Book Reviews

Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

28. Barking Up The Wrong Tree - Eric Barker

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 9/10

Date of reading: 24th – 30th of July, 2017

Description: This book has the weirdest examples of success I ever read. The book teaches you about cooperation… from the examples of serial killers, gangs, and pirates. If this doesn’t intrigue you to read this book, nothing will. 


My notes:


What Really Produces Success?


“Two men have died trying to do this. Outside Magazine declared the Race Across America the toughest endurance event there is, bar none. Cyclists cover three thousand miles in less than twelve days, riding from San Diego to Atlantic City.” ( :7)

“But in 2009 this does not affect the man in the number-one spot. He is literally half a day ahead of number two. Jure Robič seems unbeatable. He has won the RAAM five times, more than any other competitor ever, often crossing the finish line in under nine days. In 2004 he bested the number-two rider by eleven hours. Can you imagine watching an event during which after the winner claims victory you need to wait half a day in order to see the runner-up finish?” ( :7)

“His friend Uroč Velepec described Robič as “Completely uncoachable.”” ( :7)

“Robič would throw down his bike and walk toward the follow car of his team members, fists clenched and eyes ablaze. (Wisely, they locked the doors.) He leapt off his bike mid-race to engage in fistfights . . . with mailboxes. He hallucinated, one time seeing mujahedeen chasing him with guns. His then wife was so disturbed by Robič’s behavior she locked herself in the team’s trailer.” ( :8)


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


“There was little debate that high school success predicted college success. Nearly 90 percent are now in professional careers with 40 percent in the highest tier jobs. They are reliable, consistent, and well-adjusted, and by all measures the majority have good lives. But how many of these number-one high school performers go on to change the world, run the world, or impress the world? The answer seems to be clear: zero.” ( :11)

“with intelligence (standardized tests are better at measuring IQ). Grades are, however, an excellent predictor of self-discipline, conscientiousness, and the ability to comply with rules. In an interview, Arnold said, “Essentially, we are rewarding conformity and the willingness to go along with the system.” Many of the valedictorians admitted to not being the smartest kid in class, just the hardest worker.” ( :11)

“School has clear rules. Life often doesn’t. When there’s no clear path to follow, academic high achievers break down. Shawn Achor’s research at Harvard shows that college grades aren’t any more predictive of subsequent life success than rolling dice. A study of over seven hundred American millionaires showed their average college GPA was 2.9.” ( :12)

“Gautam Mukunda speculated that the reason for the inconsistency in the research was there are actually two fundamentally different types of leaders. The first kind rises up through formal channels, getting promoted, playing by the rules, and meeting expectations. These leaders, like Neville Chamberlain, are “filtered.” The second kind doesn’t rise up through the ranks; they come in through the window: entrepreneurs who don’t wait for someone to promote them; U.S. vice presidents who are unexpectedly handed the presidency; leaders who benefit from a perfect storm of unlikely events, like the kind that got Abraham Lincoln elected. This group is “unfiltered.”” ( :13)

“But the unfiltered candidates have not been vetted by the system and cannot be relied upon to make the “approved” decisions—many would not even know what the approved decisions are. They do unexpected things, have different backgrounds, and are often unpredictable. Yet they bring change and make a difference. Often that difference is a negative. Since they don’t play by the rules, they often break the institutions they are guiding. A minority of unfiltered leaders are transformative, though, shedding organizations of their misguided beliefs and foolish consistencies, and turning them toward better horizons. These are the leaders that the research said have enormous positive impact. In his Ph.D. thesis, Mukunda applied his theory to all the U.S. presidents, evaluating which ones were filtered and which unfiltered, and whether or not they were great leaders. The results were overwhelming. His theory predicted presidential impact with an almost unheard of statistical confidence of 99 percent.” ( :13)

“Despite a Harvard and MIT pedigree, he received only two job interviews after more than fifty applications. Schools wanted a conventional professor who could teach Political Science 101—they wanted a filtered academic.” ( :13)

“When I spoke to Mukunda, he said, “The difference between good leaders and great leaders is not” ( :13)

“an issue of ‘more.’ They’re fundamentally different people.” Had the British seen the failure of appeasement and said “Get us a better Neville Chamberlain,” they would have been screwed.” ( :14)

“Glenn Gould was such a hypochondriac that if you sneezed while on a phone call with him, he’d immediately hang up.” ( :14)

“What was even stranger was how he played his famous music. Kevin Bazzana described it in his wonderful biography of Gould: “the rumpled appearance, the simian crouch over the keyboard, the flailing arms and gyrating torso and bobbing head.” Remember, this isn’t a jazz pianist or Elton John. This guy was playing Bach.” ( :14)

“His neuroses-fueled obsessiveness paid off. By the young age of twenty-five, he was performing on a musical tour of Russia. No North American had done that since before World War II. At twentyeight, he was on television with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. By thirty-one, he was a legend of music. Then he decided to vanish. “I really would like the last half of my life to myself,” Gould said. At thirty-two, he stopped performing publicly altogether. All told, he had given fewer than three hundred concerts. Most touring musicians do that in just three years.” ( :15)

“The same genes that lead to bad stuff can actually lead to great stuff in a different situation. The same knife that can be used to viciously stab someone can also prepare food for your family. Whether the knife is good or bad depends on context.” ( :16)

“Why were the kids with this “bad” gene so inclined to help, even when they weren’t asked? Because 7R isn’t “bad.” Like that knife, it’s reliant on context. 7R kids who were raised in rough environments, who were abused or neglected, were more likely to become alcoholics and bullies. But 7R children who received good parenting were even kinder than kids who had the standard DRD4 gene. Context made the difference.” ( :16)

“As writer Po Bronson said, “All of Silicon Valley is based on character defects that are rewarded uniquely in this system.”” ( :17)

“What if I told you your son’s upper body would be too long, his legs too short, his hands and feet too big, and he’d have gangly arms? I doubt you’d jump for joy. None of those things sounds objectively “good.” But when a knowledgeable swim coach hears those things, he sees nothing but Olympic Gold. Michael Phelps should be considered one of the X-Men: a mutant with superpowers. Is Phelps physically perfect?” ( :17)

“While Michael Phelps can be awkward on terra firma, Glenn Gould seemed positively hopeless in polite society. But both of them thrived, thanks to the right environment.” ( :17)

“As John Stuart Mill remarked, “That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of our time.” In the right environment, bad can be good and odd can be beautiful.” ( :18)

“Bird’s new “Dirty Dozen” of animation didn’t just make a film differently. They changed the way the entire studio worked: We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here. For less money per minute than was spent on the previous film, Finding Nemo, we did a movie that had three times the number of sets and had everything that was hard to do. All this because the heads of Pixar gave us leave to try crazy ideas. That project was The Incredibles. It grossed over $600 million and won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.” ( :18)

“H. R. Giger, the man responsible for the eerily brilliant designs of the creature in the Alien film franchise, explained: “In Chur, Switzerland, the word ‘artist’ is a term of abuse, combining drunkard, whore monger, layabout, and simpleton in one.”” ( :19)

“Andrew Robinson, CEO of famed advertising agency BBDO, once said, “When your head is in a refrigerator and your feet on a burner, the average temperature is okay. I am always cautious about averages.”” ( :19)

“Chopping off the left side of the bell curve improves the average but there are always qualities that we think are in that left side that also are in the right.” ( :19)

“And we can go through example after example after example of that. But that would have ruled out almost all the big winners over time. So what we aspire to do is to invest in the start-ups that have a really extreme strength. Along an important dimension, that we would be willing to tolerate certain weaknesses.” ( :21)

“Abraham Lincoln Gandhi Michelangelo Mark Twain They all lost a parent before age sixteen.” ( :21)

“he Gospel of Thomas says, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”” ( :22)

“Make sure you have a path that works for you. People high in conscientiousness do great in school and in many areas of life where there are clear answers and a clear path. But when there aren’t, life is really hard for them. Research shows that when they’re unemployed, their happiness drops 120 percent more than those who aren’t as conscientious. Without a path to follow they’re lost.” ( :22)

“[This] enables people to say to an opportunity, to an offer, to an assignment, “Yes, I’ll do that. But this is the way I should be doing it. This is the way it should be structured. This is the way my relationships should be. These are the kind of results you should expect from me, and in this time frame, because this is who I am.”” ( :22)

“This leads to Mukunda’s second piece of advice: pick the right pond.” ( :22)

“You’ve got to pick the environments that work for you . . . context is so important. The unfiltered leader who is an amazing success in one situation will be a catastrophic failure in the other, in almost all cases. It’s way too easy to think, “I’ve always succeeded, I am a success, I am successful because I am a success, because it’s about me, and therefore I will succeed in this new environment.” Wrong. You were successful because you happened to be in an environment where your biases and predispositions and talents and abilities all happened to align neatly with those things that would produce success in that environment.” ( :23)

“When you choose your pond wisely, you can best leverage your type, your signature strengths, and your context to create tremendous value. This is what makes for a great career, but such selfknowledge can create value wherever you choose to apply it.” ( :23)

“So they decided to donate efficiency. Journalist Mona El-Naggar described the results: At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes.” ( :23)


Chapter 2 • Do Nice Guys Finish Last?


“When a mass murder at a McDonald’s was all over the news, he told a colleague, “Every time I think of a good idea, somebody beats me to it.” He religiously kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles about violent incidents. When asked why, he said, “If I’m ever accused of murder [these will] prove I’m not mentally competent. This will be my defense.”” ( :25)

“It’s estimated Swango killed sixty people, putting him pretty high up on the list of “successful” American serial killers, though no one is sure exactly how many people he killed. In all likelihood it was far more.” ( :26)

“People surveyed say effort is the number-one predictor of success, but research shows it’s actually one of the worst.” ( :26)

“a study to see at what point flattery backfired . . . but she couldn’t find one. Pfeffer says we need to stop thinking the world is fair. He puts it bluntly: The lesson from cases of people both keeping and losing their jobs is that as long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you.” ( :26)

“Eighty percent of our evaluations of other people come down to two characteristics: warmth and competence. And a study from Teresa Amabile at Harvard called “Brilliant but Cruel” shows we assume the two are inversely related: if someone is too nice, we figure they must be less competent.” ( :26)

“In fact, being a jerk makes others see you as more powerful. Those who break rules are seen as having more power than those who obey.” ( :27)

“Are you a nice guy or gal who is having trouble processing all this bad news? Maybe that’s because not having a high status position at the office contributes to a reduction in executive function. Want that in English? Feeling powerless actually makes you dumber.” ( :27)

“case. A study bluntly titled “Bad Is Stronger than Good” shows that in a shocking number of areas bad things are more impactful and longer lasting than good things:” ( :27)

“ethics books are 25 percent more likely to be stolen than the average library book.” ( :27)

“So what happens when all of us become selfish and just stop trusting one another? The answer to that question is “Moldova.”” ( :27)

“Writer Eric Weiner notes that so many students bribe teachers for passing grades that Moldovans won’t go to doctors who are younger than age thirty-five, assuming they purchased their medical degrees.” ( :28)

“There are three categories: “right,” “wrong,” and “everybody does it.”” ( :28)

“Studies show expecting others to be untrustworthy creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. You assume they’ll behave badly, so you stop trusting, which means you withhold effort and create a downward spiral. It’s not surprising that work teams with just one bad apple experience performance deficits of 30 to 40 percent.” ( :28)

“Simply put, when you start being selfish and Machiavellian, others will eventually notice. If they retaliate before you rise to power, you’re in bad shape. Even if you succeed, you’ve still got a problem. You’ve shown others that the way to succeed is by breaking the rules, so they’ll break them too, because bad behavior is infectious and people do what works. You’ll be creating other predators like yourself. Then the good people leave. That creates a ripple effect: you can quickly create a place where you don’t want to work anymore, like Moldova. Once trust goes, everything goes. What quality do people, when surveyed across a number of arenas—work, athletic teams, family members—say they desire most in others? Trustworthiness.” ( :28)

“crime creates street gangs. Similarly, the majority of successful prison gangs on record were created not as a way to further evil but as a way to provide protection to their members while incarcerated.” ( :29)

“So why do we have this impression of them as bloodthirsty savages? It’s called marketing. It’s much easier, cheaper, and safer to have people surrender quickly because they’re terrified of you than it is to fight every battle, so pirates were sharp enough to cultivate a brand image of barbarity.” ( :30)

“You may be a pirate at heart yourself. Ever get tired of a bully of a boss and think about striking out on your own? Think everyone should have a say in how the company is run? Think a corporation is obligated to take care of its people? And that racism has no place in business? Congrats! You’re a pirate.” ( :30)

“It gave them an advantage in recruiting and retaining talent. It’s estimated that the average pirate ship was approximately 25 percent black. Each crewmember, regardless of race, had the right to vote on ship issues and was paid an equal share. This was in the early 1700s. The United States did not abolish slavery until more than a hundred fifty years later.” ( :31)

“Did it work? Economists praise pirates for their business savvy. In Leeson’s paper “An-arrghchy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization,” he says, “Pirate governance created sufficient order and cooperation to make pirates one of the most sophisticated and successful criminal organizations in history.”” ( :31)

“Luckily, on January 2, 2007, Wesley Autrey didn’t ask it.” ( :31)

“”I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help. I did what I felt was right.”” ( :32)

“No. Autrey received the Bronze Medallion, the highest award that New York City gives to civilians. (Previous winners include General Douglas MacArthur, Muhammad Ali, and Martin Luther King Jr.) His daughters received scholarships and computers. He got backstage passes to Beyoncé and a new Jeep; he was on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and received season tickets to the New Jersey Nets. On January 23, Autrey and his daughters were at the State of the Union address as guests of President George W. Bush, who praised Autrey’s selfless actions on national television.” ( :32)

“Then I looked at the other end of the spectrum and said if Givers are at the bottom, who’s at the top? Actually, I was really surprised to discover, it’s the Givers again. The people who consistently are looking for ways to help others are overrepresented not only at the bottom but also at the top of most success metrics.” ( :32)

“When you think about it, it makes intuitive sense. We all know a martyr who goes out of their way” ( :32)

“to help others and yet fails to meet their own needs or ends up exploited by Takers. We also all know someone everyone loves because they are so helpful, and they succeed because everyone appreciates and feels indebted to them.” ( :33)

“ween charitable giving and income, he found that for every dollar donated, income for that person went up by $3.75. There was a clear relationship between how much was given and how much was earned that year.” ( :33)

“Yes, on average jerks do better, but at the very top we see the Givers.” ( :33)

“Who suffered the most? Those with the lowest levels of trust had an income 14.5 percent lower than eights. That loss is the equivalent of not attending college.” ( :33)

“While some of those studies say the social stress of being a powerless nice guy can give you a heart attack, the big-picture research shows that the old maxim “The good die young” isn’t true. The Terman Study, which followed many subjects across their entire lives, found that people who were kind actually lived longer, not shorter. You might be inclined to think that getting help from others would prolong your life, but the study showed the reverse: those who gave more to others lived longer.” ( :33)

“In a lot of short-term scenarios a little cheating and bullying can pay off. But over time it pollutes the social environment and soon everyone is second-guessing everybody and no one wants to work toward the common good.” ( :33)

“Research by Sonja Lyubomirsky shows that people are happier and less stressed when they “chunk” their efforts to help others versus a relentless “sprinkling.” So by doing all their good deeds one day a week, Givers make sure assisting others doesn’t hamper their own achievements. One hundred hours a year seems to be the magic number.” ( :34)

“Don Johnson made $6 million in one night. No, I’m not talking about the Miami Vice actor. This Don is a gambler.” ( :34)

“By the time Johnson was done negotiating, not only did the casino no longer have an odds advantage at the table but Johnson had reduced his losses to only eighty cents on the dollar. As long as he didn’t make any strategic mistakes during play, he was ahead. He became the house. In cards, you can never be sure you’ll win a particular hand, but once the odds favor you, the gods of math decree that the longer you stay, the better you do.” ( :35)

“Cutting similar deals with other casinos, he won $5 million from the Borgata and $4 million from Caesars. In six months, he took Atlantic City casinos for a cool $15 million.” ( :35)

“When scientists look at the issue of trust, they turn to a game called the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Here’s how it works: Let’s say you and your friend rob a bank, and you’re not very good at robbing banks so you get caught. The police arrest you both and put you in separate rooms to interrogate you. You have no way to communicate with your friend. The cops offer you a deal: if you testify that your friend was the mastermind and he doesn’t testify against you, you go free and he gets five years in prison. If you don’t testify against your friend but he testifies against you, you get five years and he goes free. If you both testify against each other, you both get three years. If you both refuse to testify, you both get one year. If you two knew you could trust each other, the answer would be simple: you both keep your mouths shut and get one year. But can you trust your friend? Are the police scaring the heck out of him? Will he testify while you stay silent? That means he walks free and you get five years in prison. In a one-off game, testifying seems like the smart move, but what about when you play the game twenty times? That’s more like life, right? Our fate rarely hangs on any one decision.” ( :35)

“Which ethical system reigned supreme in the end? Shockingly, the simplest program submitted won the tournament. It was only two lines of code. And it’s something we’re all familiar with: tit for tat.” ( :36)

“All TFT did was cooperate on the first Prisoner’s Dilemma round, then in every subsequent round, it did whatever the opponent did previously—that is, if on the previous round the opponent cooperated, it cooperated on the next round; if the opponent betrayed, it betrayed on the next round. This simple program decimated the competition. So Axelrod ran the tournament again. He reached out to even more experts and this time had sixty-two entries. Some algorithms were more complex and some were variants on TFT. Who won? Simple ol’ tit for tat. Again.” ( :36)

“What magic power did this humble little strategy have? Axelrod determined it came down to a few key things that made those two lines of code so special. He saw the same thing we noticed when looking at altruistic methods like being a Giver—early on, the good guys got trounced. Much like in the study “Bad Is Stronger than Good,” the bad guys quickly seized the high ground in the initial interaction. Even TFT, the eventual winner, always got the short end of the stick early on because it cooperated initially. But as time passed, the bad guys couldn’t match the big gains of the cooperators. When TFT met a program that cooperated on every move, the gains were enormous. Even programs like Tester (the backpedaler) learned that playing along was more beneficial than the marginal gains earned from defecting.” ( :36)

“Rather than always repeating the opponent’s last move, it would occasionally forgive and cooperate after being betrayed. While this led to it losing a couple more points to evil programs like ALL D, those points were more than made up for by the generous TFT’s tremendous gains pulling potentially nice programs out of death spirals. The main reasons for the success of TFT were that it was nice, it was forgiving, it was easy for the other players to deal with, and it would retaliate when necessary.” ( :36)

“Moldova is like ALL D. If the nice guys of Moldova could meet each other and work together,” ( :36)

“before too long they would get a foothold, but that never happens. If they signaled niceness to try to find other nice guys, that would be like baby chicks cheeping in a nest: it encourages momma bird to come feed them but it also gives away their location to hungry cats. And the cats vastly outnumber the momma birds in poor, sad Moldova.” ( :37)

“Business schools frequently do a negotiation experiment in which two groups are told to decide how a pile of oranges, which both groups need, should be split. Both groups are given specific details the other group can’t see. Much like in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the bad guys do terribly. They assume the game is zero-sum: every orange they get is one the other group doesn’t get. But the cooperators, the people who share and communicate quickly, discover that the special instructions each person was given include a detail: one group only needs the fruit of the orange; the other group only needs the peels. If the groups talk to each other, they can easily get everything they both need. But if they immediately resort to fighting, both groups do worse.” ( :37)

“Here’s the crazy thing: TFT never got a higher score than its counterpart did in any single game. It never won. But the gains it made in the aggregate were better than those achieved by “winners” who edged out meager profits across many sessions. Axelrod explains this by saying, “Tit for tat won the tournament not by beating the other player but by eliciting behavior from the other player [that] allowed both to do well.” Don’t worry how well the other side is doing; worry about how well you’re doing.” ( :38)

“When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with—because the odds are you’re going to become like them; they are not going to become like you. You can’t change them. If it doesn’t fit who you are, it’s not going to work.” ( :39)

“Dan Ariely’s study “Contagion and Differentiation in Unethical Behavior: The Effect of One Bad Apple on the Barrel.” When you see your peers cheat, you’re more likely to cheat. And when your peers see each other cheat, everyone is more likely to bend the rules. That’s one step closer to Moldova.” ( :39)

“Connecting with other Givers was what allowed for the incredible success of the “nice” programs in Axelrod’s tournament. If you’re already in a bad environment, circle the wagons with other good people. It only took 5 percent of interactions between “nice” programs for good to get the edge over bad. That may not translate perfectly to the everyday world, but there’s certainly a tipping point.” ( :39)

“So what’s a good balance? Every Friday send your boss an email summarizing your accomplishments for the week—nothing fancy, but quickly relating the good work you’re doing. You might think they know what you’re up to, but they’re busy. They have their own problems. They’ll appreciate it and begin to associate you with the good things they’re hearing (from you, of course).” ( :40)

“Michael Swango? The killer M.D.? Well, they did catch him. Eventually someone did the right thing. Jordan Cohen sent a fax about him to every medical school in the United States, and this got the attention of the FBI. Swango fled the country, but when he eventually returned in 1997 he was detained at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.” ( :41)


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


“As a boy growing up poor in the small Mexican village of Palaco, the story of Kalimán was inspirational to young Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa. Kalimán fought for justice, and even though he had superpowers, he had achieved them all through hard work and discipline. Alfredo spent many an afternoon trying to emulate the incredible—and impossible—exotic martial-arts kicks of Kalimán so he could be like his hero.” ( :43)

“Today, Dr. Q, as he is known, is one of the top brain surgeons in the United States and very likely the world. He performs hundreds of surgeries a year at Johns Hopkins, which is frequently ranked as the top hospital in the country. He has his own lab and teaches oncology and neurosurgery at the medical school. Perhaps he doesn’t save lives with kicks and punches, but Kalimán would be quite proud.” ( :44)

“All of this raises really important questions: How the heck does an illegal migrant farm worker from a dirt-poor upbringing in the middle of nowhere become one of the greatest brain surgeons in the world? How does he stick with it through all the hard work, suffering, discrimination, and setbacks— when he doesn’t even speak the native language? How does he do this when most of us can’t seem to stick to a diet for more than four days or hit the gym more than annually?” ( :44)

“And it’s not all dollars and cents either. Angela Duckworth’s research at the University of Pennsylvania shows that kids with grit are happier, physically healthier, and more popular with their peers. “The capacity to continue trying despite repeated setbacks was associated with a more optimistic outlook on life in 31 percent of people studied, and with greater life satisfaction in 42 percent of them.”” ( :44)

“Let’s start with reason number one: where does grit really come from? The answer is often stories. You don’t need to grow up in a poor town in Mexico . . . but you may need a Kalimán comic book. Sound crazy?” ( :45)

“SEAL class 264 had a 94 percent attrition rate. Of the 256 men who started, only 16 graduated with the class and had a Navy SEAL trident pinned to their uniform.” ( :45)

“James Waters was one of them. And the nightmares stopped.” ( :46)

“The Navy didn’t need more strong or macho guys. But it might have been smarter to recruit a lot more insurance salesmen. Yes, insurance salesmen. Hold on to that thought for a second. A Navy study revealed a number of things that people with grit do—often unknowingly—that keep them going when things get hard. One of them comes up in the psychological research again and again: “positive self-talk.” Yes, Navy SEALs need to be badass, but one of the keys to that is thinking like The Little Engine That Could.” ( :46)

“It’s perfectly rational. If you went out on your lawn and tried to fly like Superman and every time you ended up facedown in the flower bed, it wouldn’t be very long before you wisely concluded you and the Man of Steel have one less thing in common and instead took your car to the grocery store. I can’t do it. This is often more insidious and less obvious in daily life. We give up, rationalize, accept our fate . . . but then occasionally wonder why we didn’t do better or do more.” ( :47)

“And it’s only reasonable that these people end up either (1) utterly delusional or (2) far more successful than you or I.” ( :47)

“Seligman decided that what was at the center of this was optimism and pessimism: feeling you can change things and feeling you can’t. Helplessness was the result of a pessimistic attitude. When you believe things will not get better, it’s irrational to keep trying. You just shrug and go home. In situations where you truly cannot win, this is the right choice. But in difficult but not impossible situations, when persistence is called for, pessimism kills grit. It says “Give up and go home” instead of “Gimme one more try. I can do it.”” ( :47)

“Optimists and pessimists shape their stories of the world very differently. Seligman called this “explanatory style,” and it comes down to three Ps: permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization. Pessimists tell themselves that bad events will last a long time, or forever (I’ll never get this done); are universal (I can’t trust any of these people); and are their own fault (I’m terrible at this).” ( :48)

“Optimists tell themselves that bad events are temporary (That happens occasionally, but it’s not a big deal ); have a specific cause and aren’t universal (When the weather is better that won’t be a problem); and are not their fault (I’m good at this, but today wasn’t my lucky day).” ( :48)

“This was no fluke. Optimistic explanatory style predicted success. (Bookies in Las Vegas, you’re welcome.)” ( :48)

“What Viktor Frankl realized was that in the most awful place on Earth, the people who kept going despite the horrors were the ones who had meaning in their lives:” ( :49)

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”” ( :49)

“What’s funny is that when Duke professor Dan Ariely, who was inspired by Kahneman, would lecture on biases he frequently got the same response: “Yeah, I know lots of other people who do that —but I don’t.” Oh, the irony. Cognitive biases prevent us from understanding cognitive biases.” ( :50)

“Researcher John Gottman realized that just hearing how the couple told the tale of their relationship together predicted with 94 percent accuracy whether or not they’d get divorced.” ( :51)

“This is true even in the most profound and distressing examples of sadness: suicides. Roy Baumeister, a professor at Florida State University, found that people who committed suicide often weren’t in the worst circumstances, but they had fallen short of the expectations they had of themselves. Their lives were not matching the stories in their heads. Just as Frankl saw in Auschwitz, the stories determined who would keep going and who would make a run for the wire.” ( :51)

“One study showed that we feel meaning in life when we think that we know ourselves. The key word there is “think.” Truly knowing oneself didn’t produce meaning but feeling one did created the results. The story doesn’t need to be accurate to be effective. That’s a little unnerving and maybe even depressing, right?” ( :52)

“Psychologist Shelley Taylor says that “a healthy mind tells itself flattering lies.” The pessimists were more accurate and realistic, and they ended up depressed. The truth can hurt.” ( :52)

“This is why lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to be depressed than people in other professions. To protect their clients, attorneys must consider every possible thing that can go wrong. They can’t tell themselves happy, less accurate stories about how a deal will unfold. Pessimists outperform optimists in law school. And this same quality makes them very unhappy. Law is the highest paid profession in the United States and yet, when surveyed, 52 percent of lawyers described themselves as dissatisfied with their jobs.” ( :52)

“And this is how it connects to career. As Harvard professor Teresa Amabile discusses in her book The Progress Principle, meaningful work is the number-one thing people want from their jobs. Yup, it beats salary and getting promoted. How did Steve Jobs lure John Sculley away from his great job as CEO of Pepsi? He asked him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Meaningful doesn’t have to be saving orphans or curing the sick. As long as your story is meaningful to you, it has power.” ( :52)

“Thinking about death reminds us of what is truly important in life. David Brooks makes the distinction between “résumé values” and “eulogy values.” Résumé values are the things that bring external success, like money and promotions. Eulogy values are about character: Am I kind, trustworthy, or courageous? We’re often very forward-thinking about the former.” ( :52)

“We often confuse those two words as meaning the same thing. But UCLA professor Howard Suber clarifies the distinction. Fate is that thing we cannot avoid. It comes for us despite how we try to run from it. Destiny, on the other hand, is the thing we must chase, what we must bring to fruition. It’s what we strive toward and make true. When bad things happen, the idea of fate makes us feel better, whereas taking the time to consider eulogy values helps us think more about destiny. Success doesn’t come from shrugging off the bad as unchangeable and saying things are already “meant to be”; it’s the result of chasing the good and writing our own future. Less fate, more destiny.” ( :53)

“What do you do with this edited story once you have it? Play the part. A lot of psychological research shows that instead of behavior following our beliefs, often our beliefs come from our behaviors.” ( :53)

“Vonnegut’s moral is that “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”” ( :54)

“Like Seligman’s dogs, Joe Simpson had no earthly reason to think he should or could keep fighting. But he did. How? In the most dangerous, high-stakes situation imaginable he did the craziest thing: he made it a game. He started setting goals: Can I make it to that glacier in twenty minutes? If he made it, he was ecstatic. If he didn’t, he was frustrated, but it only made him more obsessive. “An excited tingle ran down my spine. I was committed. The game had taken over, and I could no longer choose to walk away from it.”” ( :55)

“Nothing. But then . . . Lights bounced in the distance, heading his way. And voices. Joe cried. The lights grew closer and blinded him. Simon grabbed Joe by the shoulders and held him tight. Joe Simpson had won his game.” ( :56)

“A professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute redesigned his class to resemble World of Warcraft, and students studied harder, were more engaged, and even cheated less.” ( :56)

“Which raises questions: Why are games, which can be taxing, frustrating, and an awful lot like work, so much fun while our jobs, well . . . suck? Why do kids hate homework that’s repetitive and incredibly hard but they’ll gleefully run away from homework to play games . . . which are repetitive and incredibly hard? Why are puzzles fun but doing your taxes is awful? What is it that makes something a game and not just a frustrating pain in the ass?” ( :56)

“So just a few elements can turn filling out your taxes into a fun-filled experience. One is “cognitive reappraisal,” a fancy term for “telling yourself a different story about what is happening.” You know how the baby who doesn’t want to eat suddenly opens his or her mouth when the spoon is an airplane? Yeah, we adults really aren’t that much different from toddlers. (Sorry.)” ( :56)

“Some research has shown that willpower is like a muscle, and it gets tired with overuse. But it only gets depleted if there’s a struggle. Games change the struggle to something else. They make the process fun, and as Mischel showed in his research, we are able to persist far longer and without the same level of teeth-gritting willpower depletion.” ( :57)

“Here’s an example: What if I put a big ol’ pile of cocaine in front of you? (I’ll assume, for the sake of argument, you are not a cocaine addict.) Cocaine is pleasurable. You know that. People do it for a reason, right? But you’d likely reply, “No, thanks.” Why? Because it doesn’t jibe with your story. You just don’t see yourself as the kind of person who does cocaine. You could come up with all kinds of reasons why. (What’s a reason? A story.) Would you have to close your eyes and clench your fists and beg me to take the cocaine away? Probably not. You’d exert no willpower on this one. But would the same be true with a juicy steak? Especially if you were hungry? Say you are the kind of person who indulges in steak. Now what happens? Struggle. Willpower depletion. Unless you are a vegetarian. Boom—another story. You’d say no and exert zero willpower. You’d have no trouble ignoring the steak. Change the story and you change your behavior. Games are another kind of story: a fun one.” ( :57)

“David Foster Wallace once said, “If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”” ( :57)

“Karl Marx was wrong about a lot of things in economics, but we’re now realizing he was also right about some stuff. When you remove people’s emotional connection to their labor and treat them merely as machines that produce effort, it’s soul killing.” ( :57)

“those emotional elements back? Sure. Frankly, it’s not that hard. Yale University’s Innovation Alignment Team (part of the student entrepreneurial society) wanted to see if they could increase the number of students who disinfect their hands after meals at one of the school cafeterias. Did they bombard students with information or lobby the administration to create rules to mandate it? Nope. They decided to make it fun. They hooked up a few speakers and an iPod to the disinfectant dispenser. When someone used it, it would make a clever sound. The same kind video games make when a player scores. Before their” ( :57)

“setup, thirteen students used it. Afterward, ninety-one did. A silly tweak that made it “fun” increased usage by a factor of seven almost immediately.” ( :58)

“WNGF. They’re Winnable. They have Novel challenges and Goals, and provide Feedback.” ( :58)

“WINNABLE” ( :58)

“Roughly four times out of five, gamers don’t complete the mission, run out of time, don’t solve the puzzle, lose the fight, fail to improve their score, crash and burn, or die. Which makes you wonder: do gamers actually enjoy failing? As it turns out, yes . . . When we’re playing a welldesigned game, failure doesn’t disappoint us. It makes us happy in a very particular way: excited, interested, and most of all optimistic.” ( :58)

“Now, what if your boss hates you? Or you’re facing discrimination in the workplace? Those games really aren’t winnable. Move on. Find a game you can win.” ( :59)


“They are designed to create what researcher Mihály Csikszentmihályi calls “flow,” which is when we’re immersed in something enough to forget the passage of time.” ( :59)

“Csikszentmihályi’s research showed that flow was most reliably and most efficiently produced by the specific combination of self-chosen goals, personally optimized obstacles, and continuous feedback that make up the essential structure of gameplay. “Games are an obvious source of flow,” he wrote, “and play is the flow experience par excellence.”” ( :59)

“We crave ease, but stimulation is what really makes us happy. We try to subtract at work, do less, check out. These are signs of burnout. We don’t need to subtract; we need to add novel challenges to create engagement.” ( :59)

“challenges. For something to have meaning, you ultimately have to make your mark, to be engaged. If your game is winnable, if you have control, if it challenges you” ( :59)

“—without being overwhelming—you’ll enjoy it more.” ( :60)

“GOALS” ( :60)

“FEEDBACK” ( :60)

“If you do something right, a game rewards you with points or abilities. If you do something wrong, you’re penalized. And both of these happen quickly. Writer Aaron Dignan notes that you always know where you stand in a game, how you’re doing, and what you need to do to perform better. Research shows that the most motivating thing is progress in meaningful work.” ( :60)

“But Adam Grant (who you met in chapter 2) found a simple way to powerfully energize workers at a university call center. He brought in a student whose scholarship had been granted due to their efforts. The student told them how much their work meant and how grateful he was. The workers got feedback. They saw what they were doing was meaningful. The result? The amount of money they brought in after the visit quintupled.” ( :60)

“As Jane McGonigal reports in her book, studies show many C-level executives play computer games at work. Why? “To feel more productive.” Oh, the irony.” ( :60)

“Making work a game is quite simple; you don’t have to change what you’re doing all that much, you just have to change your perspective. But therein lies the reason many of us don’t do it: it feels kinda silly.” ( :61)

“positive feedback loop. As McGonigal says, “Clearly, this is a game that you win even if you lose.” You can use a game frame perspective to “level up” in other areas of your life as well. Being a spouse, parent, friend, and neighbor can all benefit from WNGF—doing what is winnable, has novel challenges and goals, and provides feedback. Plus, games are always more fun when played with other people.” ( :61)

“Spencer Glendon is a very impressive guy. He was a Fulbright Scholar, earned a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, helped charities on the South Side of Chicago, and is currently a partner at one of the biggest money management funds in Massachusetts. But that’s not what’s most impressive about him.” ( :61)

“When he was in high school and seriously ill, he went to see a therapist. He wanted to do the things all young people want to do: go to parties, date, play sports. Often they just weren’t realistic options. And it was heartbreaking.” ( :62)

“He would do the one thing that day, and one thing the next, and the next. Now, when he’s at his sickest, he still makes dinner. (Unsurprisingly, he’s also become a great cook.)” ( :62)

“As Henry David Thoreau said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”” ( :62)

“Mihály Csikszentmihályi was putting together a study of some of the most creative successful people around: 275 Nobel Prize winners, National Book Award winners, and other people clearly at the top of their fields. It was a major study by a renowned researcher that would be well publicized. It was incredibly flattering just to be invited. So what happened? Over a third said no. Many more didn’t even reply. They had their own work to do. Csikszentmihályi invited Peter Drucker and received this in response: I hope you will not think me presumptuous or rude if I say that one of the secrets of productivity . . . is to have a very big waste paper basket to take care of all invitations such as yours.” ( :63)

“When Harvard professor John Kotter studied top business leaders, he found they put in an average of sixty to sixty-five hours per week. If you practice something one hour a day, that’s 27.4 years to reach the ten-thousand-hour mark of expertise. But what if you quit a few less important things and made it four hours a day? Now it’s 6.8 years. That’s the difference between starting something at twenty and being an expert when you’re forty-seven and starting at twenty and being world-class at twenty-seven.” ( :64)

“esearch shows that when we choose to quit pursuing unattainable goals, we’re happier, less stressed, and get sick less often. Which people are the most stressed out? Those who wouldn’t quit what wasn’t working.” ( :64)

“Imagine you were Spencer at his lowest point. What would you do if you were ill and could manage only one task per day? Congratulations. You now know what matters to you most, what should get the most hours, what should be done first.” ( :64)

“”You can do anything once you stop trying to do everything.”” ( :64)

“Growing up in Topeka, Kansas, Matt Polly” ( :65)

“Asian culture came from the Wu-Tang Clan. He didn’t even know where the Shaolin Temple was.” ( :65)

“He’d have to “eat bitter,” Chinese slang for “to suffer.” The monks trained in kung fu five hours a day. So he did seven. Each night he went to bed exhausted and woke up sore. He had bruises in places where some people didn’t have places. This was no vacation. But the monks noticed his hard work, and his kung fu improved by leaps and bounds. He told his parents he’d be gone for only a year. But a year came and went and he wasn’t a badass yet, so he stayed. And his parents cut him off. But he continued to train.” ( :65)

“Seconds later he was in a world of pain. He was being trounced. But he didn’t quit. He had come here to find his courage and, like Rocky, his only goal was to go the distance . . . and to not need that extra-long stretcher. Matt lost every round. He lost the fight. But he was still standing at the end of the match. And his smile was twice as big as the champ’s when he won the silver medal. Then, just like with Princeton, he quit. He had lost the big fight, but he had won the battle with himself. Matt realized he would never be the Baddest Man in the World. There would always be someone tougher. But he had tried something really cool, found his courage, and achieved his goal. It was time to return home. As he’d thought, his parents forgave him. And not too long after, Princeton diploma in hand, he headed off to Oxford to be a Rhodes Scholar.” ( :66)

“American Shaolin got rave reviews. He was on NPR. A movie studio optioned the rights and got Jackie Chan interested. His experiment ended up launching his career as a writer.” ( :66)

“s this some genetic gift? Hardly. After seeing that luck was largely a function of choices, Wiseman tried another experiment: Luck School. If he got unlucky people to behave more like lucky people, would they get the same results? Turns out they did. Afterward, 80 percent of Luck School graduates felt their luck had increased. And they weren’t just luckier; they also came away happier.” ( :66)

“We rationalize our failures, but we can’t rationalize away the stuff we never tried at all. As we get older we also tend to remember the good things and forget the bad. So simply doing more means greater happiness when we’re older (and cooler stories for the grandkids).” ( :67)

“Spaghetti Problem. It’s a pretty simple challenge: build the tallest structure you can that will support a marshmallow. It has to be freestanding and your team gets eighteen minutes to do it. You get these tools: 20 pieces of dry spaghetti 1 meter of tape 1 piece of string 1 marshmallow Peter Skillman (who has the awesome title of General Manager of Smart Things at Microsoft) designed it as a creativity exercise. He ran the challenge for over five years, testing more than seven” ( :67)

“They just jumped in. Like Wiseman’s lucky people: they just tried more stuff. They started failing immediately—and learning quickly. This was their system: prototype and test, prototype and test, prototype and test—until the time was up. When there is no set path, this system wins. It’s an old Silicon Valley mantra: Fail fast and fail cheap.” ( :67)

“Batman: he can never lose a fight. While a professional boxer with a record of thirty wins and one loss is extremely impressive, for the Dark Knight it means death. The villains of Gotham don’t let referees stop the bouts. So to be Batman means never losing. Ever. You cannot afford to fail. So if you did everything it takes to become the Dark Knight, how long could you maintain that perfect record? Luckily, we can draw on research.” ( :68)

“Paul Zehr, a professor at the University of Victoria, looked at comparable athletes to get a rough idea. He studied the records of top boxers, MMA fighters, and NFL running backs. How long could they stay undefeated and without a crippling injury? How long could you stay Batman? Three years. Yup, that’s it.” ( :68)

“In the book Little Bets, former venturecapitalist-turned-writer Peter Sims explains the comedian’s process. Rock goes to a local comedy club, unannounced, with a yellow pad, and just tries stuff. Then he notes the reactions. The vast majority of jokes fail miserably, earning only groans and silence. Then he makes notes on his pad and tries more stuff. But a few things click. The audience roars. He makes a note and moves on.” ( :68)

“aren’t performances; they’re tests. Comedians need to see what fails so they can cut it. They need to know what to “quit.” When comedians can’t fail, they can’t succeed. Here’s Chris Rock again: “Comedians need a place where we can work on that stuff . . . No comedian’s ever done a joke that bombs all the time and kept doing it. Nobody in the history of stand-up. Not one guy.”” ( :68)

“Viagra started as a treatment for angina. Then the drug’s developers noticed an interesting, um, side effect. Peter Sims says, “Most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas—they discover them . . . They do things to discover what they should do.”” ( :69)

“”sheer quantity ultimately leads to quality.” Trying more stuff. Just like the old saying “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”” ( :69)

“The answer is simple: If you don’t know what to be gritty at yet, you need to try lots of things— knowing you’ll quit most of them—to find the answer. Once you discover your focus, devote 5 to 10 percent of your time to little experiments to make sure you keep learning and growing.” ( :69)

“mong those with at least fifteen years of work experience, respondents who have had two or fewer roles had only a 2 percent chance of eventually becoming a Clevel leader, while those who have held at least five positions had an 18% chance of reaching the top.” ( :70)

“Benjamin Franklin and Charles Darwin. These guys had a lot of hobbies. Facing different challenges in different contexts allowed them to look at things differently, to challenge assumptions, and to realize breakthroughs. Getting lots of different ideas crashing together turns out to be one of the keys to creativity.” ( :70)

“fruit. YouTube started out as a dating site, of all things. eBay was originally focused on selling PEZ dispensers. Google began as a project to organize library book searches.” ( :70)

“Again, we face the issue of limits. With dating, you know you need to quit at some point, but when? Some would say “When I meet the right person.” But how do you know the next person won’t be even better? Is the more realistic answer “When I meet a pretty good person and I’m tired of this crap”? Here’s what’s fascinating: mathematicians have solved this problem. There’s an easy formula that gives you an exact answer for how many dates to go on and how to pick the right person. It’s what math folks call an “optimal stopping problem.”” ( :71)

“Matt Parker explains in his book Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension.” ( :71)

“We need the square root of that number. (Yes, the calculator app on your smartphone can help you find true love.) In our example, it’s 10. Now go out on dates with 10 people and politely tell them “No, thanks,” but make sure to note who was the best of the bunch. Keep dating until you find somebody who rocks your world more than that person did. Mathematically speaking, this person is your match. (No, you aren’t obligated to invite me to the wedding, but it was very kind of you to ask.) How accurate is this? Pretty darn accurate. Parker says with 100 potential spouses, it’s about 90 percent likely to give you the best of the bunch.” ( :71)

“You wouldn’t say “I got my dream job. Whew, now I can stop working,” but people frequently do something akin to this with relationships because it’s “meant to be.” Until it turns out it wasn’t.” ( :72)

“It turns out that your brain isn’t very good at telling fantasy from reality. (This is why movies are so thrilling.) When you dream, that grey matter feels you already have what you want and so it doesn’t marshal the resources you need to motivate yourself and achieve. Instead, it relaxes. And you do less, you accomplish less, and those dreams stay mere dreams. Positive thinking, by itself, doesn’t work.” ( :72)

“In one study, Peter Gollwitzer and Veronika Brandstätter found that just planning out some basics, like when to do something, where, and how, made students almost 40 percent more likely to follow through with goals.” ( :73)

“What’s so powerful here? You’re getting your non-conscious mind involved. Instead of waiting until problems arise, you’re giving your brain a habitual response to enact on autopilot. You can find the roots of this method at work everywhere, from ancient philosophy to modern elite military units. The Stoics used an idea called premeditatio malorum (“premeditation of evils”) to prepare.” ( :73)

“Who wouldn’t rather say “WOOP”?) WOOP—wish, outcome, obstacle, plan—is applicable to most any of your goals, from career to relationships to exercise and weight loss.” ( :73)


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


“The day Paul Erdös” ( :79)

“He achieved a Ph.D. in math by the time he was twenty-one. As an adult, fueled by amphetamines, he would put in nineteen-hour days doing the only thing he loved: math. He was inhumanly productive. Some years he would produce more than fifty academic papers—a number most mathematicians would be happy to complete in an entire lifetime.” ( :79)

“This is a guy who referred to children as “epsilon” because in mathematics epsilon is the Greek letter used for “small number.”” ( :79)

“He was certainly successful. Erdös produced more papers during his life than any other mathematician—ever. Some were even published posthumously, meaning Erdös, technically, kept publishing seven years after his death. He received at least fifteen honorary doctorates.” ( :79)

“routinely traveled to twenty-five countries, eventually working with more than five hundred other mathematicians around the globe. He collaborated with so many different people sometimes he couldn’t remember them all: On one occasion, Erdös met a mathematician and asked him where he was from. “Vancouver,” the mathematician replied. “Oh, then you must know my good friend Elliot Mendelson,” Erdös said. The reply was “I am your good friend Elliot Mendelson.”” ( :80)

“The Fields Medal is the highest honor a mathematician can receive. Paul Erdös never won it. But a number of the people he helped did, and that leads us to what Erdös is best known for: the “Erdös number.” No, it was not a theorem or a mathematical tool. It was simply a measure of how close you were to working with Paul Erdös.” ( :80)

“theorem or a mathematical tool. It was simply a measure of how close you were to working with Paul Erdös. (Think of it like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon—but for nerds.) If you collaborated with Erdös on a paper, you had an Erdös number of one. If you collaborated with someone who collaborated with Erdös, your Erdös number was two, and so on. Paul Erdös was so influential and helped so many people that mathematicians rank themselves by how close they were to working with him.” ( :80)

“On September 20, 1996, Paul Erdös died at the age of eighty-three. (Or, in his own idiosyncratic vocabulary, he “left.” He said people “died” when they had stopped doing math.) Technically, Erdös’s number was zero. That might feel like a lonely or distressing number, but I like to think it makes sense. That zero symbolizes how Erdös gave everything to the people around him. It wasn’t about his own number. It was about how many others he gave numbers to.” ( :80)

“but Newton gave us a coherent, integrated road map to how the world works. He brought us from magic to science. Before him, predicting how things would move was more a matter of guess than math. After him, we knew the universe worked by rules. James Gleick described Newton as the “chief architect of the modern world.” Nobody would have such an impact until Einstein, nearly two hundred years later. And while Einstein certainly overturned how scientists thought about the rules of the universe, he didn’t change the way the average person sees the world they inhabit day to day. Newton was a game changer for all of us.” ( :83)

“The calculus we all struggled with in high school? He invented it. By himself. He had few friends, and correspondence by letter was often the only way he communicated with others. He never married. In fact, many suspect he died a virgin.” ( :84)

“Pascal once said, “All the unhappiness of man stems from one thing only: That he is incapable of staying quietly in his room.” Sir Isaac Newton seems to be proof positive of this.” ( :84)

“When you think athlete you might envision the popular captain of the football team in high school. Or maybe the charismatic baseball player telling you to buy razors in that commercial. It’s only natural to think they’re all hard-partying extroverts. You couldn’t be more wrong. Author (and Olympic gold medalist) David Hemery reports that almost nine out of ten top athletes identify as introverts. “A remarkably distinguishing feature is that a large proportion, 89 percent of these sports achievers, classed themselves as introverts . . . Only 6 percent of the sports achievers felt that they were extroverts and the remaining 5 percent felt that they were ‘middle of the road.'”” ( :84)

“on the social margins during adolescence, partly because “intense curiosity or focused interest seems odd to their peers.” Teens who are too gregarious to spend time alone often fail to cultivate their talents “because practicing music or studying math requires a solitude they dread.”” ( :85)

“power was actively working against them. They were right. But it wasn’t God. It was Harvard. Unbeknownst to MIT, the Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University had received millions of dollars from the U.S. government to secretly develop radar jamming technology, which they were testing on the other side of the Charles River. (The Americans should have taken a few tips on the power of collaboration from their friends in the UK.)” ( :87)

“In November 1942, U-boats claimed 117 Allied ships. Less than a year later, in the two-month period of September to October 1943, only 9 Allied ships were sunk, while a total of 25 Uboats were destroyed by aircraft equipped with ASV radars.” ( :87)

“We’ve established the payoff to networking is huge. But it can feel sleazy. Research from Francesca Gino shows that when we try to meet someone just to get something from them, it makes us feel immoral. The people who feel least sleazy about networking are powerful people. But those who need to network the most—the least powerful—are the most likely to feel bad about it. We like networking better when it’s serendipitous, when it feels like an accident, not deliberate and Machiavellian.” ( :88)

“Adam Rifkin. In 2011, Fortune magazine named him the best networker in Silicon Valley. Guess what? Adam’s a shy introvert. He’s also the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. In fact, he goes by the nickname “Panda.”” ( :88)

“We all have friends who are just cool to be around. They’re always sending you awesome stuff. “Hey, check out this book,” “Oh, you’ve got to see this video I just watched. Here, here’s a copy.” That is actually networking, because they’re serving you first. Now, one day if” ( :88)

“they came to you and said, “Hey man, I know you have a friend who works at X company. I’m actually trying to get connected there. Do you think you can introduce me?” Of course you would say yes. Networking is about a personal relationship.” ( :89)

“So if slimy networking is like the mistrustful situation we saw in Moldova, what’s the opposite? Iceland.” ( :89)

“There’s no need to be afraid of networking. The truth is, we often underestimate by as much as 50 percent how much others are willing to help us when asked. As we talked about in chapter 2, being mistrustful or assuming others are selfish can be self-fulfilling prophecies. Remember, the rule of thumb is simple when making friends: be socially optimistic. Assume other people will like you and they probably will.” ( :89)

“Want to find out how you’re similar to another kid in kindergarten? Ask them questions and listen. You’re likely to hear something you can connect over. Beyond that, listening is vital to bonding—and it’s something most of us are terrible at. Neuroscientist Diana Tamir found” ( :90)

“FBI behavioral expert Robin Dreeke said the most important thing to do is to “seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.” Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next and focus on what they’re saying right now.” ( :90)

“Research shows that one of the quickest and easiest ways to boost your network isn’t to pass your business card out on street corners; it’s to just reconnect with old friends. And there’s no sleazy element to it at all—they’re already your friends.” ( :91)

“Go through your Facebook friends list, your LinkedIn connections, or your address book, and send a few emails every week, asking “What’s up?”” ( :91)

“This isn’t just some wonky theory I read about in a dusty academic journal. When I’m in Los Angeles, I never miss my friend Andy Walker’s weekly Friday lunch. When I’m visiting San Francisco I make sure to hit Panda’s 106 Miles get-togethers for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. I fly out to Boston a few times a year just for Gautam Mukunda’s “interesting people” dinners, for which he gathers a handful of fascinating folks in his network for an evening of wine and conversation. And I’d rather sacrifice a kidney than miss my friend James Clear’s annual blogger meet-up. None of these are transactional, icky affairs. They’re a chance for me to see my best friends and make new friends in a relaxed environment.” ( :92)

“Analyzing eight million phone calls between two million people, researchers at Notre Dame found that what makes close friendships endure is simply staying in touch every two weeks. Now, you don’t need to connect with people that often if they’re not close friends, but the principle still stands: checking in every now and then matters. This doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Sending a handful of emails every week can make a big difference over time. Panda’s network is gargantuan, but he spends a surprisingly small amount of time maintaining it.” ( :93)

“(My boss can be a total idiot at times and I’m self-employed.) There are people at the office you don’t get along with. I get it. But when I spoke to Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer,” ( :93)

“Gerard Roche surveyed 1,250 top executives and found two-thirds had had a mentor, and those who did, made more money and were happier with their careers: “The average increase in salary of executives who have had a mentor is 28.8 percent, combined with an average 65.9 percent increase in bonus, for an overall 29.0 percent rise in total cash compensation.” And, ladies, this is even more important for you. Every single one of the successful female executives in the study turned out to have had a mentor.” ( :95)

“We’ve overlooked the reverse effect, which is that often interest precedes the development of talent.” ( :96)

“o two things: relevance and attainability. When you relate to someone you look up to, you get motivated. And when that person makes you feel you can do that too, bang—that produces real results.” ( :96)

“There is an old saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” If you’re doing everything you can to advance your career, getting a mentor won’t be too hard. Why? Because if you’re doing awesome work, people more successful than you will notice and want to help you. Talented, resourceful self-starters are rare. If people don’t notice, you’re doing something wrong. You’re either not working hard enough or not doing enough outreach.” ( :96)

“And once they do get to know you, that research pays off, because it’s very good for you if they think you’re smarter than the average bear. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson did a classic study in which teachers were told that certain students were “academic spurters” and had very high potential. At the end of the school year, those kids were tested and had gained an average of 22 IQ points. Here’s the kicker: the “academic spurters” were chosen at random. They weren’t special. But the teacher believing they were special made it a self-fulfilling prophecy. The teachers didn’t spend more time with these kids. Rosenthal “thinks the teachers were more excited about teaching these students” ( :97)

“You need to consistently hit them with a conversation defibrillator to keep the relationship alive but without being a nuisance. Do what they said, get results, and let them know they made a difference. This is what mentors want. If they engage, you can follow up with “I [did my homework] and figured [really impressive next steps] would be [fill in the blank], but I’d love your insight. Do you think [well-thought-out strategy one] or [well-thought-out strategy two] is better?”” ( :98)

“Atul Gawande is an endocrine surgeon. And a professor at Harvard Medical School. And a staff writer for the New Yorker. And he’s written four bestselling books. And he won a Rhodes Scholarship and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. And he’s married with three kids. (Every time I look at his résumé I think, Jeez, and what the heck have I been doing with my time?) So in 2011, what did he think the next thing he absolutely needed to do was? Get a coach. Someone who could make him better.” ( :99)

“Mentoring a young person is four times more predictive of happiness than your health or how much money you make. So if you’ve got the skills, don’t just think about who can help you. Think about whom you can help.” ( :100)

“Harvey Schlossberg was an anomaly: a police detective with a Ph.D. in psychology. Frank Bolz was a streetwise veteran of the New York Police Department.” ( :100)

“In his research on the subject, Michael McMains found that police made three big mistakes when it came to dealing with crisis incidents: they made everything black and white, they wanted to solve things immediately, and they didn’t focus on emotions.” ( :102)

“Emotions get people to change their behavior. On his show Crowd Control, Dan Pink tried to get people to stop illegally using handicapped parking spots. When Dan’s team changed the handicapped signs so they had a picture of a person in a wheelchair on them, illegal parking in the spots didn’t go down—it stopped altogether. Seeing a person’s face, thinking about how someone else might feel, made all the difference.” ( :103)

“Resolving difficult conversations means we need less Moldova and more Iceland. Here are four quick steps adapted from hostage negotiation and clinical psychology that can help you turn wars into friendly discussions:” ( :103)



“Sounds simple, but it can be tricky. You need to resist the urge to open your mouth when they say something you disagree with. Also, your attention can wander. We can hear and understand seven hundred words a minute, but people only speak about one hundred words a minute. This lag can cause your mind to wander. Focus.” ( :104)



“Pretend to be Socrates. Don’t solve their problem and tell them what to do. That puts you back in a war metaphor. Help them solve their own problem by asking questions, feeding their responses back to them, and subtly helping them consider whether what they’re saying makes sense.” ( :104)

“As Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”” ( :105)

“Walter Green.” ( :105)

“You can’t really blame him—sadly, his father passed away from a heart attack when Walter was just seventeen. So now, with plenty of free time, Walter decided to do the next best thing. He was going to thank all the people who had made his success possible.” ( :105)

“orty-four may sound like a big number, but if you dig in your memory deep enough, you’ll probably find it’s not that hard to come up with a similar number of people who helped shape you over the years. It just goes to show how easy it can be to forget how many others have influenced your” ( :105)

“life.” ( :106)

“He didn’t take notes while they talked. He wanted to give every person his full attention. But he audio-recorded each conversation. After the year ended he sent each a CD of their conversation. It was gift wrapped with a photo of the two of them he’d had taken at the meeting and included a letter about what he experienced on his year of gratitude.” ( :106)

“Best example? Tim Kreider got stabbed in the throat while on vacation. The knife sunk in two millimeters from his carotid artery, which he describes as the difference between being “flown home in the cargo hold instead of in coach.” He lived. And for the next year nothing could upset him. He just felt so lucky to be alive. Being stabbed in the throat turned the volume down on everything negative. “That’s supposed to bother me? I’ve been stabbed in the throat!”” ( :108)

“Then hedonic adaptation set in. He found himself getting frustrated by little things again—traffic, computer problems. Once again, he took being alive for granted. Just like we all do. Tim then came up with a little solution. He makes sure to celebrate his “stabbiversary” every year, to remind himself how lucky he is. And that’s what you need to do. Making time to feel gratitude for what you have undoes the “hedonic adaptation.” And what’s the best way to do this? Thank the people around you. Relationships are the key to happiness, and taking the time to say “thanks” renews that feeling of being blessed.” ( :108)

“It’s quite simple. Seligman says to write a letter of gratitude to someone. Make it concrete; say what they did for you and how it affected your life. Then set a time to sit down with them, but don’t say why. When you meet, read them the letter. Here’s my little addition: make sure to bring tissues. They’re probably going to cry and so may you. And both of you will be happier for it.” ( :108)


Chapter 5 • Believe in Yourself . . . Sometimes


“This was the most dominant player of his generation. He had been world champion already for twelve years. He was the highest ranked player in history . . . When he walked into a tournament, people thought about being in second place, not about first place. They knew it was just a foregone conclusion this guy was going to smash everybody else.” ( :110)

“In the second game, Deep Blue made another inexplicable move. It “should” have advanced its queen, but instead it moved a pawn. This was good for Kasparov, but again it didn’t make any sense . . . unless the machine was smarter than he was. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. After only a few more moves, it was visible to all watching that the human champ couldn’t win, but he might be able to get a draw. Yet Kasparov extended his hand to Deep Blue’s human representative. He gave up. In the remaining games Kasparov’s play style shifted dramatically. He became defensive instead of aggressive. Games three, four, and five would all end in draws. And in game six he made a rookie error and fell prey to a common trap. He should have known better. But Kasparov was intimidated. And it would be his downfall. He lost the sixth game and, with it, the match. Machine had finally beaten man. But was it really a genius computer? Could it really think twenty moves ahead and use strategies the grandmaster could not uncover?” ( :111)

“Normally Kasparov could look into the eyes of his opponent and try to read him. Is he bluffing? But Deep Blue never flinched. Deep Blue wasn’t even capable of flinching. It shook Kasparov’s confidence all the same. Sometimes the mere appearance of confidence can be the difference between winning and losing.” ( :111)

“In a positive way, successful people are “delusional.” They tend to see their previous history as a validation of who they are and what they have done. This positive interpretation of the past leads to increased optimism towards the future and increases the likelihood of future success.” ( :112)

“President Bill Clinton scored 52 percent, Michael Jordan got 65 percent, and Mother Teresa received 79 percent. But who scored the highest? Who did people answering the survey feel was 87 percent likely to get into heaven? “Me.” People filling it out thought they were the most likely to stroll through the pearly gates.” ( :112)

“People who believe they can succeed see opportunities, where others see threats. They are not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity, they embrace it. They take more risks and achieve greater returns. Given the choice, they bet on themselves. Successful people have a high “internal” ( :112)

“locus of control.” In other words, they do not feel like victims of fate. They see their success as a function of their own motivation and ability—not luck, random chance, or fate. They carry this belief even when luck does play a crucial role in success.” ( :113)

“Nazi general Ramcke shifted dozens of 88 mm anti-tank guns to make sure the United States had a surprise waiting for them upon arrival. But the real surprise was waiting for Germany. Because so much of the intelligence their spies had gathered was utterly and totally fake.” ( :113)

“This was all done by the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, nicknamed the “Ghost Army.”” ( :113)

“Americans had driven the Nazis back to the Rhine River. German forces were expected to make a last stand, and they swore the river would “run red with American blood.” And this wasn’t bluster. Turns out there was a seventy-mile hole in the line of advancing U.S. forces, and if the Nazis discovered and exploited it, it could be very bad for the Allies.” ( :114)

“Nazis had been fooled; the gap in U.S. forces that the Ghost Army covered had been marked as heavily guarded and a poor point of attack. The success at Bettembourg alone more than justified the Ghost Army’s existence.” ( :114)

“Many studies show faking it also has positive effects on you. In Richard Wiseman’s book The As If Principle, he details a significant amount of research showing that smiling when you’re sad can make you feel happy, and moving like you’re powerful actually makes you more resistant to pain. Other studies show that a feeling of control reduces stress—even if you’re not in control. The perception is all that matters.” ( :115)

“Warren Buffett once said, “The CEO who misleads others in public may eventually mislead himself in private.” And there’s good reason to believe he’s right.” ( :115)

“As Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote, “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”” ( :115)

“George Dillman has taught Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee, among others. He’s a ninth-degree black belt and was National Karate Champion for four consecutive years. In National Geographic’s television program Is It Real? he demonstrated an incredible martial arts technique for which he has become famous: by focusing his body’s internal chi energy, he can knock out opponents without even touching them. In fact, he can do it even through a barrier, when he can’t see his adversary. On camera he was able to knock out challengers from ten feet away with a sheet suspended between the two of them to obscure visibility. Dillman said this kind of intense use of chi drains him. The skill has rarely been seen because it takes decades to learn.” ( :115)

“Master Yanagi Ryuken can knock people out without touching them. In fact, using this technique he is able to take on more than a dozen adversaries. The video of this is stunning.” ( :115)

“Students run toward him, sometimes three at a time. With a flick of his wrist they drop as if punched in the face. In seconds he has dispatched all of his opponents.” ( :116)

“To demonstrate just how real his incredible ability is, Yanagi faced off against an outsider, martial arts expert Iwakura Goh. And a bet was placed: five thousand dollars to the winner. So here we have a real test that can prove the power of the no-touch knockout. A referee stood between the two men and called for the fight to begin. Yanagi lifted his hands, focused his chi at his opponent . . . And Iwakura beat the living crap out of him.” ( :116)

“Writer and neuroscience Ph.D. Sam Harris said this: It’s a little hard to see how Yanagi’s delusion got up and running, but once everyone began falling all over themselves, it is easy to see how it was maintained. Imagine it from his point of view: if you thought you might be able to knock people down at a distance, and then your students complied and fell down on cue, year after year, you might begin to believe that you really had these powers.” ( :116)

“We all spend a lot of time complaining about incompetence, but as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in a talk he gave at High Point University, overconfidence is the far bigger problem. Why? Incompetence is a problem that inexperienced people have, and all things being equal, we don’t entrust inexperienced people with all that much power or authority. Overconfidence is usually the mistake of experts, and we do give them a lot of power and authority. Plain and simple, incompetence is frustrating, but the people guilty of it usually can’t screw things up that bad. The people guilty of overconfidence can do much more damage.” ( :117)

“This effect explains why if you got the most confident people all together they’d be a very strange group. Adjusting for baseline confidence, it would consist of both the most competent and the least competent. Academics call this the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” Think of small children. They can be absurdly confident about things that are impossible, like fighting ghosts in the basement. They don’t understand the world that well, and because they don’t know the “rules,” they can have outsized estimates of their abilities. This isn’t just true of tykes.” ( :117)

“It’s why magicians applaud at different tricks than you or I might, and why comedians laugh at different jokes than we do. Their insight into the domain allows them to appreciate the nuances of how difficult achieving something really is.” ( :117)

“cues it’s harder for others to detect our deceptions. We succeed because we don’t care about other people.” ( :118)

“ey call her SM-046. Few know her real name. She lives a pretty normal life—she’s the mother of three boys—but she feels no fear.” ( :118)

“hey took her to “the most haunted hospital in the world.” Waverly Hills Sanatorium has been featured on Ghost Hunters and half a dozen other shows about the paranormal. In the early twentieth century it was a hospital for tuberculosis patients and plenty of people have died there. Every year it’s converted into a haunted house for Halloween.” ( :118)

“What’s wrong with her? SM-046 has an extremely rare genetic disorder known as Urbach-Wiethe disease.” ( :118)

“She can remember being terrified by a Doberman when she was a child, long before the damage” ( :118)

“to her brain occurred. But in her adult life she has never been scared. The disorder actually makes her much more open and nice. Research has shown subjects with complete bilateral amygdala damage judge strangers to be much more approachable and trustworthy than normal people do.” ( :119)

“Researchers think she might not even be capable of PTSD—no fear, no stress.” ( :119)

“Lower self-confidence reduces not only the chances of coming across as arrogant but also of being deluded. Indeed, people with low self-confidence are more likely to admit their mistakes—instead of blaming others—and rarely take credit for others’ accomplishments. This is arguably the most important benefit of low self-confidence because it points to the fact that low self-confidence can bring success, not just to individuals but also to organizations and society.” ( :119)

“A study aptly titled “Power, Competitiveness, and Advice Taking: Why the Powerful Don’t Listen” showed that just making someone feel powerful was enough to make them ignore advice from not only novices but also experts in a field.” ( :119)

“James Baldwin once wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”” ( :120)

“so serious that they gave authority to nurses to intervene (with political cover from the top brass) if doctors didn’t follow every step. The results? “The ten-day line-infection rate went from 11 percent to zero.”” ( :120)

“Low self-confidence may turn you into a pessimist, but when pessimism teams-up with ambition it often produces outstanding performance. To be the very best at anything, you will need to be your harshest critic, and that is almost impossible when your starting point is high self-confidence.” ( :120)

“critical eye can discourage you because you’re finding faults, but it’s also the first step toward improvement. Psychological research shows that negative emotions produce a motivation to learn. If you get an A on a test, you just smile and move on. If you get an F, you want to learn how you screwed up.” ( :120)

“It was depressed people who saw the world more accurately. Research shows that pessimistic entrepreneurs are more successful, optimistic gamblers lose more money, and the best lawyers are pessimists.” ( :120)

“”So with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” And how did he deal with people who were outright hostile? “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”” ( :121)

“In a letter to Ulysses S. Grant he was more than blunt about it: “I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right, and I was wrong.”” ( :121)

“The risk-taking, novelty-seeking, and obsessive personality traits often found in addicts can be harnessed to make them very effective in the workplace. For many leaders, it’s not the case that they succeed in spite of their addiction; rather, the same brain wiring and chemistry that make them addicts also confer on them behavioral traits that serve them well.” ( :121)

“debate over confidence is so fraught with grief. But what’s the alternative to self-confidence? University of Texas professor Kristin Neff says it’s “self-compassion.” Compassion for yourself when you fail means you don’t need to be a delusional jerk to succeed and you don’t have to feel incompetent to improve.” ( :121)

“turning into a jerk or being unable to improve. Unlike self-confidence, self-compassion doesn’t lead to delusion. In fact, one study, “SelfCompassion and Reactions to Unpleasant Self-Relevant Events: The Implications of Treating Oneself Kindly,” showed that people high in the trait had increased clarity. They saw themselves and the world more accurately but didn’t judge themselves as harshly when they failed.” ( :122)

“This leads to hubris and narcissism. When you check the numbers, there is a solid correlation between self-esteem and narcissism, while the connection between selfcompassion and narcissism is pretty much zero.” ( :122)

“Self-compassion does too, but without all the negatives: “Research suggests that self-compassion is strongly related to psychological wellbeing, including increased happiness, optimism, personal initiative, and connectedness, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, neurotic perfectionism, and rumination.”” ( :122)

“”Self-esteem is the greatest sickness known to man or woman because it’s conditional.” People with self-compassion don’t feel the need to constantly prove themselves, and research shows they are less likely to feel like a “loser.”” ( :122)

“right? So no need to change. When you lack confidence you can see problems but may feel not up to the challenge of overcoming them. Being selfcompassionate lets you see issues and do something about them. Research suggests that having this forgiving approach allows you to take more responsibility for problems while being less saddened by them. Studies show that because people with self-compassion don’t beat themselves up, they have less fear of failure, which translates into less procrastination as well as more grit.” ( :122)

“As researcher Kristin Neff explains, “Who is the only person in your life who is available 24/7 to provide you with care and kindness? You.”” ( :123)

“But Joshua Norton did not lose his confidence. Oh no. Some people lose their marbles and become barely functional and unemployed. Not Norton. In fact, he got a much, much, much better job. On September 17, 1859, Norton became Emperor Norton I. If you weren’t aware the United States had an emperor, well, you’re all that much more prepared for tonight’s episode of Jeopardy. (Don’t worry. President James Buchanan didn’t know either.) Of course, that’s self-proclaimed emperor of the United States, but whatever.” ( :123)

“On the sad day when his rule came to an end, the San Francisco Chronicle headline read “Le Roi Est Mort”: “The King Is Dead.” Another newspaper covered his passing in great detail—while the inauguration of California’s new governor received just thirty-eight words.” ( :124)

“great detail—while the inauguration of California’s new governor received just thirty-eight words. Norton’s funeral procession stretched two miles with over ten thousand citizens in attendance. (Wealthy donors covered the funeral costs.) Flags were put at half-mast. His gravestone reads EMPEROR UNITED OF THE STATES PROTECTOR MEXICO. (Nope, there are no quotation marks around that title.) AND OF” ( :124)

“covered the funeral costs.) Flags were put at half-mast. His gravestone reads EMPEROR UNITED OF THE STATES PROTECTOR MEXICO. (Nope, there are no quotation marks around that title.) His legacy AND OF is secure. Both Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson immortalized him in their work. Norton’s bonds are now valuable collector’s items. And in 1980 the city commemorated the centennial of his death.” ( :124)

“His support of women and minorities would end up becoming widely adopted. He advocated for a league of nations that predated the UN. Norton’s demand that a bridge be built stretching from Oakland to San Francisco came to pass, and recently there have been a number of efforts to have the Bay Bridge renamed in his honor.” ( :124)

“Confidence is a result of success, not a cause. So in spite of my fevered recommendation of selfcompassion, if you still want to focus on confidence, the surest path is to become really good at what you do.” ( :125)

“ou can become more confident over time with hard work. As Alfred Binet, inventor of the IQ test, said about intelligence, “It is not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”” ( :125)

“As Richard Feynman famously said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”” ( :126)

“They were probably calm and understanding, forgiving and less judgmental. We’d all like to achieve that level of wisdom one day. And selfcompassion is a great first step.” ( :126)


Chapter 6 • Work, Work, Work . . . or Work-Life Balance?


“His obsessive, perfectionist work ethic would bring him more success than any descending celestial body would. Williams said, “I . . . insist that regardless of physical assets, I would never have gained a headline for hitting if I [had not] kept everlastingly at it and thought of nothing else the year round . . . I only lived for my next time at bat.”” ( :127)

“As for girls? No time. He was a virgin until his second year in the major leagues. When he joined the majors he lied about his birthday, saying it was October instead of August. Why? A birthday during the baseball season might be a distraction.” ( :127)

“distraction. Williams told Time magazine, “Hundreds of kids have the natural ability to become great ballplayers but nothing except practice, practice, practice will bring out that ability.”” ( :127)

“Williams even visited MIT to learn more about the physics of baseball. He studied the best batters and would eventually write a book, The Science of Hitting, that to this day is still considered the best book on the subject.” ( :127)

“I figure out what they’re going to throw,” he said. People would marvel at how he could recount the habits and preferences of different pitchers decades after his career came to a close. But this perfectionist sensitivity that made him perform so well led to much strife with sportswriters who covered him. Their criticism enraged a man who already put so much pressure on himself to be the best.” ( :128)

“During his final year in the pros his home-run percentage was the best of his career, a stellar 9.4. He even hit a home run during his final at bat before retirement in 1960.” ( :128)

“In 1999, The Sporting News put him as eighth on their list of best 100 Greatest Baseball Players. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush in 1991. Ted Williams was great because he never stopped working.” ( :129)

“Success is not for the lazy, procrastinating, or mercurial.” (Does that mean it’s a good thing that I’m writing these lines at 3:25 A.M.?)” ( :129)

“Frank Barron, a renowned professor at UC Santa Cruz, said, “Voluminous productivity is the rule and not the exception among the individuals who have made some noteworthy contributions.” Even hair-styling mogul Vidal Sassoon once quipped, “The only place where success comes before work is a dictionary.” Yes, to be the very best you must be a little nuts in the effort department.” ( :129)

“Dean Keith Simonton sums it up: “Those individuals with the highest total output will, on average, produce the most acclaimed contributions as well.” The Price Law is a great illustration of just how important feverish work is. Take the number of top people in a field. To make the math easy, we’ll just say it’s one hundred. Then take the square root of that number, which in our example is ten. The Price Law says those ten people will be responsible for 50 percent of the notable achievements in that field. Ten people out of one hundred will produce half the stuff worth paying attention to. And Simonton notes that the Price Law “holds for every major domain in the arts and sciences.”” ( :129)

“”The top 10 percent of workers produce 80 percent more than the average, and 700 percent more than the bottom 10 percent.”” ( :129)

“Can you be productive at something without spending a ton of time at it? To a degree, of course, but assuming equal talent and efficiency, the person who spends more time wins. And the issue of hours seems to be the real distinguishing factor between the pretty good and the truly great. Yeah, being smart helps, but the “threshold hypothesis” shows that smarts ain’t everything, especially when it comes to big breakthroughs. When you look at eminent people, the majority are smarter than average. Without an IQ of 120, very few people end up producing anything that will be” ( :129)

“groundbreaking and remembered in the history books. But the twist is that as long as you’re past the 120 mark, many studies show more IQ points have little effect. What makes the difference? Not luck. It’s all those hours. A Manhattan Project physicist IQ of 180 might be nice, but those 60 points don’t make the difference that more hours will.” ( :130)

“By the time of his death, Robert Shields had produced a diary that was 37.5 million words long. He spent four hours a day recording everything from his blood pressure to the junk mail he received. He even woke up every two hours so he could detail his dreams. This didn’t make him rich and didn’t even garner him a Guinness Book of World Records listing. It just made him a crazy man with one of the most morbidly fascinating obituaries ever.” ( :130)

“hard. You need to be pushing yourself to be better, like Ted Williams. You’ve spent a lot of hours in your life driving, right? Are you ready to compete in NASCAR or Formula 1? Probably not.” ( :130)

“As Michelangelo once said, “If people knew how hard I worked to achieve my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”” ( :130)

“”Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”” ( :131)

“Mount Everest, you wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea. Getting a Ph.D. can take years of grueling, lonely effort. And yet these are the things people are the most proud of. The best example is having kids. Parenthood is certainly stressful. It can be difficult. For some people it’s a full-time job. But nobody seriously says “All that parenting is going to kill you. You should stop doing it.”” ( :131)

“If a meaningful career boosts longevity, what kills you sooner? Unemployment. Eran Shor, a professor at McGill University, found that being jobless increases premature mortality by a whopping 63 percent. And preexisting health issues made no difference, implying that it’s not a correlation, it’s very likely causation. This was no small study. It covered forty years, twenty million people, and fifteen countries. That 63 percent figure held no matter where the person lived.” ( :131)

“What about retirement? That’s the “good” unemployment, right? Wrong. Retiring is associated with cognitive decline, heart disease, and cancer. Those effects weren’t due to aging but because people stop being active and engaged.” ( :131)

“”I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”” ( :131)

“Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin attended the premiere of City Lights together. The crowd went wild for the two superstars, and Chaplin said to the great scientist, “They cheer me because they all understand me, and they cheer you because no one understands you.”” ( :132)

“CONDITIONS: A. You will make sure 1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order; 2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room; 3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only. B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, you will forego 1. my sitting at home with you; 2. my going out or traveling with you.” ( :132)

“C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me: 1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way; 2. you will stop talking to me if I request it; 3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it. D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.” ( :133)

“”Probably the only project he ever gave up on was me.” Hard work creates talent. And talent plus time creates success . . . but how much is too much?” ( :133)

“Ted Williams’s incredible ability came from the fact that he spent all his time focused on baseball, but his weakness was also that he spent all his time focused on baseball. Rob Kaufman, the son of Williams’s late-life partner Louise Kaufman, said, “He was totally lacking in social skills. He spent too much time in the locker room. He was intelligent, but he didn’t learn any of the skills that his peers learned.”” ( :133)

“Williams divorced three times. One woman he dated, Evelyn Turner, repeatedly refused his marriage proposals. She said she would be his wife only if he assured her she would come first in his life. Ted responded, “It’s baseball first, fishing second, and you third.” When he fought with wife number three, Dolores Wettach, she threatened to write a sequel to Williams’s biography titled My Turn at Bat Was No Ball.” ( :133)

“When his daughter Bobby-Jo would ask him about his childhood, he told her to read his autobiography.” ( :133)

“Red Sox infielder Ted Lepcio said, “He had a hard time understanding why guys like me couldn’t hit better. I think he had a hard time relating to nonperfectionists.”” ( :133)

“If Williams lost a chess match in a friendly family game, he’d throw the board across the room. As biographer Ben Bradlee wrote, “Ultimately, Dolores felt the source of Ted’s rage was his inability to satisfy the perfectionist ambitions that he set for himself. When he failed to meet his own expectations, no matter how innocuous the activity, he could snap.”” ( :134)

“As George Bernard Shaw said, “The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.”” ( :134)

“”The people who survive stress the best are the ones who actually increase their social” ( :134)

“investments in the middle of stress, which is the opposite of what most of us do. Turns out that social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness we have when I run them in my studies.” What was number four in that list of biggest regrets of the dying? “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”” ( :135)

“Picasso and Freud: My study reveals that, in one way or another, each of the creators became embedded in some kind of a bargain, deal, or Faustian arrangement, executed as a means of ensuring the preservation of his or her unusual gifts. In general, the creators were so caught up in the pursuit of their work mission that they sacrificed all, especially the possibility of a rounded personal existence.” ( :135)

“The paper “Why Productivity Fades with Age: The Crime-Genius Connection”” ( :135)

“karōshi. Far from a rare curiosity, the term was added to the dictionary in 2002. It has become such a problem that it is legally recognized and the government began tracking it in 1987. The number of people dying from karōshi in Japan is comparable to the number of traffic fatalities.” ( :135)

“We commonly refer to the problem as “burnout,” but what’s fascinating is that psychologists have realized that burnout isn’t just an acute overdose of stress; it’s” ( :135)

“pretty much plain ol’ clinical depression. The paper, “Comparative Symptomatology of Burnout and Depression,” said, “Our findings do not support the view hypothesizing that burnout and depression are separate entities.”” ( :136)

“That’s also why passionate people may destroy their relationships or physically pass out from exhaustion but not burn out the frazzled way the average worker might. Researchers Cary Cherniss and David Kranz found that burnout was “virtually absent in monasteries, Montessori schools, and religious care centers where people consider their work as a calling rather than merely a job.”” ( :136)

“Ever since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship, in which Royce Gracie devastated three opponents in a single night, Gracie jiujitsu had caused a paradigm shift in martial arts. There was no debate: anyone wanting to compete in MMA had to know Gracie jiujitsu or they would be defeated by it. That included fighters from the very nation that had invented jiujitsu.” ( :137)

“No one questioned the talent of Kazushi Sakuraba. They did, however, question his sanity. Often called “Saku” for short, he wasn’t a classically trained martial artist. He was a professional wrestler. His style of “catch wrestling” is a hybrid grappling form created in the 1800s that gained attention in carnivals and fairs. In something that resembles a Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer story set in the world of fighting, a pro wrestler whose style was something out of a circus would become Japan’s MMA “white knight.”” ( :137)

“Saku also did something else few fighters ever did during a fight: he smiled. There was no doubt to anyone watching that his guy was having fun. Though he clearly took his training very seriously, he never took himself all that seriously. He was also doing something else: winning. Though frequently competing against fighters who outweighed him by as much as fifty pounds, Saku, after his first appearance in the UFC, went undefeated for eleven fights.” ( :138)

“On November 21, 1999, Saku caught Royler Gracie in a kimura armlock, and the proud member of the Gracie family refused to tap out in submission. But when Royler’s arm was clearly dislocated, the referee intervened to stop the bout. Saku had won.” ( :138)

“A study from the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies found that “workplace fun was a stronger predictor of” ( :138)

“applicant attraction than compensation and opportunities for advancement.” Yeah, that means exactly what you think: money and promotions weren’t nearly as important to people as working somewhere fun.” ( :139)

“Management consulting is legendary for its long hours and demanding workloads. Eighty-hour weeks are not uncommon, there’s tons of travel and constant email checking, and many suffer from “death by PowerPoint.”” ( :139)

“Thirty-nine percent of Americans work fifty or more hours a week and eighteen percent work sixty or more, according to a 2014 Gallup poll. What’s the added benefit of all those extra hours? Research from Stanford says close to nothing. Productivity declines so steeply after fifty-five hours that “someone who puts in seventy hours produces nothing more with those extra fifteen hours.” All they are creating is stress.” ( :139)

“In fact, you’re engaging in your prime creative time long before you get to the office. Most people come up with their best ideas in the shower. Scott Barry Kaufman of the University of Pennsylvania found that 72 percent of people have new ideas in the shower, which is far more often than when they’re at work. Why are showers so powerful? They’re relaxing. Remember, Archimedes didn’t have his “Eureka” moment at the office. He was enjoying a nice warm bath at the time.” ( :139)

“I know, I know: you think you’re fine. No, you’re not. You’re like a drunk shouting they’re okay to drive. That’s the really sneaky thing about sleep deprivation: you’re not necessarily aware of it. Just because you don’t feel tired doesn’t mean you’re well rested and performing optimally. Your sleepy gauge just isn’t that well calibrated, my friend.” ( :140)

“”Short sleepers” make up only 1 to 3 percent of the population. (They’re actually hard to study because this is one of the few disorders nobody ever goes to a hospital complaining about.) You know the morning people who are almost pathologically chipper and upbeat? Short sleepers are like that all the time. Researchers call it “behaviorally activated.” It’s believed they may have subclinical hypomania, the same kind of disorder we talked about in chapter 1. Again, that’s like mania but with the volume turned way down. They’re not crazy, just optimistic, full of pep, and very emotionally resilient.” ( :140)

“To think about this another way, do you accomplish more in three hours when you’re sleep deprived or in one hour when you feel energetic, optimistic, and engaged? Ten hours of work when you’re exhausted, cranky, and distracted might be far less productive than three hours when you’re “in the zone.” So why not focus less on hours and more on doing what it takes to make sure you’re at your best?” ( :141)

“They developed the Fatigue Countermeasures Program, which is what a multibillion-dollar government agency has to call a “nap.”” ( :142)

“How else does resting and having some fun help? Naps are short so let’s go big: vacations. A German study of teachers showed that taking a two-week vacation increased work engagement and decreased burnout for up to a month. Vacations refill your gas tank. (Feel free to tear this page out and put it on your boss’s desk.)” ( :142)

“When you first got your job, did it feel like a great opportunity? Did it offer you salary and benefits that seemed impressive and beneficial? But on your path to success, did you find it was draining you? That you were tired all the time? Did it have you working at night, feeding it, when you should be sleeping? Did it seem far more like you were becoming part of it than it was becoming part of you? Did you fight to maintain your independence but realize you couldn’t get it off you no matter how hard you tried?” ( :143)

“This explains why so many of us may feel “money rich, time poor.” Then again, a lot of us feel “money poor, time poor” too.” ( :144)

“As you might imagine, that has big effects on happiness. Most studies in the past have shown adults to be happier than younger people. Not anymore. Since 2010, people under thirty are happier than previous generations of young people. But people over thirty aren’t as happy as people in their age group used to be. Why might this be? Researcher Jean Twenge explained:” ( :144)

“American culture has increasingly emphasized high expectations and following your dreams— things that feel good when you’re young. However, the average mature adult has realized that their dreams might not be fulfilled, and less happiness is the inevitable result. Mature adults in” ( :144)

“previous eras might not have expected so much, but expectations are now so high they can’t be met.” ( :145)

“In the words of the great philosopher Tyler Durden, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” What’s” ( :145)

“TV shows you twenty-something Silicon Valley billionaires. Think you’re good at something? There’s someone on the Internet who is better, works less, and is happier. They have nice teeth too. For most of human existence when we looked around us there were one or two hundred people in our tribe and we could be the best at something. We could stand out and be special and valuable. Now our context is a global tribe of seven-plus billion. There’s always someone better to compare yourself to, and the media is always reporting on these people, which raises the standards just when you think you may be close to reaching them.” ( :145)

“Barry Schwartz explains that when the world doesn’t give you much choice and things don’t work out the way you want, it’s the world’s fault. What else could you have done? But when you have one hundred options and you don’t choose well, the burden shifts because you could have picked better. Here’s the problem: We love having choices. We hate making choices.” ( :146)

“Just Enough, and HBS professor Clay Christensen call this strategy “sequencing.” The attitude being First I’ll work a job I hate and make a lot of money and then I’ll have a family and then I’ll do what I want and be happy.” ( :146)

“relationships. They need regular, consistent attention. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.”” ( :147)

“Brace yourself. I’m going to say something unpleasant: You have to make a decision. The world will not draw a line. You must. You need to ask What do I want? Otherwise you’re only going to get what they want.” ( :147)

“Entrepreneur Ken Hakuta said, “Success is something you will confront constantly in business. You will always be interpreting it against something, and that something should be your own goals and purpose.”” ( :147)

“Barry Schwartz says we have to become “choosers” instead of “pickers.” A picker selects from the options available, leading us into false dichotomies created by the options we see in front of us. But a chooser “is thoughtful enough to conclude that perhaps none of the available alternatives are satisfactory, and that if he or she wants the right alternative, he or she may have to create it.”” ( :147)

“The researchers realized multiple yardsticks for life were necessary. For instance, to have a good relationship with your family you need to spend time with them. So hours spent together is one way to measure. But if that time is spent screaming at each other, that’s not good either. So you need to measure quantity and quality.” ( :148)

“1. having feelings of pleasure or contentment in and about your life HAPPINESS: 2. achieving accomplishments that compare favorably against similar goals others ACHIEVEMENT: have strived for 3. having a positive impact on people you care about SIGNIFICANCE: 4. establishing your values or accomplishments in ways that help others find future LEGACY: success” ( :148)


“You want to be contributing to the four needs on a regular basis. If you ignore any of them, you’re headed for a collapsing strategy. Measuring life by one yardstick won’t work. Delay any for too long and you’re sequencing. A favorite quote of mine by Warren Buffett sums that up: “I always worry about people who say, ‘I’m going to do this for ten years; I really don’t like it very well. And then I’ll do this . . .’ That’s a lot like saving sex up for your old age. Not a very good idea.”” ( :148)

“How do you know when you’re doing enough “winning” and need to put more into the “counting” or “extending” categories? A good starting point is asking yourself What’s “good enough”?” ( :148)

“They make it “not your fault.” So they make us happier. We believe these constraints are ultimately worth the trade-off. Limitless freedom is alternately paralyzing and overwhelming. Plus, the only place we get good limits these days is when we determine them ourselves, based on our values.” ( :149)

“less obvious problem. You might think that evaluating more possibilities would lead to objectively better results—and you’d be right. But it also leads to less subjective happiness with what you end up with. That’s exactly what was found in a study done by Barry Schwartz and Sheila Iyengar. Students who were maximizers in trying to get the best job after graduation ended up better off—they got salaries that were 20 percent higher. But they ended up more unhappy with their jobs than satisficers did.” ( :149)

“Nobel Prize-winner Herbert Simon, who created the idea of maximizing and satisficing, said that in the end, when you calculate all factors of stress, results, and effort, satisficing is actually the method that maximizes.” ( :149)

“imple things like getting a wife was difficult because many men were so poor they could not afford to pay a dowry. So they kidnapped one. Seriously. Though kidnapping your future spouse was quite common, nobody was thrilled with having a daughter forcibly taken away. So this, along with theft and violence, produced a nonstop feuding between tribes.” ( :150)

“How did an illiterate young man in a horrible place during a horrible time conquer more territory in twenty-five years than the Romans did in four hundred?” ( :150)

“in four hundred? How did he build an empire that spanned over twelve million contiguous miles? And do it with an army that never grew larger than a hundred thousand men, which, as author Jack Weatherford explains, is “a group that could comfortably fit into the larger sports stadiums of the modern era”?” ( :150)

“First, he set out to unite the tribes of the steppe. He smashed the kinship structure that had kept the nomadic tribes caught in a cycle of feuding. He established a meritocracy where skill and loyalty were rewarded and bloodlines and politics were ignored. He abolished wife-napping and harshly punished lawbreakers to prevent the spiral of vendettas that had plagued the area. He discarded the names of the various tribes. They would now all be united as People of the Felt Walls. By 1206, the Mongol nomads of the steppe were one. Temujin then took the title by which he is known to this day: Genghis Khan.” ( :150)

“”Genghis Khan’s innovative fighting techniques made the heavily armored” ( :150)

“knights of medieval Europe obsolete, replacing them with disciplined cavalry moving in coordinated units.” Used to living off the land, they had no need to drag slow supply chains behind their army. Each fighter brought three to five extra horses with him so they would never have a tired mount. This allowed Mongol horsemen to travel six hundred miles in only nine days, centuries before the combustion engine.” ( :151)

“They all studied his style, replacing horses with tanks and planes. He was blitzkrieg-ing centuries before the Germans.” ( :151)

“Of course, there were constantly new challenges. Khan always had a plan, but he was also adaptable. He learned from each and every skirmish. Most would have expected him to be stymied when his army encountered the walled fortresses of China. The Mongols didn’t even have two-story structures in the steppes let alone the knowledge of how to assault such fortifications. They had no experience with siege warfare, catapults, or trebuchets. But they didn’t have to.” ( :151)

“Khan knew there were things he didn’t know, or things he didn’t have time to learn, so he was always recruiting. Among conquered peoples, anyone who was useful was allowed to join them. One enemy archer had managed to shoot the Khan’s own horse out from under him. When the man was caught, Khan did not execute him; he made him a general. Along the same lines, the Mongols absorbed a number of Chinese engineers familiar with siege warfare. Eventually Khan’s army became so successful at it that it “ended the era of walled cities.”” ( :151)

“successful at it that it “ended the era of walled cities.” Khan’s plans were so solid that the empire did not crumble after his death. It kept expanding for another hundred fifty years. (Next time you mail a letter, think of Genghis Khan. His reign brought us the first international postal system.)” ( :151)

“He was a fatherless, illiterate nobody from a terrible place at a terrible time but became one of the most powerful men to ever live. Genghis Khan did not blindly react to problems. He thought about what he wanted. He made plans. And then he imposed his will on the world.” ( :151)

“Mihály Csikszentmihályi found that watching TV made teenagers truly happy 13 percent of the time. Hobbies scored 34 percent and sports or games got 44 percent. But what did teens choose to do most often? They spent four times as many hours watching television. Without a plan, we do what’s passive and easy—not what is really fulfilling. Robert Epstein surveyed thirty thousand people in thirty countries” ( :152)

“Quick summary: when you’re stressed out, you literally can’t think straight. Under stress, your center of rational thought—the prefrontal cortex—just throws up its arms and quits. Your limbic system, that ol’ lizard brain of emotions, takes the reins. A study by Amy Arnsten of the Yale School of Medicine said, “Even quite mild acute uncontrollable stress can cause a rapid and dramatic loss of prefrontal cognitive abilities.”” ( :152)

“The job isn’t less demanding. While 41 percent said working for themselves reduced stress, 32 percent said it increased it. But guess what? A whopping 79 percent expressed satisfaction with running a small business and 70 percent were happy with their lifestyle. That crushes the job satisfaction numbers among non-self-employed people we saw earlier. So comparable hours, comparable stress, but they’re far happier. Why? When asked the reason they started their own business, the number-one answers were “To be my own boss,” “To make my own decisions,” “To do it my way.” They wanted control. And despite few changes in overall hours and stress, they were happier.” ( :152)

“”To understand a company’s strategy, look at what they actually do rather than what they say they will do.”” ( :153)

“for a week. Where are your activities taking you? Is it where you want to go? Note: this will be depressing. I assure you, you’re wasting more time than you think. Beyond that, note which hours are contributing to which of the big four: 1. HAPPINESS = ENJOYING 2. ACHIEVEMENT = WINNING 3. SIGNIFICANCE = COUNTING (TO OTHERS) 4. LEGACY = EXTENDING” ( :153)

“Or is that hour going in the “None of the above” bucket?” ( :153)

“Remember, you cannot maximize two things that are both dependent on the same resource: time. You also don’t want to eliminate any categories with a sequencing or collapsing strategy. You want the balance of the big four that works for you.” ( :153)

“can make all the difference. Kevin Bolen, managing director of Strategic Investments and Growth Initiatives at KPMG, wanted more time with his wife and two sons. His main hot spot was traveling for work. So he focused on losing his platinum status on all his frequent-flier accounts. That became his goal. He got fewer free flights and perks, but it became a great barometer for how successful his work-life balance efforts were.” ( :154)

“Georgetown University professor Cal Newport is the Genghis Khan of productivity. And Cal thinks to-do lists are the devil’s work.” ( :155)

“Most of us use our calendars all wrong: we don’t schedule work; we schedule interruptions. Meetings get scheduled. Phone calls get scheduled. Doctor appointments get scheduled. You know what often doesn’t get scheduled? Real work.” ( :155)

“Shallow work stops you from getting fired—but deep work is what gets you promoted.” ( :155)

“We got to the moon and built the pyramids without email and Facebook. You can go a couple of hours without checking them.” ( :156)

“tasks with how many hours you actually have in the day. If something doesn’t have priority and there’s just not time for it, you need to say no. To quote Warren Buffett, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”” ( :156)

“One of the big lessons from social science in the last forty years is that environment matters. If you go to a buffet and the buffet is organized in one way, you will eat one thing. If it’s organized in a different way, you’ll eat different things. We think that we make decisions on our own, but the environment influences us to a great degree. Because of that we need to think about how to change our environment.” ( :156)

“This is where you can actually use being reactive to your advantage. Shawn Achor recommends the “twenty second rule.” Make the things you should do twenty seconds easier to start and make the things you shouldn’t be doing twenty seconds harder.” ( :156)

“Ariely told me of a simple study done at Google’s New York office. Instead of putting M&M’s out in the open, they put them in containers. No big deal. What was the result? People ate three million fewer of them in a single month. So close that web browser. Charge your phone on the other side of the room.” ( :157)

“”a large body of research shows that the more that authority figures hang around, the more questions they ask, and especially the more feedback they give their people, the less creative the work will be. Why? Because doing creative work entails constant setbacks and failure, and people want to succeed when the boss is watching—which means doing proven, less creative things that are sure to work.”” ( :157)

“Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and Daniel Redelmeier looked at how much pain people remembered after colonoscopies. It turns out that how long the procedures lasted and the average amount of pain didn’t influence people’s recollections. What really seemed to matter was the peak amount of discomfort and how it ended.” ( :157)

“”shutdown ritual” in which you take the time to close out the day’s business and prepare for tomorrow. Research shows that writing down the things you need to take care of tomorrow can settle your brain and help you relax. As neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin explains, when you’re concerned about something and your grey matter is afraid you may forget, it engages a cluster of brain regions referred to as the “rehearsal loop.” And you keep worrying and worrying. Writing your thoughts down and making a plan for tomorrow switches this off.” ( :157)

“Currently on this planet, 0.5 percent of all men are one of Genghis Khan’s descendants. That’s one in two hundred. So by, um, many standards he was successful. He had a plan. You don’t need to conquer the world, literally or metaphorically. “Good enough” is good enough if you keep the big four in mind.” ( :158)

“There are three categories of people—the person who goes into the office, puts his feet up on his desk, and dreams for twelve hours; the person who arrives at five and works sixteen A.M. hours, never once stopping to dream; and the person who puts his feet up, dreams for one hour, then does something about those dreams.” ( :158)


Conclusion • What Makes a Successful Life?


“Ever since a mysterious illness struck him at age twelve he had been bedridden and assumed brain dead. But a few years later he had woken up inside a body he was no longer able to control, and for eleven unfathomably long years this was his life.” ( :159)

“Out of sheer survival, to not go insane, Martin inadvertently became a Zen master. He detached from his thoughts. Without any training, he discovered mindfulness. Hours or days or even weeks could go by in an instant because he had removed himself from life, from his thoughts.” ( :159)

“Martin couldn’t escape the world, so he chose a different path. He began to escape into his imagination. He dreamed about all the wonderful things that could happen, not bound by the laws of physics or reality and certainly not by the stubborn body that ignored his every command. He fantasized about all the things he wanted from life. And it passed the time.” ( :160)

“Then two things changed. In his midtwenties he slowly regained some control of his body; he could grasp things with his hands. And a nurse, tracking his eye movements, started to believe he might still be in there. She encouraged the doctors to test him again. And they realized he was in there.” ( :160)

“Martin felt extraordinary relief. But, as the podcast Invisibilia notes, he was not complacent. Not after all that dreaming. He started chasing those dreams. Two years later he had a job at an office. But that wasn’t enough. Having always had a knack for things mechanical, he became a freelance web designer. Then he started his own company.” ( :160)

“He wrote a memoir of his experiences, Ghost Boy, which was roundly praised. He learned to drive a car.” ( :160)

“Success is strange in that it cultivates more success. Once I had achieved something it encouraged me to try even harder. It expanded my perception of what was possible. If I could do this, then what else could I do?” ( :160)

“Martin Pistorius did,” ( :160)

“Almost “locked in.” We try to mentally escape or to just let the world go by, but just as Steven Jay Ross said, it’s by dreaming and then doing something about those dreams that we can achieve success. In fact, it’s the only way we can.” ( :160)

“”After forty years of intensive research on school learning in the United States as well as abroad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.”” ( :161)

“When I think about the limits of success, my mind usually turns to Scrabble. Nigel Richards is the greatest Scrabble player to ever live. He’s the French Scrabble champion. The website reports, “The difference between his official rating and the second-place player’s is about the same as the difference between second place and 20th.” He didn’t even start playing the game until he was twenty-eight. The first time he competed in a national tournament, he won. Nobody plays French Scrabble better than he does. Oh, one more thing I should mention . . . Nigel Richards doesn’t speak French.” ( :161)

“To give his acceptance speech, he needed a translator. After dominating the English Scrabble world for years, he turned his attention to the Gallic language and just started memorizing words. He doesn’t know what they mean. And French Scrabble is harder than North American Scrabble because it has almost two hundred thousand more words. He wanted to be the French champion and he didn’t let not speaking French hold him back.” ( :161)

“What’s the most important thing to remember when it comes to success? One word: alignment. Success is not the result of any single quality; it’s about alignment between who you are and where you choose to be. The right skill in the right role.” ( :161)

“right role. A good person surrounded by other good people. A story that connects you with the world in a way that keeps you going. A network that helps you, and a job that leverages your natural introversion or extroversion. A level of confidence that keeps you going while learning and forgiving yourself for the inevitable failures. A balance between the big four that creates a well-rounded life with no regrets.” ( :161)

“Researcher and bestselling author Shawn Achor reports, “In a study I performed on 1,600 Harvard students in 2007, I found that there was a 0.7 correlation between perceived social support and happiness.” ( :162)

“decades-long research? “The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”” ( :162)

“That’s unlikely. The guys who were the most empathic earned two and half times what the most narcissistic did.” ( :162)

“(The liver is unique in that it regenerates; so both donor and recipient will eventually grow a full organ with time.)” ( :162)

“Carl didn’t merely volunteer. He revealed that ever since the positive donor match he had quietly been on a dedicated regimen of diet and exercise. He’d spent the past few years getting himself into peak shape so that when the time came, he could give Spencer the healthiest liver possible. Because of Carl’s sneaky plan, both friends are healthy and happy today. I hope you and I are lucky enough to have friends like Carl.” ( :162)

“So our journey has come to a close. You’ve seen crazy cyclists, people who don’t feel pain and fear, oddball pianists, serial killers, pirates, prison gangs, Navy SEALs, Toronto raccoons, Shaolin monks, how long you can be Batman, Erdös numbers, Newton and Einstein, Ted Williams and SpiderMan, radar wars between Harvard and MIT, ghost armies and hostage negotiators, the emperor of the” ( :162)

“United States (may he rest in peace), confident chess computers, Japanese wrestlers with orange hair, Genghis Khan, and a guy who flew around the world just to say “Thanks.” I appreciate you taking the time to read all this insanity and going on this trip with me.” ( :163)

“Did I succeed? Well, that’s up to you. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just an introverted orchid, hopeful monster, unfiltered leader, and Matcher who would like to be a Giver who is often overconfident and needs to work on his self-compassion. But I think I’ve picked the right pond and aligned myself with some wonderful friends. That’s good enough for me. Take the time to figure out what you are and find the right body of water for you.” ( :163)

“Robert DeNiro told me to never name drop. —BOB WAGNER” ( :164)

“My cousin Ryan, who is the closest thing to a brother I will ever have. My aunt Clare, whose birthday cards to a starving writer always included a check. And my aunt Barbara who sent me care packages in college.” ( :164)

“The Sedona Illuminati: James Clear, Ryan Holiday, Josh Kaufman, Steve Kamb, Shane Parrish, Nir Eyal, and Tim Urban.” ( :164)

“And to my girlfriend junior year in college who laughed in my face when I said I wanted to be a writer. Thanks for the motivation.” ( :164)

Check out more book notes at How I Read 90 Books In The Past 2 Years By Reading 20 Pages A Day

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