster – and better – down the road.
Learn when and how to shift gears from automatic, mindless, and fast modes of thinking (system 1) to slow, taxing, logical, deliberative, and conscious modes (system 2); sometimes the best advice is, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

Chapter 1. It’s a Ground War, Not Just an Air War
Chapter 2. Buddhism Versus Catholicism

Chapter 3. Hot Causes, Cool Solutions
Chapter 4. Cut Cognitive Load: But Deal with Necessary Complexity
Chapter 5. The People Who Propel Scaling: Build Organizations Where “I Own the Place and the Place Owns Me”
Chapter 6. Connect People and Cascade Excellence: Using Social Bonds to Spread the Right Mindset
Chapter 7. Bad Is Stronger Than Good: Clearing the Way for Excellence

Chapter 8. Did This, Not That: Imagine You’ve Already Succeeded



Chapter 1. It’s a Ground War, Not Just an Air War; Going Slower to Scale Faster (and Better) Later
-scaling requires grinding it out
-make one small change after another, day after day
-never leave well enough alone
it’s a marathon, not a sprint
-7 scaling mantras (see above)

Chapter 2. Buddhism Versus Catholicism
-Buddhism: mindset guides behavior, but actions and practices vary wildly, KFC/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut in China, Joie de Vivre hotels,
-Catholicism: actions and practices are replicated identically, In-N-Out, See’s Candies
-constant tension between replicating tried-and-true practices and modifying them (or inventing new ones) to fit local conditions
success requires balance between Buddhism and Catholicism
-examples: IKEA in China, Atul Gawande and surgical standardization, Girl Scouts of Northern California, Starbucks, McDonald’s
-start with a great template and customize it
customization of a template instills a sense of ownership in people
-references: Mindset by Carol Dweck, Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
-scaling tradeoff “alone versus together”: shunning partners can slow growth but retain quality and consistency
-scaling tradeoff “more versus better”: grow faster might cost quality, sometimes quality can rebound
understand these tradeoffs and make a clear decision



Chapter 3. Hot Causes, Cool Solutions
-a hot cause (crisis) triggers attention, emotional energy, and commitment
-when changing a culture, focus on both beliefs and actions
-when getting people to rally behind a hot cause, the key is creating experiences that generate “communities of feeling”
-it is harder to break a commitment when you have proclaimed it publicly
don’t foster a heroic mindset, where problems are continuously resolved with quick fixes by heroes instead of finding permanent solutions
-focus on creating good systems and a continuous improvement mindset
-strategy: name the problem to galvanize efforts, ex: “date rape”, “100,000 Lives Campaign”
-strategy: name the enemy to create some team spirit, ex: Apple vs Microsoft
-strategy: make efforts highly visible, Cialdini’s public commitments and accountability, ex: Gandhi’s Salt March
-strategy: breach assumptions, ex: IDEO CEO desk
-strategy: create gateway experiences and on-ramps, ex: teddy bear, security blanket, Chrysler factory cleanups,
-strategy: new/better rituals, Omnicell coatracks to check ego at the door
-strategy: lean on people who can’t leave well enough alone, identify and promote change promoters, ex: Charlotte Beers at Ogilvy Mathers
-tradeoff between poetry and plumbing, poetry can inspire people, plumbing makes things work
-example: Stanford bike helmets and smashed watermelons

Chapter 4: Cut Cognitive Load
-new rules, processes, and technologies can create cognitive overload
-cognitive overload can obscure focus, lower motivation, increase errors, decrease effectiveness
as teams get bigger, individual performance suffers
-J. Richard Hackman rule of thumb: no more than 10 people in one work team
-Dunbar number is 150 people
-at some point, bloated bureaucracies overwhelm the advantages of greater scale
-most startups are too small to suffer from Big Dumb Company disease but lessons still apply
people say they dislike hierarchies, but studies show they are happier, calmer, and more productive when power and status differences are present and well understood
-strategy: subtraction is a way of life, routinely refactor to remove bureaucracy
-ex: scaffolding in construction is needed at the beginning but always removed
-A.G. Lafley: keep things Sesame Street Simple
-strategy: make people squirm, killing bureaucracy is always a little scary, ex: Pixar’s Incredibles
-strategy: bring on the load buster (subtraction by addition), tools that focus attention to what matters, ex: Sberbank’s traffic light system, ex: checklists
-strategy: divide and conquer, divide large teams into smaller teams, ex: hospital pods, carefully think through coordination between small teams, bonus for team/organization performance not individual performance, ex: Ben Horowitz Freaky Friday
-strategy: bolster collective brainpower
-stick with savvy insiders and stable teams over new hires and new blood
-put together people who’ve worked together on new teams
-a team of smart people doesn’t automatically mean success
-fatigue and burnout hurts performance and decision making, so make sure everyone gets plenty of physical and mental rest
-it’s a marathon, not a sprint
-more hiring, more processes, and more rules are inevitable but wait until they are absolutely necessary
-Ben Horowitz says “give ground grudgingly”

Chapter 5: The People Who Propel Scaling
effective scaling requires people who care about the company and the customers
-Netflix pays top dollar to have stars at every position, then expects that they “act in Netflix’s best interest”
-alternatively, Japanese food service Tamago-Ya hires high school dropouts, give them lots of training and support, and receives loyalty and effort in return
-organizations that scale well avoid the trap of hiring “high-priced stars” to fix issues, instead they do the deep thinking and demanding work required to install, spread, and sustain excellence
-talent x accountability = scaling excellence
-strategy: squelch free-riding
-at about 20 people, if startups aren’t careful, new hires will feel like employees not owners
-at P&G, managers who fail to share ideas simply don’t get promoted
-GE evaluates managers based on leadership (including supporting GE’s culture) and performance
-moving out bad apples (free riders) is almost as important as hiring the right people
-strategy: inject pride and righteous anger
-Netflix treats the company like a competitive sports team, not a family, to focus employees on winning
-strategy: bring in guilt-prone leaders
-leaders who worry about their performance tend to be action-oriented and put the needs of others ahead of their own
-strategy: use subtle cues to prime accountability, ex: pair of eyes on the wall
-strategy: create the right gene pool, hire carefully early on
-a company becomes the people it hires, because founders and first employees create the culture
-founders tend to believe they are destined for greatness, and this belief gives them resiliency, persistency, and persuasiveness
-people shape the culture, and the culture then shapes the people, ex: Tata CEO Factory
-strategy: use other organizations are your HR, ex: hire from Teach for America, military, Stanford
-strategy: hire people prewired to fit your mindset, ex: Specialisterne hiring autistic workers

Chapter 6: Connect People and Cascade Excellence
-scaling hinges on discovering pockets of excellence and connecting them to others, then the excellence spreads on its own like dominoes
amateurs discuss strategy, professionals discuss logistics –US Army
-having a diverse change group propels scaling because diverse people interact with diverse groups of people
-look for master multipliers, high energy people who can spread the excellence broadly, ex: Hayden Fry, ex: Dr. William Halsted
bring on energizers, people with lots of positive energy to infect others with, ex: Facebook Chris Cox
-implement savvy gamification, ex: Rite-Solutions Mutual Fun for idea generation
-seven tools for activating domino chains of excellence: top down, broadcast your message out to one and all, have the many teach the few, one on one, from the few to the many, brokers, create crossroads and meeting places
-create a common heart beat through stand up meetings, 2-4 week sprints
-scaling is propelled by leaders who think and act like connectors

Chapter 7: Bad is Stronger than Good
-a little bit of negativity can undermine a lot of good work
when one deadbeat or asshole joins a small team, performance can drop 30%-40%
-8 strategies for getting rid of bad: nip it in the bud, get rid of bad apples, plumbing before poetry, adequacy before excellence, use the cool kids, kill the thrill, time shifting, focus on the best/worst/end



Chapter 8. Did This, Not That: Imagine You’ve Already Succeeded
-Daniel Kahnamann’s premortem: imagine failure and try to explain what happened, imagine success and try to explain what happened
most high-growth startups fail because they grew too big too fast
-ask your team, are we happy living in the world we built?

Nuts! by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg

The Big Idea
Southwest succeeded by focusing on profitability over market share and by taking the time building a fun and positive culture. Doing this likely slowed down their growth but also resulted in top customer service ratings, top safety record, very low employee turnover, and 40+ consecutive years of profitability

Key Takeaways

Chapter 1: Nuts? You Decide
-Southwest maniacally avoids following industry trends
-Results: profitable since 1973, steady growth, little debt, low fares, productive work force, low employee turnover, highest customer ratings, highest on-time, best safety
-mission: make air travel affordable for everyone
profits are required to fulfill the mission

Chapter 2: Goliath Meets David
-the early years of fighting for survival (against litigation and recession) gave Southwest a tenacity that is now a part of its culture

Chapter 3: The Battle Heats Up
-in order to be different, Southwest chose a strategy of low fares + superior service
-Southwest advertised its underdog position heavily in the early days

Chapter 4: A Maverick Emerges
-early employees had an intense work ethic and drive to win
existing competition was conventional, businesslike, and bland
-Southwest’s outrageous personality partially resulted from desperation
-Southwest’s ad agency delivered campaigns meant to be outrageous
-employees were allowed freedom to get the job done
-management spent a lot of time with employees
-Southwest hired people who were fun, as well as hard working, smart, reliable
-the early fight-for-survival mentality didn’t just breed a can-do, inventive spirit; it also brought everyone very close — like family

Chapter 5: Flying in the Face of Conformity
purpose: to make a profit, achieve job security for every employee, and make flying affordable for more people
-strategy to achieve that purpose: best service and lowest fares to the shortfall, frequent-flying, point-to-point traveler
-Southwest Airlines (unlike competitors) never strayed from its strategy
profits are more important than market share
-clear strategy led to clear tactical decisions: point to point >> hub and spoke, avoid congested airports, target overpriced markets, use only 737, keep boarding simple, serve no meals, constantly improve turnaround times
think ahead and be frugal

Chapter 6: Professionals Need Not Apply
hire for attitude, train for skills
-Southwest hires a certain type of person: light-hearted, fun, enthusiastic

Chapter 7: Kill the Bureaucracy
-Southwest moves fast and is opportunistic
stay as lean as possible to avoid bureaucracy and sluggishness
-in a lean organization, poor performance is impossible to hide
-communication is face-to-face and on a first-name basis
-meetings are short and action oriented
simplification decreases costs and increases speed
-it all boils down to a thousand little things that help people solve the problem of how to turn the planes faster
-Southwest financial results are open to any employee
-times change and companies that don’t adapt will not survive
-changing times offer an opportunity for companies that can adapt and move quickly
-Southwest doesn’t do traditional strategic planning; instead they perform future scenario planning
-Southwest trusts its employees to do their jobs and that helps it adapt so quickly
-Southwest positions itself as an underdog to convey a sense of urgency and instill competitiveness to employees

Chapter 8: Act Like an Owner
employees who are also owners care a lot more about the bottom line
-hire entrepreneurial self-starters
-Southwest has a profit-sharing plan for all employees, investing 15% of pretax operating profits, some of which is used by employees to buy stock
-today employees own about 12% of the company

Chapter 9: Learn Like Crazy
-learning is key to Southwest’s success
hire voracious readers
-hire people who listen more and ask more questions than they talk
-encourage people to understand others’ jobs accelerates learning (pilots <> ground staff <> ramp agents)
-employee newsletter, LUV Lines, shares stories and lessons, teaches employees about financial performance

Chapter 10: Don’t Fear Failure
-always be experimenting
remove the fear of rejection and people will be willing to experiment more
-do more of what works, learn from what doesn’t work
experimentation solidifies an action-oriented, get-it-done culture
-experiments led to new cost-savings, new features, happier customers

Chapter 11: One Great Big Family
-shared struggle to survive fostered a close-knit family-like culture that still remains
Southwest core values: profitability, low cost, family, fun, love, hard work, individuality, ownership, legendary service, egalitarianism, common sense, simplicity, altruism,
Southwest philosophy: employees are number one, think small to grow big, manage in the good times for the bad times, irreverence is okay, it’s okay to be yourself, have fun at work, take the competition seriously but not yourself, hire for attitude and train for skill, Southwest is a service company, do whatever it takes, always practice the golden rule
-Southwest norms: be visionary, celebrate everything, hire the right people, limit committees, keep a warrior spirit, keep multiple scenarios, minimize paperwork, feel free to be informal, move fast, dare to be different

Chapter 12: Keeping the Spirit Alive
-Southwest is a family
-Southwest celebrates its people through photos, news clippings, letters in the hallways
-Colleen sends birthday cards to all members of the Texas legislature
-Colleen sends personalized birthday gifts to employees
-Herb tells great stories
-Culture Committee formalizes these practices
-Walk a Mile in My Shoes helps reinforce culture and keep people connected across functions
-Helping Hands directs employees to temporarily help overworked employees elsewhere

Chapter 13: The Art of Celebrating Milestones
-take time for outrageous celebrations of milestones
-celebrations: build relationships, create shared history, helps envision the future, recognize milestones, reduces stress, inspires and motivates employees, builds self-confidence and removes fear, mourns the loss associated with change

Chapter 14: Celebrating Big People With Big Hearts
people love awards and public recognition
-must be authentic, must raise people’s self-esteem, must be done right, must appeal to all the senses, must be seen as an investment, must be cost-effective

Chapter 15: Still Nuts After All These Years
always have fun
-business casual clothes only
-costumes when appropriate
-good-natured pranks to lighten things up
-fun games and contests for employees or customers (worst drivers license, holes in socks)
-having fun = productive employees, low absenteeism, low turnover, more creativity and innovation

Chapter 16: Luv
-people need to be loved and accepted
-display patience and commitment to employees and customers
spend more time with your people and less time with other CEOs — Herb
when your employees know you care, it’s easier to offer constructive criticism
-share your appreciation for employees hard work
-love comes without conditions, however approval must be earned
-Colleen has little patience for habitual mediocrity
-employees are rarely fired for technical skill but anyone who mistreats an employee is history

Chapter 17: Compassion for Community
-community service starts on a local level
-eg: disaster relief, Ronald McDonald house, holiday charity, neighborhood makeovers

Chapter 18: Unconventional Advertising
-Herb arm-wrestled another airline CEO to resolve a dispute => great PR for both companies
-Southwest uses the underdog story to turbocharge marketing and advertising
-10 core advertising principles: make advertising entertaining, use advertising to keep the company’s spirit alive, match the message and media with the company’s strategy and culture, take the competition seriously but not yourself, make flying fun, make every employee a living advertisement, model the company’s values for employees, under promise and over deliver, make creativity a team effort, build credibility in everything you do

Chapter 19: Customers Come Second
-the customer is not always right
Herb is not afraid to ask problem customers to fly another airline
-talk to your employees, don’t just offer them a suggestion box
-track both customer complaints and customer compliments
great customer service is understanding (intellectual) + empathizing (emotional)

Chapter 20: Employees Come First
-trust your employees to use good judgement instead of rigid policies
executives lead by example with good customer service themselves
-no job is too mundane, Herb loads baggage the Wednesday before every Thanksgiving
-Southwest respect front-line employees enough to share performance and financial information
-Southwest publicly celebrates outrageous customer service stories in Luv Lines

Chapter 21: Leaders Leading Leaders
-there is no heroic leader at Southwest
-there are leaders at every level of the company
leadership is not getting what you want, it’s getting people to want what you want because they share your purpose, vision, and values
-leadership does not come from titles or positions, it comes from ability to influence
-integrity is doing what you say you’re going to do
-Southwest has a reputation among suppliers, government, customers for doing what it says it’s going to do and that trust gives it an advantage over competitors
-do your research and be more prepared than your competitor
-love your people and they will follow you
-listen more than you talk
a group of people inspired by a common vision and purpose is incredibly powerful

Chapter 22; Leadership From The Inside Out
employees are proud to be part of a company culture that values them as people not positions or roles
employees understand that their job security is inextricably tied to the company’s performance
-for most employees, Southwest is not a job, it’s a crusade, and a fun one
-customers are also treated like people, not numbers
-employees take care of each other through compassion and an independent charity to help other employees in short-term need
-leaders recruit and groom other leaders to succeed them

Chapter 23: Go Nuts!
people want work that is meaningful, so your company needs a purpose
people want to have fun, so don’t take yourself so seriously
when you believe in people, they will rise to greatness
dare to be different, yes there are risks but the payoff is worth it
culture is more important than strategy and operations
choose service over self-interest

Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

This is a study on how to build a company that is resilient and exceptional.  It’s one of my favorite books.

The Big Idea: visionary companies have a strong inner core (core purpose, core values) and a willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.


  • 1. Build clocks instead of relying on time tellers.
    • Focus on building organizational intelligence and capabilities rather than relying on a charismatic leader coming up with a great strategy or a great idea.
    • Founders of these visionary companies are builders and architects, not artists or inventors.
    • The company is the creation.
  •  2. People, products, and purpose come before profits.
    • Built-to-last companies are willing to lose some profit margin to fulfill a purpose, not because it will increase long-term shareholder value more (which it might) but because it’s the right thing to do.
    • Profit for the company is like oxygen for the body.  The body needs oxygen to survive but consuming oxygen is not the point of life.
    • Built-to-last companies have very different purposes, but they all had one.
    • These companies indoctrinate new employees into the core ideology and promoted/rewarded based based on employee alignment with the core ideology.
    • Sometimes, these companies were founded with a core ideology.  Sometimes, the core ideology evolved only after the startup phase.
  • 3. Keep the core but be ready to change everything else.
    • Core ideology never changes.  Culture can change.  Strategies usually change. Tactics definitely change.
    • Built-to-last companies are constantly improving and are never satisfied with the status quo.
  • 4. Make sure everything is aligned.
    • Even small processes, decisions, and systems should align with the core.
    • People do notice the little things, so definitely sweat the small stuff.
    • Everything should reinforce everything else to support the core.
    • Decisions that fit the core ideology might often seems crazy from the outside.


  • 1. Set Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG).  Get everyone in the company to buy-in.
  • 2. Develop a cult-like culture that some people love and some people dislike.  Those that love it stick around for a long-time.
  • 3. Try lots of stuff and keep what works. Evolution beats intelligent design.  Failure is okay.  Detailed plans usually fail because circumstances always change.
  • 4. Promote from within. Recruit and develop the next generation of leaders.
  • 5. Always be improving. Develop mechanisms to prevent complacency and status quo. Become a self-improvement machine.

The One Thing By Gary Keller

The Big Idea: 1) find your purpose and then 2) for four UNINTERRUPTED hours every morning, focus on THE ONE THING that will get you there fastest.

  • If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one. –Russian proverb
  • Ask yourself “What’s the one thing you can do right now that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”
  • It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world. –Og Mandino
  • Most great businesses owe their great success to only one thing.
  • 80/20: 80% of the output is from 20% of the input.
  • Multitasking doesn’t work.
  • Don’t rely on extraordinary discipline to achieve.  Rely on habits developed with just a little bit (66 days) of discipline.
  • Willpower is limited.  Do your hardest tasks in the morning, when your willpower and energy are highest.
  • Don’t pursue a life of constant balance.  Instead counterbalance your life between sprints of work and constant life.
  • Extraordinary success requires thinking big.
  • If you have a growth mindset, you don’t need to fear failure. –Carol Dweck
  • Ask yourself “What’s the one thing you can do right now that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”
  • The most productive people start with a purpose and use it like a compass.
  • Having a clear purpose makes it easy to prioritize.
  • Money won’t make you happy.
  • Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.
  • Ask yourself where you want to be in 20 years, then 5 year, then 1 year, then 3 months, then 1 month, then 1 week, then what you need to do today.
  • Block out the first 4 hours of every morning for your ONE THING and don’t let anyone interfere.
  • Successful people always have coaches.
  • Get used to saying no to requests that don’t advance your ONE THING.
  • Be prepared for a little chaos while you are focused on your ONE THING.
  • Watch your mental and physical health and sleep.
  • Avoid any negative environments and people.
  • The best way to live is to live with NO REGRETS.
  • Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
    • I wish I’d let myself be happier.
    • I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
    • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
    • I wish I’d hadn’t worked so hard.
    • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself.