Mar, 2024

The Gap and The Gain by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy

The Big Idea: When you measure yourself against an ideal, you focus on the GAP. When you measure yourself against where you where before, you focus on the GAIN. Focus on the GAIN for happiness and success.

INTRODUCTION Why Most People Aren’t Happy

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

By embracing the pursuit of happiness, we rob ourselves of happiness in the here and now.

You’re in the GAP every time you measure yourself or your situation against an ideal.

Being in the GAIN means you measure yourself backward, against where you were before.

CHAPTER 1 EMBRACE THE FREEDOM OF “WANTS”: Avoid the Attachment of “Needs”

People in high-stakes situations make the best choices when in a state of gratitude.

Naval Ravikant said: “Training yourself to be happy is completely internal. There is no external progress, no external validation. You’re competing against yourself—it is a single-player game.”

There’s a common perception that in order to be the best at what you do, you’ve got to be completely obsessed.

You can be 100% committed to something and simultaneously not need it.

Obsessive passion is highly impulsive and fueled by suppressed emotions and unresolved internal conflict.

Harmonious passion, on the other hand, is intrinsically motivated and healthy.

Harmonious passion is related to having high levels of grit, whereas obsessive passion is not.

You’re playing the long game. You’re playing your own game. You’re not competing with anyone else.

You’re genuinely happy. You also love what you’re working on and building. You’re committed and focused,

Being in the GAP means you’re still trying to free yourself FROM something. You’re trying to fill a GAP.

The GAP is based on an unhealthy “need” or attachment to something outside of yourself.

The GAIN is based on being in harmony with what you want, and knowing that you don’t need it.

When you’re in the GAIN, you live your life based on intrinsic motivation and harmonious passion, which creates flow and high performance.

CHAPTER 2 BE SELF-DETERMINED: Define Your Own Success Criteria

Being fixated on outside reference points puts you in the GAP. Being directed by your own internal reference points strengthens being in the GAIN.

Social media is largely designed to put people into the GAP.

The antidote to being in the GAP is to measure yourself by the GAIN. More specifically, you measure your own GAINS,

“Before you start the process with a new goal, make sure to recognize and appreciate the progress and achievements you’ve made so far.”

Spend 20 to 30 minutes with no distractions writing down your answer to this question: “I know I’m being successful when…”

Defining your own success criteria is how you become self-determined.

With every decision or opportunity, every member of the rowing team asked themselves: WILL IT MAKE THE BOAT GO FASTER?

External reference points make it impossible to feel successful because no matter what you’ve done, the success criteria are always moving.

The GAP means your life is determined by someone or something external.

When your reference point is internal, happiness and success are always right here and right now.


If you’re continually stressed or upset, you’re wearing your physical body down.

Being in the GAIN is restorative, healing, and empowering.

Optimistic people often live 10+ years longer.

Comparison makes you unhappy.

The GAIN also has a tangible physical effect—it is light, energizing, freeing, and confidence building.

Stop comparing and start practicing gratitude.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Being grateful helps you appreciate your GAINS.

Call yourself out when you catch yourself in the GAP.

Tell five people you know and love about The GAP and The GAIN. Give those five people permission to call you out when you’re in the GAP.

Mental subtraction is one of the most effective science-based techniques for boosting gratitude and happiness. Imagine life without something and you will learn not to take it for granted.

Have a pre-plan for how you’ll deal with obstacles. Have a pre-planned response for any situation.

BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University, has a breakthrough method—called Tiny Habits — which is a simple and practical way of applying implementation intentions.

CHAPTER 4 ALWAYS MEASURE BACKWARD: Increase Your Hope and Resilience

If you’re not regularly reminded of the GAINS, it’s easy to go into the GAP and lose hope.

Seeing GAINS gives you hope, confidence, and motivation to keep going — even when progress is difficult.

It is incredibly powerful and important to keep journals, records, or “annual reviews.”

“There’s only one way to measure success. You measure success backward by looking at where you are now compared to where you were before.”

Don’t let your past be forgotten. Always measure backward.

Make a bullet point list of all your specific GAINS over the past 3 years.

You should always be outgrowing your former self.

Pull your journal back out and start listing the GAINS you’ve made over the previous 90 days.

Keeping a journal or annual review process is powerful because it allows you to tap back into the context of your former self, and see the massive GAINS.

Take time regularly to measure your GAINS for different time frames. Always measure backward.

CHAPTER 5 MEASURE 3 WINS DAILY: Maximize the Highest-Leverage Hour of Your Day

The last hour of your day can be a GAIN hour — one that positively transforms how you sleep as well as your entire next day. What you do during the hour before your bedtime — the “sweet spot” — is critically important.

Staring at your phone right before bed is one of the worst things you can do.

Your day can be designed proactively, rather than designed reactively, where you’re bounced around by distractions.

In the hour before bed, Josh Waitzkin gives himself time to think about the most important question he’s trying to answer or problem he’s trying to solve. He then sleeps on it, and the next morning, “pre-input,” he meditates and journals about the same question or problem he was thinking about the night before.

As Thomas Edison said, “Never go to bed without a request to your subconscious.”

I’m a huge believer in planning your day and thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish the night before. Then, in the morning, and before you start looking at your phone, give yourself space to meditate and journal about your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish.

“Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.”—Jim Rohn

Research shows that writing down three things you’re grateful for each day increases your happiness.

Writing three wins from the day not only boosts your gratitude but simultaneously boosts your confidence.

Rather than having 10 items on your to-do list, have no more than three.

End your day feeling awesome by writing down your three wins. Then write down the three most important wins you can get the next day.

Always measure backward. Measure three wins each day. Get yourself committed and excited for three wins tomorrow.

Measuring your progress is a powerful signal that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Text your three wins today and three wins tomorrow to your success partner.

What you do during the 60 minutes before bed has an enormous impact on your sleep quality, as well as the direction and quality of your next day.

Unplug from your phone and put it on airplane mode at least 30–60 minutes before sleep.

Write in your journal three wins from that day.

Write down the three biggest wins you’ll get the next day.

Having a daily accountability partner combines tracking and reporting.

Report your three wins for today and your three wins for tomorrow.


Everything happens for you, not to you.

The GAIN, on the other hand, puts you in the driver’s seat of your own life. You decide what your experiences mean.

A fundamental aspect of flexibility is what psychologists call pathways thinking, and it’s the ability to find or create many workable paths to a given outcome.

“Successful people don’t control events; they control their response to events.”

By taking full ownership of your experiences and past, you can do whatever you want with them.

When you can take a negative experience and learn a lesson from it that you can apply positively to the future, you’re transforming the negative experience.

Being in the GAIN allows you to transform your experiences into GAINS, and give them the meanings you choose.

When you’re in the GAIN, you become better because of challenging experiences. You become antifragile.

Seeing every experience as a GAIN makes you antifragile. Turning every experience — even your hardest — into a GAIN makes you antifragile.

CONCLUSION Life, Liberty, and the Expansion of Happiness

There is a much better formula for happiness, confidence, and success: always measure backward. “Measuring backward” means you measure your progress based on where you were before.

Who Not How by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy

The Big Idea: “How do I achieve this goal?” Although this question seems intuitive, it’s actually the worst possible question you could ask. A much better question is: “Who can help me achieve this?”

It takes vulnerability and trust to expand your efforts and build a winning team. It takes wisdom to recognize that other people are more than capable enough to handle much of the Hows. You’re going to need to shift from a How-mentality to a Who-mentality, regardless of your level of personal talent, commitment, or genius.

Who Not How is truly that simple. You define the vision, find the Who or Whos, and let them create the result.

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Not only must the Who fully own the How, but they must have complete permission to do so. If you’re going to apply higher levels of teamwork in your life, you’ll need to relinquish control over how things get done. You’ll need to put your trust in capable Whos, giving them full permission to own their Hows.


The way you increase your potential efficacy, or self-expansion, is by creating close relationships, which in turn, increases material and social resources, perspectives, and identities.

If you’re focused on doing everything yourself, then you are dramatically limiting the resources you can direct toward your goals.

Relationships are how you produce results. Anyone who becomes highly successful does so through relationships. Employees, collaborators, and consultants work for you not because they are beneath you, but because they believe in you.

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

Getting Whos involved in your goals is an investment.


Ask yourself: Who can help me accomplish this goal?

The first thing we must learn then is to clearly define what we want.

You’ll need to ensure your vision also matches their vision for themselves, and that you can clearly become a powerful Who to them.

That’s one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs and leaders make: micromanaging their Whos and insisting that they do their jobs in a particular way. Let your Who do their How.

Leadership involves being clear and explicit about the vision.

There are countless brilliant and capable Whos out there waiting and wanting to help you.


Breaking down your goals into 90-day increments is good for focus and motivation.

Add at least one Who to your goals in the next 90 days in whatever area of your life you choose.

Your potential is virtually limitless when you stop asking “How?” and start asking “Who?”

Every 90 days, you can free up your time, energy, and focus by getting Whos to support your ambitions in all aspects of your life.


“Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.” —Peter Drucker

Every time you free yourself up by investing in a Who, you’ve just made a huge investment in yourself. You no longer have to deal with decision fatigue.

Remember the new question you must master: “Who can help me achieve this goal?”

By freeing up your time, you get the invaluable benefit of freeing up your mind.

By freeing up your time, you can focus on higher impact activities—such as strategizing or creating—which will automatically increase your income.


Every human being has three basic psychological needs related to their work: mastery, autonomy, relationships.

Too many leaders obsessively micromanage the process of their Whos.

It is the role of the leader to determine the “what” and to provide clarity, feedback, and direction when needed. It is not the role of the leader to explain how the job is done.

Leaders should be committed to results, not to a particular process.

Rather than micromanaging the process, leadership should provide freedom and autonomy as well as extreme clarity and high standards of excellence.


By doing everything yourself, you miss out on unfathomable growth that comes by investing in Whos and utilizing your time and efforts on higher impact activities.

When you’re investment-minded, you’re not short-term in your thinking. You consider the bigger picture, and you look at how you can help the right people, without coming across as transactional.

If you’re cost-minded, then by nature, you’re transactional and short-term focused. You’ll see Whos as a cost.

If you’re investment-minded, then you will be transformational in your relationships and long-term focused.

Focusing on How will greatly limit your ability to make money.

When you focus on How, it’s often based on a scarcity mind-set and cost avoidance.

By seeing Whos as an investment, rather than a cost, you can quickly 10X or more your income and revenue.


The remainder of this chapter details Joe Polish’s philosophy and strategies on relationships.

Rather than asking, “What’s in it for me?” which is the common question, Joe asks, “What’s in it for them?”

Before Joe connects with someone, he does his homework.

When creating relationships with Whos, ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”

When you’re grateful, people will want to help you more. They’ll want to work with you and be around you. Gratitude attracts and creates abundance.


When you begin saying “no” to people, obligations, and situations you don’t feel fully aligned with in your gut, then and only then will you be able to expand your confidence and purpose.


“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” —Reid Hoffman

You’ve got to be open to other people’s ideas. You are only one person. As brilliant as you are, your current views are very limited at best.

Done is better than perfect.

Wherever you see brilliant work happening, collaboration is happening. You don’t have all the answers.

It’s wise to consider yourself ignorant on most things, and to seek other people’s perspectives and solutions.

Ask for help when you need it.

Seek to be a hero to those you work with, and you’ll do your best work for them.


Focusing on “How” makes you rigid and non-collaborative in your thinking.

Focusing on “How” stresses you out, because you’re already busy and can’t juggle it all.

Focusing on “How” leads you to being isolated in your goals, and ultimately slows your progress.

Collaboration immediately expands your Freedom of Purpose and vision, because what you can do with others is exponentially more than what you can do by yourself.

Collaboration allows you to focus on what you want to focus on and not feel guilty about getting help.


While touring NASA, JFK introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor’s reply was both surprising and inspiring. “I’m helping put a man on the moon!” he told the president.

When driven by purpose, you stop doing the minimum required. You really go deep within yourself. You become a creator. You become willing to go above and beyond the “call of duty.”

Topgrading by Brad Smart

The Big Idea: Create job scorecards instead of job descriptions. Use 1) Screening Interviews, 2) Topgrading tandem interviews, and 3) Reference Check interviews to identify A-players for your company.

Chapter 1: What is Topgrading?

  • Have high standards for all positions.
  • Filter out B’s and C’s early.
  • A player is someone who is in top 10% for the salary level.
  • Don’t settle for a B player at an A price.
  • Hiring a B or C player costs you more in the long run.

Ch 2: Calculate the cost of your mis-hires.

  • The average cost of a mis-hire (or failed internal promotion) is 15x base salary.
  • Think of Topgrading as Six Sigma for hiring, intended to minimize hiring mistakes.

Ch 3: Begin Topgrading from the top down.

  • B players hire C players so they can feel superior to them.
  • A players hire A players.
  • Start with an executive team of only A players.
  • CEO needs to be the Topgrading champion.
  • 1. Conduct a talent review of everyone on the team
  • 2. Create scorecards for key roles
  • 3. Build your virtual bench of A players and A potentials
  • 4. Learn how to conduct: screening interviews, top grading interviews, reference check interviews
  • Topgrading takes time but pays off in the long run.

Ch 4: Conduct a talent review to identify your A-player.

  • Rank all employees, then rate them as A, A potential, or non A.
  • Some A players are promotion material; some A players are content to stay in the same role.
  • Be honest about the talent review.
  • Be disciplined about conducting talent reviews regularly.

Ch 5: Create scorecards that guarantee accountability and fit.

  • A job scorecard is very different than a job description.
  • Defines key accountabilities that define an A-level performance
  • Defines competencies that define a good fit
  • Most job descriptions are just a list of tasks, without accountability or metrics.

Ch 6: Strength your virtual bench.

  • Always be talent scouting, all the time, everywhere.
  • Always be developing relationships with potential A players.
  • Don’t rely on recruiters, though they can be useful in a pinch.
  • Don’t rely on HR to source A players.
  • Start today by asking every A player to introduce you to an A player they know.
  • Your virtual bench can grow cold if you don’t keep it warm.
  • Stay in touch with your virtual bench, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly.

Ch 7: Interview to identify performance patterns.

  • Topgrading interviews are not like conventional interviews.
  • Topgrading interviews are carefully sequenced, tightly structured, and aimed squarely at topics with the richest information payload.
  • Most people need to conduct at least a dozen Topgrading interviews to become proficient.
  • Screening interviews > Topgrading interviews > Reference Check interviews

Ch 8: Screen A’s in, screen out B’s and C’s.

  • Screening interviews take about an hour.
  • Screening interviews start with a good job scorecard.
  • A carefully crafted resume can hide gaps and red flags.
  • A career history form requires a candidate to account for every year and month since the person has been working full-time jobs.
  • A career history form asks for compensation history (base, bonus, other), supervisor information, education, strengths/weaknesses.
  • A career history form sets the tone for a rigorous selection process, which A players will appreciate.
  • Four questions to ask:
  • 1. Candidates career goals
  • 2. What the person is really good at professionally
  • 3. What the person is not good at or not interested in doing
  • 4. Last five bosses, what each would say is candidates strengths/weaknesses and overall rating
  • Screening interviews are done over phone/video.
  • If screening interview indicates an A player is not interested in the position now, add them to virtual bench.

Ch 9: Use Topgrading interviews to explore candidates strengths and weaknesses.

  • Don’t skimp on the Topgrading interview.
  • Four important areas: school, work history, career goals, competencies
  • Past performance is the best predictor of future performance.
  • Ask about high school and college.
  • For each job ask:
  • 1. What were you hired to do?
  • 2. What were your accomplishments?
  • 3. What failures or mistakes were made in this job, and what did you learn from them?
  • 4. What talent did you inherit (A’s, A potentials, and Non-A’s), what changes did you make to this talent mix, and what talent did you end up with?
  • 5. What were the people like that you worked for, and how would they rate you?
  • 6. Why did you leave?
  • At the end, spend 10 minutes asking about career goals: next job, next company, next boss, next 5-10 years.
  • After that, ask more specific questions about competencies.
  • Save the selling for later.
  • Expect up to four hours for a Topgrading interview.
  • Because interviews can be exhausting, tandem interview with a partner.

Ch 10: Use Reference Check interviews to test your opinions.

  • Traditional reference checks are a waste of time.
  • In Topgrading reference checks, you decide who to contact, you choose the questions, the candidate sets up the interview.
  • No references, no job offer.
  • Ask references:
  • 1. The situation or context they worked in with the candidate
  • 2. The candidate’s strengths and weaknesses (with examples)
  • 3. How they would rate the person’s overall performance in that job
  • 4. Further elaboration or insight regarding something specific the candidate admitted to struggling with in that job (a creative way of gathering more information about weaknesses)
  • A players tend to stay in touch with their previous bosses. Even if they’ve lost touch, they’ll be resourceful enough to find them again.
  • You’ll probably have better luck if you contact the reference person at home, preferably on the weekend.

Ch 11: Redeploy chronic B and C players.

  • Redeploy B and C players to another role in the company where they can be A players, or redeploy them to another company with severance and outplacement counseling.
  • Four redeployment strategies:
  • 1. Hatchet
  • 2. Ostrich
  • 3. Topgrader (decide professionally, redeploy professionally)
  • 4. Wimp
  • Genuine sympathy + quick but fair decisions

Ch 12: Coach and keep A players.

  • Keep A players challenged, happy, and engaged.
  • Because your B and C players take up most of your time, don’t forget to appreciate your A players.
  • Invest more of your time in developing A and A potential players.
  • A players will automatically work on their strengths, so spend majority of your time helping them on their weaknesses that could sabotage their career success.
  • Some competencies are easy to improve on then others.
  • 1. Relatively Easy to Change: Risk taking, Leading edge, Education, Experience, Organization/planning, Self-awareness, Communications–oral, Communications–written, First impression, Customer focus, Political savvy, Selecting A players, Redeploying B/C players, Coaching/training, Goal setting, Empowerment, Performance management, Running meetings, Compatibility of needs
  • 2. Harder but Do-able: Judgment, Strategic skills, Pragmatism, Track record, Resourcefulness,, Excellence standards, Independence, Stress management, Adaptability, Likability, Listening,, Team player, Negotiation skills, Persuasiveness, Team builder, Change leadership, Inclusivity (diversity), Conflict management, Credible vision, Balance in life
  • 3. Very Difficult to Change: Intelligence, Analysis skills, Creativity, Conceptual ability, Integrity, Assertiveness, Inspiring followership, Energy, Passion, Ambition, Tenacity

Ch 13: Overcome obstacles to Topgrading.

  • Objection: “I can’t get my B and C players to hire A players.” Solution: Topgrade from the top down.
  • Objection: “We think we’re hiring A players, but they turn out to be B or C players in disguise.” Solution: Perform more accurate assessments using the Topgrading interview, preferably in tandem.
  • Objection: “We can’t afford to hire A players.” Solution: There are A players at every salary.
  • Objection: “I don’t want to fire loyal B and C players.” Solution: redeploy them to another role, with a narrower set of responsibilities and lower pay.

Ch 14: Take ten steps to implement Topgrading successfully.

  • 1. All managers read Topgrading and work through the self-paced Topgrading DVD.
  • 2. Senior managers participate in a Topgrading Workshop.
  • 3. Human Resources participates in a Topgrading Workshop
  • 4. All managers who have participated in a Topgrading Workshop use tandem Topgrading interviews, Career History Form, Reference Checks.
  • 5. Topgrading consultants sometimes conduct a “second opinion”.
  • 6. Topgrading professionals or internal Topgrading interviewers assess senior managers using Topgrading interviews and 360s and prepares a professional development plan.
  • 10. Topgrading assessments (using tandem interviews along with 360s) are used before every major promotion.